Beckhoff Automation UK says it is bringing vision system image processing into familiar programmable logic controller (PLC) environments with its new TwinCAT Vision software. The software, which is an extension of the company’s TwinCAT range of PC-based control systems, is said to simplify the process of configuring and programming vision systems for engineers. The TwinCAT Vision software brings image processing into a single platform alongside PLC, (HMI), motion control and (IoT) device management. This allows engineers to reconfigure and calibrate geometric cameras and control machine vision systems from a familiar operating environment, using PLC programming languages and the same configuration tools that are used for fieldbuses.
Incorporating these functions into one system is said to improve ease-of-use and eliminate any latency in executing image processing algorithms, which can now be executed in real time. It also allows for greater synchronisation between vision processing, PLCs and motion control functions according to Beckhoff.
Stephen Hayes, managing director of Beckhoff Automation UK says: “Image processing and machine vision systems play an increasingly important role in quality assurance in an ever-growing number of industries. Traditionally, the processing of these images has taken place on a high-performance PC that is separate to existing automation systems. The trouble is, this still generally requires specialist knowledge to adjust parameters, and it adds the risk of error or latency. With TwinCAT Vision, we’ve brought all the functionality that engineers need – configuration, control and pre-processing algorithms – not only into a familiar real-time operating environment, but also into a single system. This allows the machine builder to develop more advanced designs where all control and image processing tasks can be run out of one machine”.
Hayes goes on to state that: “Bringing this functionality all into one familiar operating environment brings several benefits to users. Firstly, it makes vision processing easier to operate, because engineers will be adapted to working in the control system, which eliminates the need for specialist skillsets. Secondly, it allows systems to respond quicker to image input data, improving the efficiency of quality assurance”. Coupled with the PLC, motion and measurement functionality of TwinCAT, Beckhoff claims that it marks a “Significant step forward for PC-based control and vision processing systems alike”.
Because the TwinCAT system is PC based, it benefits from the use of a Gigabit Ethernet interface, upon which image data transmission protocols such as GigE Vision are based. The TwinCAT Vision software features a real-time driver that supports GigE Vision, as well as tools that can read and configure settings based on the GenApi format commonly used by GigE Vision compatible camera manufacturers.
Beckhoff first announced TwinCAT Vision in late 2017, with the system being displayed at the SPS Drives exhibition the following year. The system is now becoming widely available to companies across the UK, ahead of other new product launches coming later in 2020. Further information about TwinCAT Vision software can be found at www.beckhoff.co.uk.