A Complete Guide on Machine Vision Inspection

While there are many uses for machine vision, one of the most prolific is on the factory assembly line.  Here, computer-connected cameras can inspect produced equipment to ensure quality, that they are made without defects and will work seamlessly within larger devices. This utilization still uses some of the important things you know and understand about machine vision, such as analysis and visualization, but puts them to work spotting differences and similarities on various factory-assembled items.

We’ll go over what forms these systems take and how they integrate into factory lines, where they are best to use, and the benefits of integrating them into your assembly line. 

What are 1D, 2D, and 3D Vision Inspection Systems?

Depending on the context in which you’re using a vision inspection system, you’re going to have either a 1D, 2D, or 3D system. As you all know, 1D is equivalent to an X-axis, 2D is both an X and Y axis, and 3D is X, Y, and Z. 

Inspecting in different axis or dimensions is important, primarily depending on what it is that you’re inspecting. In other words, you wouldn’t want to inspect a mechanical component the same way you inspect manufactured paper. 

Quality Magazine has an excellent breakdown of these three types of vision inspection systems, providing explanations for how they are constructed and when they are used. 

1D Vision Inspection

A 1D vision system will examine a surface one line at a time, working to construct a 2D image piece by piece, somewhat like how a photocopier does it. You might be familiar with this type of scanning as it is commonly used in photocopiers, scanners, or bar code readers. In the case of vision inspection, the scanner is looking to detect variances along the line or the lack thereof. This is most commonly utilized in the production of materials, like plastic or paper, as these are made in one continuous sheet, then cut down to size. 

Typically these implementations involve a line scanner placed along a conveyor line so that it can inspect the product as it is fed along the line. These scanners have a very minimal profile and can easily be fit into tight spaces, allowing for easier integration. This form of inspection can operate at incredible speeds, and captures the highest fidelity of all these options, and can even be adapted for low-light environments. 

2D Vision Inspection

2D vision inspection is accomplished with 2D sensors and area cameras armed with high-quality lenses, typically for scanning an entire area simultaneously. This type of vision can also technically be achieved by stringing together many 1D scans, stacking individual lines on top of one another to form a two-dimensional image. Either way, this is used for inspecting items like labels, circuit boards, or even some discrete parts. 

Outside of Inspection, 2D vision can be utilized in several other contexts, such as for security scans at a checkpoint or medical scans to inspect a patient’s exterior. In the former 2D vision can look at an image to detect if anything is amiss, such as if something is hidden on the underside of a vehicle or if a patient is developing a growth on their skin. In both of these instances, 2D images are created out of many 1D scans as an object passes by a sensor. 

3D Vision Inspection

The advent of 3D vision inspection brings exciting opportunities with it and many more ways the technology can continue to evolve and expand. Here, you use several cameras and sensors simultaneously, all aimed at an object to measure depth and create an accurate 3D representation of the item. With this type of triangulation, you can understand all aspects of the object’s size, such as its length, height, and width, which is important for pieces that are meant to interlock with one another.

3D vision inspection has many uses in electronics and automotive manufacturing, where devices need to meet specific functionality, longevity, and safety standards. Traditionally, this process might have taken several minutes and even several people to be done properly, but the implementation of machine vision is saving both time and money.

Beyond manufacturing, this type of machine vision is important for assembly, monitoring, or complex procedures. Here you can utilize 3D images to monitor space for security purposes and identify unattended packages. We can also partner 3D vision with mechanical interfaces for purposes like surgery, so a surgeon can view the patient in detail while utilizing a machine interface for greater accuracy.

All of these types of vision inspection offer different benefits and advantages in certain situations, and the benefits of using one over another are purely subjective. Still, these exciting technologies can be used in many different ways, more of which are being discovered regularly.

Who Uses Machine Vision Inspection?

This technology has a wide range of applications, as you’ve already touched on briefly. The modularity of the technology allows it to be adapted at different scales and settings easily, and advancements in artificial intelligence continue to make more methods of use possible. 

As the Association for Advancing Automation explains, many companies can use machine vision for quality control and security, both of which affect a majority of global industries. These include things like:

  • Robotics, wherein machine vision can enable the machines on factory lines to see properly, picking improper parts off of a conveyor belt, or identifying other flaws.

  • Packaging, to ensure that packages are properly labeled and sealed according to government standards and regulations.

  • Semiconductors, ensuring that silicone is properly routed through an electronic board and that it is evenly applied. 

  • Life Sciences, enabling machines to inspect microscopic samples for proteins, bacteria, or other crucial components; with assistance from industrial-grade lenses.

  • Medical Imaging, where machine vision can inspect X-rays and scans to identify potentially harmful elements, such as irregular brain or heart activity. 

  • Food and Beverage, allowing computers to inspect food to ensure that it is kept and prepared in proper conditions, keeping it free of potentially harmful bacteria.

What Are The Benefits of Machine Vision Inspection?

Machine vision inspection offers numerous benefits to all industries; however, these are most apparent in manufacturing. As Engineering Specialties Inc. explains, vision inspection has several advantages to offer to manufacture as opposed to manual inspection, which has several flaws. 

Firstly, utilizing machines allows for the better collection of data, which enables a higher level of activity in response to defects. Here, you can understand patterns in the frequency of defects to trace them back through our manufacturing process, and identify the root cause. 

Secondly, you can now inspect every part produced, rather than having to inspect only a sample size and make assumptions about the rest of them. Despite this, machine vision is still a cost-effective method that leads to savings through both yield improvements and reduced workforce on the factory floor. 

Finally, machine vision enables higher output with more uptime, resulting in an immense boon to production runs. As these industrial machines and ruggedized lenses are highly durable, they can be kept online for more hours than a factory can be staffed. 

As the ESI pointed out, machine vision can also inspect much smaller components than the human eye can, so it can more reliably offer analysis on these mass-produced parts without the need for individual handling through a microscope. 

In this instance, our automated factory line is able to run 24/7 without a human technician present, and software produces records of all finished parts, whether that be good. This actionable information allows us to continually improve manufacturing processes and work towards a 100% yield. 


With the aid of machine vision inspection, modern factories are becoming smarter, faster, and more cost-efficient by removing slower human moments in the workflow. With improved speed and accuracy, manufacturers are now able to conduct full quality control examinations on production runs, allowing for larger bulk to be produced in less time with no defects. 

As this technology continues to develop and expand, industries will discover even more contexts in which it can be utilized to improve workflows and profitability further. This is increasingly important for large, expansive corporations that struggle to meet demands and often put human employees in hazardous working conditions as a result. 

In the future, these production efforts will be capable of running fully automatically, with minimal need for human interference, allowing people to work greater value-add jobs. 


Quality Magazine - Machine Vision Inspection | Qualitymag.com

A3 - What Are Vision Inspection Systems? | Automate.org

ESI - How Machine Vision Inspection Technology is Transforming Manufacturing | ESICT.org


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