The future of vision technology in medical manufacturing

Features - Quality

Mitutoyo expert Mark Sawko discusses how vision-based metrology is advancing rapidly, improvements to digital cameras, software techniques that stitch images together, and how to best use modern equipment.

February 1, 2021

Stitching four images together can create one high-resolution image. Stitching smaller images of a large piece into a single image allows for faster vision measurement without sacrificing accuracy.

The precision required when manufacturing intricate medical devices requires the right inspection equipment. Mark Sawko, vision product specialist at Mitutoyo America, discusses vision technology advancements for better quality control.

Today’s Medical Developments (TMD): What are some advancements in today’s vision measuring machines?

Mark Sawko (MS): Larger fields of view are a trend. Larger pixel counts and larger complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chips allow users to see more of a part at any time. This makes measurement faster and easier but sacrifices accuracy.

For example, Mitutoyo focuses more on stitching images together using software and hardware. This method takes many high-resolution images and melds them into a single high-resolution image of the entire targeted measurement area without sacrificing accuracy.

TMD: How can you determine which vision measuring machine is best for a process?

MS: It depends on the parts being measured. With such a wide array of vision equipment available... have a sales representative evaluate your parts and processes to determine what best fits your needs. If an on-site visit isn’t possible, sending a part and print to us can work, but it’s not as efficient as having a vision measuring professional look at everything involved.

TMD: How have enhanced resolutions and camera-to- PC-based vision machines advanced today’s systems?

MS: Camera pixel counts are increasing due to advancing technology. If you use the improved resolution from the increased pixel count and increase magnification, the result is better accuracy on even smaller parts. That’s why best practice is to use image stitching to get the best of both worlds – better resolution and better accuracy.

TMD: How does cost come into play when considering investing in a vision measuring machine?

MS: It comes down to, how much can you afford? A bigger budget will deliver better axis scales, optics, cameras, and lighting; however, a lot of high-accuracy measurements can be made with simpler machines. For example, the Mitutoyo QV-Active costs less but delivers 2µm accuracy.

TMD: How does installing a vision measuring machine address improving quality?

MS: Once trained, a lot of vision measurements are automated with automatic edge detection, eliminating human error and measurement fluctuations among operators. Once manufacturers remove human influence, product quality and consistency improve, allowing for tighter process control without investing in multiple, expensive gaging.

By applying statistical analysis, companies can improve manufacturing by monitoring the process and better controlling quality to reduce rejects and scrap in the manufacturing process.

TMD: How are increasing use of robots and cobots accelerating vision measuring machine use?

MS: With robotics, machines can be automatically loaded for around-the-clock measurement operations without the need of an operator. Depending on how many vision measuring machines and robots you have in operation, this obviously increases product throughput without the need for multiple operators who require training.

TMD: How is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) increasing adoption?

MS: More cameras, optics, and semiconductors in more products increase the need for vision measuring machines and systems, since they excel at measuring these types of components quickly and with great accuracy.

TMD: What applications benefit the most from vision measuring machines?

MS: There are so many application possibilities, everything from complex products such as line-produced semiconductors to tiny and complex bone screws and artificial joints. Bone screws might seem simple, but they are very multifaceted, and a vision measuring system can measure profile, head geometry, and thread geometry.

Mitutoyo America Corp.

About the author: Elizabeth Engler Modic is the editor of Today’s Medical Developments. She can be reached at or 216.393.0264.

Automatic edge detection eliminates human error and measure fluctuations between operators, improving product quality and making precision measurements more consistent.