May 10th, 2007

Niederländischer kamerahersteller hat grosse Ziele- die Potentiale der IBV will man nutzen (German)


Wir wachsen jährlich um 25%

Der Kamerahersteller Adimec wurde 1992 in Eindhoven gegründet. Das Unternehmen hat 100 Mitarbeiter und verfügt über Geschäftsbüros in den Niederlanden, den USA, in Japan und in Singapur. Alexander Völkert von der Redaktion IndustrialVISION sprach mit dem Business Development ment Manager Wouter van Thor über die Unternehmensstrategie und die Entwicklungstrends in der Kameratechnologie.

Extended interview:

"We are growing at a rate of 25% annually"

Mr. Wouter van Thor – Adimec’s BDM Europe  Interview of Mr. van Thor, Business Development Manager Europe of Adimec. May 2007 - by ‘IndustrialVISION’The camera producer Adimec was founded in Eindhoven in 1992. The company has 100 employees and business offices in the Netherlands, USA, Japan and Singapore. Alexander Völkert of the IndustrialVISION editorial staff spoke to the Business Development Manager Wouter van Thor about the corporate strategy and development trends in camera technology.

In 2004 Adimec established a business office in Eindhoven in order to provide better support to customers from Europe and the Middle East. Was that the correct decision?
Since the establishment of the office Adimec's turnover has been growing by approximately 25 % a year, with the turnover growing particularly strongly in Europe in the past three years, while the measured level of customer satisfaction remains consistently high. To that extent I can say: yes, it was the correct decision. In 2007 – 15 years after the firm was founded – we reached a threshold where we had to work in an increasingly professional manner within the organization. Our corporate philosophy is based on a triangular strategy. For us the triad of customer proximity, state-of-the-art technology and process optimization is extremely important. It is our goal to develop long-term and trusting partnerships with OEM customers. We can achieve that by offering customer-specific solutions, giving preference to open and challenging communication and displaying a high level of commitment.

How have you been able to translate your innovations into reality?
Every feasible application that represents a challenge to us which we would like to solve brings us further innovation. That is why we have developed platforms consisting of modular technical components for every field of application. With these we are able to quickly and accurately turn the wishes of our customers into reality. We therefore automatically strive for state-of-the-art technology at all times. What are the customer segments for your products and what applications are your customers able to use Adimec cameras for?
Industrial image processing and medical technology are the two lines of business in which our most important customers are to be found. Together they make up approximately 80 % of our customers. The remaining 20 % are from the military industry and nonindustrial image processing. In the field of Machine Vision we work in the semiconductor industry. In the production of wafers the surface and then the integrated circuits (chips) are initially examined with cameras in various steps. Moreover, we also supply cameras for all production steps concerning the inspection of printed circuit boards, for example, for the Asian and German automobile supply industry, as well as for research.

Intelligent cameras with integrated memory and processor are becoming increasingly important. Is this something which will threaten the existence of "conventional" cameras?
No. Smart cameras do indeed possess an intelligence which is becoming increasingly sophisticated. However, this is standardized. It is mainly suitable for a simple production process in which it is important to take pictures, process them and then trigger a "good" or "bad" signal. But our customers are often searching for a solution for a complicated and more involved production process. As a rule they have developed their own software for this purpose and require a camera which can transmit a large amount of high-quality data within a short time. It must also be compatible with the system developed by the customer. Then we speak of a high-end solution. The data rate of the camera is therefore high and requires the CameraLink interface, for which we need a frame grabber. Furthermore, our cameras are equipped with an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). These FPGAs are becoming larger and cheaper all the time, thereby making it easier to incorporate customer-specific intelligence into a standard camera. Our customers are increasingly expressing the wish of having free storage capacity in the FPGA so that they can integrate their own software. Intelligent cameras may well be gnawing at the frame grabber's right to exist, but in the high-end field this is still required for image acquisition. Nonetheless, as soon as 10-GB Ethernet is available and replaces CameraLink, the frame grabber will experience hard times. At the same time the "conventional" high-end camera with a 10GigE Vision interface can deliver images to the image processing system more simply and cheaply. Two years ago you said that CameraLink was the fastest interface in the high-speed field, while Gigabit Ethernet might be a candidate for medium-speed requirements. What is your opinion today?
It is still the case today that CameraLink offers the fastest interface for the high-end field. In the past two years the number of companies offering GigE has been growing, and the industry is now waiting for this interface to establish itself. By the way, Adimec was a member of the committee that developed GigE-Vision and this summer we will be introducing a range of GigE solutions.

