Protostar Vision Box – Part 1: Lights, camera, action!

Hi all 👋,


Welcome to the first blog in our series, this week we are focused on introducing you to our Protostar Vision Box, a complete solution designed for product inspection in production environments. Our cutting-edge approach simplifies quality control, ensuring precision and increasing efficiency in product inspection and validation across diverse manufacturing processes.



Figure 1.  Protostar Vision Box render


To achieve unparalleled versatility, we are using a sophisticated array of cameras, sensors and actuators calibrated to analyze every detail of inspected products. Whether you’re in the automotive, electronics, pharmaceutical, or food and beverage industry, our solution adapts seamlessly to diverse production environments, offering a versatile and adaptable inspection platform. In the upcoming blog posts, we will cover each of the integral parts of our system in more depth, including the software – (so stay tuned 👀).


By using high framerate Basler and Allied Vision global shutter cameras, we have achieved our goal of conducting comprehensive inspections, even on exceptionally fast production lines. The critical factor in achieving a high-quality image of moving products was the careful selection of the camera and lens. Choosing a global shutter camera allowed us to eliminate the rolling shutter effect which is caused by the sensor’s readout from top to bottom, line by line, which leads to distortion in images of fast-moving objects which reduces the dimensional accuracy of the captured image.



Figure 2. Rolling shutter effect visible on the right image


Since global shutter cameras capture the entire image at once, the distortion is completely avoided. The only other challenge while capturing the image of a moving product is eliminating motion blur caused by slow shutter speed. Since slower shutter speeds are necessary to allow the sensor more time to gather sufficient light, the only way to achieve a fast shutter speed is to illuminate the products with high-intensity lights. To meet this objective, we have decided to create a custom weather-sealed lighting system featuring high-power LEDs capable of strobing synchronized with the camera shutter. This design not only conserves energy and minimizes heat output but also maximizes the system’s lifespan. Additionally, as it uses a completely separate power supply from the PLC power supply, it does not introduce any unwanted electromagnetic noise to the PLC and sensor lines.



Figure 3. Protostar light system render


The triggering of the light is managed through the PLC via a long-life and extremely fast solid-state relay. Alternatively, it can be directly linked to the camera’s output pins based on specific requirements. However, using the PLC provides us with greater flexibility to fine-tune the timings of the entire system. Typically, each camera has its own light, and one important consideration is the positioning of the light since introducing lens flares and unwanted reflections have to be avoided to achieve predictable results when capturing images.



Figure 4. Protostar light system installed


With real-time image processing capabilities, our Protostar Vision Box goes beyond the limitations of traditional inspection methods. It can easily identify deviations from Your quality standards, ensuring that only flawless products reach the market. Our system provides a comprehensive solution including the inspection of dimensional accuracy, liquid level, color and surface defects.



Designed for ease of integration, Protostar Vision Box seamlessly integrates into existing production lines and a user-friendly touchscreen interface allows for intuitive configuration and monitoring, allowing operators to fine-tune inspection parameters with ease.



Figure 5. User interface


In one of our use cases, the same production line is used to fill various bottle sizes (0.5L, 1L, 1.5L and 1.75L), various bottle cap colors and additionally, the same sized bottle can contain different product which is required to be filled to a different level depending on the product type. That particular scenario demanded that we install separate actuators for cameras and liquid level sensor so that every bottle size cap can be inspected from the correct height for optimal results and, at the same time, every bottle liquid level can be precisely measured to meet the production standard or even fine-tuned by the operator to a specific level using the graphical user interface.


After the bottle was marked as valid or invalid, it was sorted using a pneumatic actuator which was already integrated on the production line but needed the integration with our system and timing calibration so that it could sort the bottles even if they were positioned close together.


And that sums it up for this post, next up – sensor suite. See you on the next #PVBFridays!