Incorporating image processing into PLC environments

Updated: Jul 3

Beckhoff Automation UK is bringing vision system image processing into familiar programmable logic controller (PLC) environments with its new TwinCAT Vision software. The software, an extension of the popular TwinCAT range of PC-based control systems, simplifies the process of configuring and programming vision systems for engineers. Beckhoff Automation UK is now bringing the product to industrial businesses across the UK.


The TwinCAT Vision software brings image processing into a single platform alongside PLC, human-machine interface (HMI), motion control and Internet of Things (IoT) device management. This allows engineers to reconfigure and calibrate geometric cameras and control machine vision systems from a familiar operating environment, using PLC programming languages and the same configuration tools as used for fieldbuses.

Incorporating these functions into one system improves ease-of-use and eliminates latency in executing image processing algorithms, which can now execute in real-time. It also allows for greater synchronisation between vision processing, PLCs and motion control functions.

“Image processing and machine vision systems play an increasingly important role in quality assurance in an ever-growing number of industries,” said Stephen Hayes, managing director of Beckhoff Automation UK. “Traditionally, the processing of these images has taken place on a high-performance PC that is separate to existing automation systems. The trouble is, this still generally requires specialist knowledge to adjust parameters, and it adds the risk of error or latency.

“With TwinCAT Vision, we’ve brought all the functionality that engineers need — configuration, control and pre-processing algorithms — not only into a familiar real-time operating environment, but also into a single system. This allows machine builder to also develop more advanced designs where all control and image processing tasks can be run out of one competitive machine.

“Bringing this functionality all into one familiar operating environment means several benefits to users. First, it makes vision processing easier to operate, because engineers will be adapted to working in the control system, which eliminates the need for specialist skillsets. Second, it allows systems to respond quicker to image input data, improving the efficiency of quality assurance.

“Coupled with the PLC, motion and measurement functionality of TwinCAT, this marks a significant step forward for PC-based control and vision processing systems alike.”

Because the TwinCAT system is PC-based, it benefits from the use of a Gigabit Ethernet interface, upon which image data transmission protocols such as GigE Vision are based. The TwinCAT Vision software features a real-time driver that supports GigE Vision, as well as tools that can read and configure settings based on the GenApi format commonly used by GigE Vision compatible camera manufacturers.

Beckhoff first announced TwinCAT Vision in late 2017, with the system being displayed at the SPS Drives exhibition the following year. The system is now becoming widely available to companies across the UK, ahead of other new product launches coming later in 2020 that reaffirm Beckhoff’s commitment to simplifying effective automation for industrial businesses.

More information on the TwinCAT Vision software is available on the Beckhoff Automation website. Alternatively, contact the Beckhoff Automation UK team on +44 (0)1491 410 539 or sales@beckhoff.co.uk.

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