Higher resolution – higher speeds – CMOS: Are you receiving more enquiries from your customers for these systems and can you detect a trend in the development?
We are indeed receiving requests for more details, a larger inspection surface and faster processing. But this requirement can only be finite, because although it is possible to continue developing the technology, it is not possible to overcome the laws of physics. A higher resolution with the same bit rate, for example, requires a greater bandwidth, which in most cases is not available just like that. However, our customers want a higher speed and good picture quality. It is therefore necessary to find a compromise between the financial and the physical restrictions. The highest resolution of the cameras which we offer as standard models is 4 megapixels. With that it is possible to produce a maximum of 140 images a second in good picture quality. That fully meets the requirements of our customers. As far as GigE-Vision is concerned, there are various reasons for pushing this interface: the elimination of the expensive frame grabber and an extension to the maximum possible length of the cables are important. With GigE-Vision you can lay up to 100 m of cable, while CameraLink allows only 10 m. This is of interest to many companies. We are also keeping a keen eye on the possibilities with vertical integration, as the lenses, illumination and image processing all come from one source. When do you recommend a CMOS camera, and when a CCD camera?
In general we do not recommend the one or the other. Until recently it was difficult for us to recommend a camera with a CMOS sensor because the unwanted noise signal was simply too high and the picture quality therefore too poor. That is why we initially spent a long time evaluating the development of the CMOS technology until we could be sure that the technology - and therefore the quality - was good. At the end of the day we would like to be known for reliability and high picture quality. Thanks to technical developments it is now possible to suppress the noise in the CMOS technology to such an extent that good picture quality can be provided at high speed. Since then we have been producing not only the tried and tested high-quality cameras with CCD sensors, but also cameras with CMOS sensors. CMOS cameras are faster, but we would not necessarily recommend them in all cases, because it also depends on the application. We offer both technologies with our usual high quality levels. Many people believe that the CMOS technology is simply faster and cheaper. That may well be true for the low-end field. But a good CMOS sensor is more expensive than a CCD-Sensor and is also more difficult to produce.

Industrial image processing has grown tremendously in the past 10 years. In 2005 the industry achieved a turnover of more than a billion euros in Germany. Will this trend continue?
The trend will certainly continue. Our customers have a healthy level of economic growth, so we will also have one. Moreover, we intend to increase our turnover considerably in the next few years. Image processing technology is still relatively young and to that extent I am quite confident that there will be many more potential markets which we have not yet developed. Statistics show that up to now only 10 to 15 % of the possible applications in the field of image processing are being used. So you can see the potential that is still "slumbering". Furthermore, various forecasts from market research institutes indicate that due to the size of the market and the rate of growth the trend will continue in the coming 10 years. What do you particularly enjoy about your job?
The international work involves a lot of travel. I really enjoy that because you get to know many people from various countries and different cultures. Adimec is present in three different markets. These are all different - as are the customers. The technology I deal with is very versatile. As a physicist I find it interesting to be constantly involved in various areas of physics: electronics, optics, mechanics and also software. This is all important as far as the technical know-how required to produce a good camera is concerned. It is also a nice feeling when you meet people at trade fairs who give me the opportunity to work with high-quality technology. They praise our products. We also have a professional and dynamic organization, from which our customers - and me too in my work – are able to profit. We receive so many enquiries that we are able to be selective. It's all too good to be true. I am really positive about my work.

In your dreams what would you like to see already fully developed by this industry?
The availability of a fast CMOS sensor as a catalogue product – designed in various megapixel resolutions – with a global shutter would be good, because the number of possible applications would increase. This is physically feasible but not yet fully developed technically. So far there is no such sensor available as standard on the free market, but it is only a question of time. I would also like to see a fully developed 10 GigE Vision interface because this would also simplify the high-performance applications and make them cheaper.

Thank you Mr. van Thor for the interesting conversation


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