A hidden champion

Machine vision, with its great importance for modern production, is perceived far too little, says Patrick Schwarzkopf, Managing Director of the VDMA Robotics + Automation Association.

Patrick Schwarzkopf Managing Director, VDMA Robotics + Automation Association

Some technologies are truly groundbreaking, changing the world and giving rise to completely new solutions. Technologies that have a major impact on how we live and how we address the challenges humankind is facing.

While some of these game changing technologies are the “talk of the town”, some remain somewhat hidden from view and do not quite make in into the mainstream media and public debate as much as they should.

Machine vision – one of the most powerful enablers we have at our hands – falls in this category. It is time to change that and make the wide range of application areas and unique benefits of “machines that can see” much more widely known. Looking at challenges we face today, it’s obvious that machine vision is a real solution provide.

Higher productivity and competitiveness

Automation is an essential key to success – especially for manufacturing companies in Europe. Only with automation Europe is able to sustainably secure its competitiveness. Not just since COVID-19 has it become clear that production needs to be increasingly carried out where consumption takes place, not least because of rising environmental and transport costs. When we think of automation, the first thing that comes to mind is a robot.

Not everyone knows that without machine vision, the robot can’t do much. It remains blind and dumb.

Recognizing changes and irregularities in production processes at an early stage is key to resource efficiency and cost effectiveness. Everyone is talking about Industry 4.0 and interconnected and data-driven production processes. For machine vision, this is ancient reality. 100% accuracy, infallible quality checks and complete traceability – this is what automation stands for. Thanks to machine vision, companies are able to produce high-quality non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – avoiding costly product recalls, product liability claims and reputational damage.

Automation can relieve people of monotonous, physically demanding or even unhealthy tasks. Visual quality inspection carried out by humans is monotonous and tiring for the eyes, sometimes even too complex for the human brain. Monotonous and dull tasks are accomplished by a “seeing machine” supporting workers, ensuring a perfect human-machine interaction and resulting in a more advanced and satisfying workplace.

Demographic change and sustainability

The baby boomer generation will be retiring soon while birth rates remain low. This will massively reduce the potential workforce in Europe over the next 10–20 years. Increased automation can make a major contribution to solving this problem. Ensuring security, higher quality, and safety in and outside the factories, optimizing traffic flows, checking the stock level of shelves in the supermarket, monitoring moles at the dermatologist – machine vision makes life better for all of us.

We all agree: it is necessary to use resources efficiently. And, even looking beyond factory automation, machine vision contributes to environmentally friendly solutions. Sorting waste and recycling material, reverse vending systems for returning bottles in the supermarket, smart farming by applying fertilizer efficiently and sparingly. That’s machine vision.

Machine vision is a universal problem solver, not limited to the factory environment. And, the rise of machine vision (or computer vision as some refer to it) is far from being over!

Machine vision is the real super star within automation! Let’s make sure it is in the limelight.