Profile Sights on 3D

Cognex has strengthened its position in 3D vision with a number of recent company acquisitions in the area, as Greg Blackman discovers


n the last year, Cognex has acquired no less than five companies: three 3D vision

firms, demonstrating Cognex’s intent to play a larger role as a 3D imaging technology provider; Webscan, a maker of barcode verification solutions; and Vidi Systems, a Swiss image processing firm that develops deep learning soſtware. Te 3D vision acquisitions,

in particular, reflect a growing acceptance of 3D technology in factory automation, a sector that is expected to be valued at $2.13 billion by 2022, according to market research firm MarketsandMarkets. In the last year Cognex also launched the In- Sight laser profiler, which operates by laser triangulation to generate a 3D profile of an object. Cognex is one of the leading

suppliers of machine vision equipment, with annual revenue in 2016 of $520.75 million. Te company was founded in 1981 by Dr Robert Shillman, at that time a lecturer in human visual perception at MIT. Today, the company has shipped more than one million vision-based products, which represents over $4 billion in cumulative revenue since the company’s origins. Cognex serves most vertical

markets within factory automation; its two largest areas are automotive and electronics. In addition, two growth sectors for the company are logistics and mobile barcode reading for applications including parcel delivery, field service and

Cognex’s current 3D offerings are based on line scan technologies

warehousing. In 2016, its fastest growing region was Asia, led by growth in China and Korea. Te company introduced its

first 3D imaging system about five years ago, a sensor based on laser line profiling. ‘We entered the market with a relatively high end, flexible product based on Cognex VisionPro soſtware,’ commented Brian Nachtigall, Cognex’s director of 3D product marketing. ‘With that product, we have experienced significant growth and have been able to solve a lot of demanding applications.’ He added: ‘Te market

penetration of 3D technologies is just now starting to pick up and customers in the market seem to be ready for it. It’s a good time to be making investments in 3D.’ Cognex acquired Spanish 3D

vision soſtware firm Aqsense at the end of August 2016 and followed that in October 2016 by buying EnShape, a German 3D camera maker that uses structured

10 Imaging and Machine Vision Europe • June/July 2017

The market penetration of 3D is starting to pick up… It’s a good time to be making investments in 3D

light to capture 3D images. Ten, in November 2016, Cognex purchased Boulder, Colorado- based Chiaro Technologies, another supplier of area scan, structured light technology. Cognex’s current 3D

offerings are based on line scan technologies, where either the object or the sensor has to be moved to build up a 3D profile. Te acquisitions add area scan technologies to Cognex’s portfolio, whereby a pattern of light is projected onto the object and the distortions in the light are recorded as a 3D image. Te technique captures a 3D snapshot of the object under inspection,

which in some ways is a simpler 3D imaging method than triangulation. ‘Snapshot imaging is a growth

segment in the 3D market, and the acquisitions we’ve made in the past year equip us with the technology and experienced engineering teams to develop even more sophisticated 3D solutions,’ Nachtigall remarked. Cognex’s recently launched In-

Sight laser profiler is an intuitive 3D sensor that is easier to set up and use than the firm’s full 3D system – the full 3D imager is based on 3D VisionPro soſtware, whereas the In-Sight laser profiler uses the company’s In-Sight EasyBuilder soſtware. With these offerings, Cognex has the tools to solve more complex projects requiring technical expertise, in addition to more straightforward profiling applications. In some instances 3D vision can

be more complex than 2D vision, but 3D can make more sense


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