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Laser 101

Machine Vision & Laser Inspection : A compresive guide

Part 1: What is Machine Vision?


Machine vision, integral to modern automation, surpasses human accuracy in interpreting visual data.

Lasers, key for their precise light, enhance image resolution for intricate inspections. This synergy boosts defect detection, ensuring swift and exact analysis (Ren et al., 2021).

Find more about the machine vision system from Lumispot Tech. 

Part 2: Laser Technologies in Machine Vision

Laser Integration in Machine Vision Systems

Machine vision systems, crucial for automation, comprise imaging devices, processors, controllers, and outputs. Lasers serve as a vital illumination source, providing precise structured light for 3D scanning and consistent imaging (Zhao, Year). Their coherent light minimizes distortion, essential for accurate gauging, inspection, and guidance.


Image Capture and Processing Principles

Image capture in machine vision translates laser-reflected light into electrical signals, forming a digital object representation. Sensors like CCD or CMOS are chosen for their sensitivity and speed. Advanced algorithms then process these signals, extracting data from dimensions to surface flaws (Peng et al., 2021).


Industrial Applications and Laser's Impact

In industries, laser-boosted machine vision ensures manufacturing accuracy. For instance, in selective laser melting (SLM), it monitors for powder defects, crucial for product quality. This application of machine vision detects and classifies defects with precision, enhancing manufacturing efficiency and reliability (Lin et al., 2021).


Ren, Z., Fang, F., Yan, N., & Wu, Y. (2021). State of the Art in Defect Detection Based on Machine Vision. Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, 16, 1-15. https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/S40684-021-00343-6

Peng, R., Liu, J.-C., Fu, X., Liu, C., & Zhao, L. (2021). Application of machine vision method in tool wear monitoring. The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, 115(5-6), 1475-1486. https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00170-021-07522-4

Lin, Z., Lai, Y., Pan, T., Zhang, W., Zheng, J., Ge, X., & Liu, Y. (2021). A New Method for Automatic Detection of Defects in Selective Laser Melting Based on Machine Vision. Materials, 14(15), 4175. https://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ma14154175

Zhao, Y. (Year). Application of Computer-based Machine Vision Measurement System in Industrial On-line Detection. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1992(2), 022062. https://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1742-6596/1992/2/022062


Part 3: Leveraging Laser Technology in Machine Vision


Lasers vs. Traditional Lighting in Machine Vision

Lasers outshine traditional light sources in machine vision with their coherent, monochromatic light, enabling high-contrast, low-noise imaging. Ideal for precise alignments and measurements, lasers support interferometric methods like digital holography for detailed 3D imaging and surface topology (Coupland & Lobera, n.d.).


Precision Measurement and Detection with Lasers

Lasers are unmatched in precision measurement and detection, producing narrow, intense beams for revealing fine details and surface imperfections. Techniques like laser triangulation and time-of-flight measurements exploit laser wavelengths for exact distance and displacement assessments.


Diverse Lasers in Vision Systems

Machine vision employs various lasers—Diode Lasers for their compactness in barcode scanning, Fiber Lasers for flexible delivery in complex setups, and solid-state lasers for power in cutting and welding tasks.


Part 4: Advanced Laser Detection Technologies

Laser Triangulation for Dimensional Analysis

Laser triangulation, a cornerstone in machine vision, facilitates non-contact dimensional measurements. By analyzing the laser spot's position captured by a camera, systems accurately gauge object distances, aiding in quality control for thickness and profile assessments.


Confocal Laser Technology for Surface Inspection

High-resolution surface inspection is achieved through laser confocal technology, which scans surfaces with a pinpoint beam and detects light from the focal plane only. This method excels in examining complex and reflective surfaces, uncovering imperfections invisible to the eye.


Speckle Patterns and Reflectometry

Speckle pattern analysis deciphers surface characteristics, while optical time-domain reflectometry (OTDR) inspects fiber optics by analyzing laser pulse reflections to locate defects.


Additional Laser Detection Methods

Other methods include laser Doppler vibrometry for analyzing vibrations and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy for material identification, each harnessing laser properties for precise industrial measurements.


Singe-Line Laser Light Source



Multi-line Laser Light Source



Vision Inspection System

More Related Products can be found at Vision Inspection Series Page.

