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Cognex buys third 3D vision company

Cognex has acquired its third 3D vision company over the last six months, buying Boulder, Colorado-based Chiaro Technologies at the end of November 2016.

Chiaro makes a 3D machine vision sensor called Cloudburst, which offers high-speed, real-time 3D image streaming useful in applications where speed is more important than capturing a high resolution image.

The purchase of Chiaro was Cognex's third 3D vision acquisition during 2016, following the purchase of 3D vision software maker Aqsense in August 2016 and high-performance 3D vision sensor manufacturer EnShape in October 2016.

Cloudburst is based on what Chiaro calls Symbolic Light technology; the camera generates a light pattern that is then captured in a single frame. The 3D decoding algorithm can find individual dots in the pattern with sub-pixel accuracy, and gives sub-millimetre depth precision. At a human scale, the camera can capture depth from 10cm to 4m.

Cloudburst consists of a sensor head and a decoding API for either a PC host or an embedded system. It is factory calibrated and designed to work like a machine vision camera. It can capture and stream full 3D at 15 frames per second, and can be hand-held during imaging.

The Chiaro sensor adds 3D technology that can capture moving objects to Cognex’s product portfolio. EnShape’s 3D vision sensors, which Cognex bought in October 2016, use structured light, but the object under inspection has to be stationary.

3D vision was one of the growth areas at the recent Vision trade fair in Stuttgart in November, with companies like LMI, Sick and Canon exhibiting solutions in this space.

Commenting on the acquisitions, Siddharth Rane, team lead for electronics and semiconductors at market research firm MarketsandMarkets, told Imaging and Machine Vision Europe: ‘The acquisitions reflect the company’s strategy to play a bigger role in the fast-growing 3D machine vision sector … and enable Cognex to provide a one-stop shop for all [3D vision] requirements – hardware and software.’

The market is expected to reach $1.63 billion by 2020, according to a report from MarketsandMarkets, growing at an estimated CAGR of 10.53 per cent between 2015 and 2020.

‘The purchases not only help Cognex stay ahead of the competition, but also enable the firm to address a wider range of applications and price points in 3D vision,’ said Umang Vashishtha, a research analyst at MarketsandMarkets. ‘The proliferation of artificial intelligence in industrial and non-industrial applications is expected to create ample opportunities in the field of 3D vision in the future and Cognex, with these acquisitions, seems ready for this.’

On 9 December 2016, Cognex also acquired Webscan, a supplier of barcode verification solutions based in Longmont, Colorado. Webscan's solution enables manufacturers to ensure that barcodes marked on packages, parts and components are applied accurately before items are shipped, and verifies that codes comply with industry standards.

‘These acquisitions add important capabilities in two high-growth areas of Cognex's business,’ said Robert Willett, president and CEO of Cognex. ‘The Cloudburst sensor enables Cognex to address a wider range of applications and price points in the fast-growing 3D vision market.’

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