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Open platform allows SIs to customise smart sensor apps

03 April, 2017

The German sensor-make Sick has announced an open software platform that allows systems integrators and OEMs to develop tailor-made applications based on the company's programmable devices, including smart vision systems and intelligent sensors. The AppSpace platform is supported by a multi-core processor, called the SIM4000 sensor integration machine, that can integrate multiple cameras and sensors together with powerful image processing.

Sick AppSpace is all about integrating hardware and software to achieve user-specific requirements efficiently through made-to-measure sensor apps,” explains Neil Sandhu, the company’s manager for imaging, measurement, ranging and systems products in the UK. “Sick’s programmable sensors, such as the new Inspector P family of programmable 2D vision cameras, provide the foundation. The SIM4000 sensor integration machine then enables multiple device image-processing and data-collection, where needed.

“On the software side, the solution encompasses the Sick AppStudio for application development, and the Sick AppManager for implementing and managing apps in the field,” he adds. “The Sick AppSpace Developers Club forms the final part of the concept. This is a growing community where developers from Sick and our customers can exchange information and ideas.”

The SIM4000 provides up to 25 interfaces for Ethernet-based fieldbuses, cameras, illumination, sensors and encoders. It includes 10Gbit Ethernet interfaces for 2D or 3D cameras, and can power PoE (Power over Ethernet) devices. Sensors such as RFID readers and laser scanners can also be integrated via IO-Link to measure distances and heights.

Data from the sensors can be merged into a point cloud, evaluated, archived, and transmitted via the SIM4000. It can be used for automation applications including: multi-sensor or camera-based inspection for measurement and identification; data acquisition; archiving for quality control; process analysis; or predictive maintenance.

Using AppSpace, developers can design and deploy customised installations, provide Web-based graphical interfaces for operators, and distribute applications across multiple hardware platforms and locations.

Sick's AppSpace platform is designed to work with a multi-processor module (top) that integrates multiple sensors together

They have access to industry-standard image-processing libraries, including Halcon, and can work with their preferred programming technologies, including graphical flow editors, Lua scripting tools, and C++ or Java. Built-in support functions include auto-completion, which allows programmable sensor app developments to insert themselves into existing development processes.

Utilities such as emulators, debuggers, resource monitors, and documentation and demo apps, are claimed to simplify the development process. The software components are combined using PackageBuilder to create a single package that defines access rights safely.

“AppSpace opens up amazing potential for specifically-crafted application solutions and for integrating multi-sensor data input,” says Sandhu. “In the Industry 4.0 organisation, whatever the application, global connectivity will be complemented by very specific individual and localised solutions with distributed, decentralised intelligent hardware and software integration. The Sick AppSpace eco-system will be the creative platform that supports this development.”

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