Part 5: Application of Laser Detection 

Automotive Assembly PrecisionIn automotive manufacturing, laser detection ensures precision on the assembly line, checking component presence and quality swiftly to uphold high standards and boost production efficiency. Learn more about automotive applications.

Microscale Electronic InspectionLaser vision systems excel in inspecting minuscule electronic parts, identifying misalignments and soldering flaws without contact, balancing precision with high throughput. 

Solar Panel Quality AssuranceIn the photovoltaic sector, lasers detect micro-cracks in solar panels, critical for delivering market-ready, efficient products and fostering consumer trust in solar energy. 

Railway Safety Monitoring Laser systems on trains monitor rail integrity, detecting deformations to preemptively maintain tracks and enhance safety. Read more on railway monitoring.

Pantograph and Roof InspectionA laser and camera setup above train tracks inspects pantographs and roofs for wear, ensuring safe, efficient rail transport. See pantograph inspection in-depth.

Navigating Laser Detection Limitations :Despite its benefits, laser detection faces challenges like environmental interference and difficulties with reflective surfaces, requiring investment in technology and training. 

Understand the limitations and application details further.

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Part 6: The FUTURE TREND of Laser Technology in Machine Vision


Innovations Shaping Laser Technology

The landscape of laser technology is rapidly evolving, driven by breakthroughs in material science, beam quality enhancements, and system miniaturization. Ultrafast lasers are revolutionizing precision tasks by processing materials with minimal heat impact. Fiber lasers, combining high power with superior beam quality, are advancing material processing and imaging.


Machine Vision and Laser Detection: A Computational Leap Forward

Machine vision and laser detection are set to leap forward with advances in computational power and AI integration. Enhanced processing capabilities will enable real-time complex task management and predictive analytics. AI's incorporation is expected to refine data learning, pattern recognition, and user interaction within machine vision systems.


AI-Machine Vision Synergy

AI-Enhanced Quality Control in Manufacturing: A study by Hee-Chul Kim and colleagues developed a machine vision system that uses AI for batch inspection in the oven manufacturing process. The system employs object detection, color clustering, and histogram extraction to inspect label positions and directions, demonstrating AI's role in enhancing the automation process (Kim et al., 2023).

AI in Medical Diagnostics: AI's application in medical imaging diagnostics is another area of significant growth. Machine vision systems using AI can navigate complex software models for imaging diagnostics, which may lead to new legal and malpractice considerations due to the technology's complexity and the need for trust in AI judgments (Harned, Lungren, & Rajpurkar, 2019).

AI for Food Processing: In the food industry, AI machine vision is being used to predict cutting points in fish processing, improving accuracy and reducing waste. This technique uses image processing and machine learning to extract 3D models from images and predict cutting points for desired weights, with an average error of less than 3%, which is a significant improvement over the current error levels (Lee, 2023).

AI and Advanced Manufacturing: Machine Vision (MV) with AI is crucial for Industry 4.0, especially in assembly lines where accuracy and quality are paramount. The use of Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) designed for AI inference with Convolution Neural Networks (CNNs) is a key development. This approach allows for efficient tensor processing, which is essential for high-performance computing in manufacturing processes (Jain & Sharma, 2022).

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Kim, H.-C., Yoon, Y.-S., & Kim, Y.-M. (2023). AI Machine Vision based Oven White Paper Color Classification and Label Position Real-time Monitoring System to Check Direction. Transactions on GIGAKU, 10(31803). https://dx.doi.org/10.31803/tg-20230220172540

Harned, Z., Lungren, M., & Rajpurkar, P. (2019). Machine Vision, Medical AI, and Malpractice. Journal of Law and the Biosciences. https://academic.oup.com/jlb/article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsz010/5571243

Lee, M. (2023). A method for predicting the cutting points using random sample consensus partitioning technique and AI machine vision. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies and Technology, 10(4). https://dx.doi.org/10.15379/ijmst.v10i4.1882

Jain, A., & Sharma, N. (2022). Accelerated AI Inference at CNN-Based Machine Vision in ASICs: A Design Approach. ECS Transactions, 107(1), 5165. https://dx.doi.org/10.1149/10701.5165ecst