IntelliText OCR and EtherNet/IP for Vision Mini Xi smart camera

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Microscan, a global technology leader in barcode, machine vision, and lighting solutions, announces the latest innovation from its award-winning AutoVISION® machine vision suite: IntelliText OCR. With advanced optical character recognition (OCR) functionality, AutoVISION’s IntelliText OCR tool is capable of converting human-readable characters into machine-readable characters with the most aggressive algorithms available. Allowing user control of customizable parameters, IntelliText OCR can be quickly adjusted to recognize characters regardless of marking or printing method, including low contrast text on poor backgrounds.

Optical character recognition is a process by which software converts human-readable text into characters that can be stored, interpreted, and segmented by machines. Optical character recognition technology has been used extensively in commercial applications since the 1970s, and today plays a role in the automation of tasks from document processing to consumer goods packaging (batch codes, lot codes, expiration dates) to clinical applications. OCR is accomplished when an image captured by a camera is interpreted by OCR software, such as a machine vision system, which has additional capabilities such as barcode reading and product inspection.

With the release of Microscan’s latest user-friendly machine vision software, AutoVISION 3.0, Microscan has introduced the IntelliText OCR tool with advanced OCR functionality for reading the most difficult characters on parts and products in automated identification, tracking, and inspection applications. IntelliText OCR is capable of reading text printed by various methods, including inkjet, Drop on Demand (DOD), direct part marking, and more. The tool’s multi-neural network allows it to train on character variations and store these in a font library for increased OCR speed as the library grows. Advanced character segmentation in IntelliText OCR allows the software to easily parse characters regardless of uniformity of each character or the precision of the print region (useful when print consistency, label placement, or text location is subject to variation). To aid segmentation in difficult reading environments, IntelliText OCR offers image pre-processing, enabling the software to run filters on an image taken by a machine vision camera to produce the cleanest image possible for OCR.

Unique to IntelliText OCR is the software’s image binarization process, which converts the grayscale image taken by the camera to a binary image. The binary image allows the user to see the image features that the software is able to recognize as characters and gives users the ability to set tolerances that determine how much of the image is in view. This allows the most difficult text to be adjusted for and read with ease. With adjustments to image binarization, users have the power to tailor the software to anticipate and enhance dark text on dark backgrounds, light text on light backgrounds, text on damaged surfaces, or even text printed on challenging surfaces such as transparent packaging. The tool can even interpret rotated text in cases where product codes are printed or labeled at variable angles.

IntelliText OCR supports advanced string matching, which is the process of comparing an interpreted string of text to match an expected string. This includes using regular expressions (TRE) as a match string. A regular expression is a standardized way of defining variable text, for instance when checking the proper formatting of a date code. The regular expression match string can be set to check a range of acceptable numerals for an expiration date, including limits for year numerals and limits for the initial character in a month or date numeral (for instance, a month numeral beginning with 0 or 1).

Microscan also announces the availability of EtherNet/IP™ communication on its ultra-compact machine vision smart camera, Vision MINI Xi. One of several cameras in Microscan’s award-winning AutoVISION® machine vision product suite, the Vision MINI Xi offers a complete machine vision tool set for high-speed identification, inspection, and other automated tasks with the optimal size and shape for space-constrained machines.

With the release of the Vision MINI Xi Smart Camera in March, Microscan introduced industrial Ethernet TCP/IP to its miniature smart camera line, enabling integration with machines designed for Ethernet connectivity. With the release of AutoVISION 3.0.2 software, the Vision MINI Xi now supports communication via EtherNet/IP for use in industrial environments. To install Vision MINI Xi within a networked automation system, users can rely on AutoVISION’s built-in EtherNet/IP support and one-click connectivity tool, Microscan Link, to connect machine vision tools, inspection values, and settings from the camera to PLCs and other control systems.

Compared to RS-232 (also supported by Vision MINI Xi), fully-integrated Ethernet in machine vision smart cameras offers several unique advantages in the communication of data from the camera to other machines networked on a line. The first advantage is speed: as devices are required to capture and store high-resolution images, Ethernet offers data transmission over high-speed connections without impacting production speeds. An Ethernet system can also span longer physical distances without losing transmission speed, using point-to-point connectivity over Ethernet hubs and allowing manufacturers to remove control systems and PCs from the floor and co-locate them in a controlled environment. This remote device management allows tasks on the smart camera to be controlled from anywhere a network connection is available. A process engineer can, for instance, troubleshoot an MES without leaving the office. The engineer can also save integration time and cost with Ethernet devices that enable native integration with MES and ERP systems, which are network-based and communicate over Ethernet. Finally, the growing use of Ethernet as the common data transmission protocol in computers and workplaces allows data to be collected at more points throughout the manufacturing process. One network interface card (NIC) in a single computer can connect to a nearly unlimited number of Ethernet devices with independently addressable connections. This allows more tasks to be performed in parallel, improving productivity and cycle time.

The AutoVISION family includes several options for networking systems over EtherNet/IP, from the Vision HAWK Smart Camera with integrated liquid lens and the Vision HAWK C-Mount Smart Camera (both featuring EtherNet/IP and PROFINET I/O support), to the updated Vision MINI Xi Smart Camera. Manufacturers can look to the Vision MINI Xi for the smallest footprint in networked machine vision for embedded and close-range applications. Measuring 1 in. (25.4 mm) x 1.8 in. (45.7 mm) x 2.1 in. (53.3 mm) and weighing 3.2 oz. (91 g), Vision MINI Xi is the world’s smallest Ethernet-enabled smart camera for inspection, color matching, symbol decoding, OCR, and other vision capabilities. Vision MINI Xi also features corner-exit cabling for flexible mounting, serial connectivity, a 24-volt interface, and optically isolated I/O in one compact package.

Vision MINI Xi is the ideal solution for manufacturers working in limited integration environments who require Ethernet speed and connectivity as well as the flexibility to expand to advanced inspection tasks if necessary, all with a single device. All AutoVISION hardware and software offers unique scalability and job portability to change cameras without switching software or inspection jobs. Users can also upgrade to Microscan’s advanced Visionscape® software without switching cameras. With AutoVISION and the Vision MINI Xi Smart Camera, manufacturers can incorporate powerful machine vision inspection into virtually any environment to meet a range of dynamic requirements.

Microscan has also introduces Image Lock technology on its latest handheld barcode readers, the HS-41X and HS-51X. Image Lock is the only commercially-available feature in image-based barcode reading that ensures photos taken by a reader’s camera are never accessible by users or software, protecting sensitive information.