Seeds, chemical drops, pharmaceutical drugs, nuts and bolts -- much of the world's economy relies on tiny objects. Thanks to the Ball-Coleman Seed Counter
, created by Newtown-based Coleman Technologies
, keeping track of those pieces just got a lot easier.
Coleman Technologies specializes in hardware and software for vision systems -- camera-enabled machines that rapidly translate visual images into data. It's a key resource for quality control. Because the camera has a single viewpoint, the typical vision system can only "see" objects that pass by in a flat or two-dimensional stream (think conveyer belt).
The Ball-Coleman, however, bounces the camera's viewpoint off a mirror angled at 90 degrees. This allows the machine to capture and compare different sides of the same image, and to count objects in a thick or three-dimensional stream. With a Ball-Coleman, a long flat Marigold seed, for example, can't hide behind another. While the typical seed counter averages 100 seeds per second, the Ball-Coleman can recognize up to 2,000 objects per second.
"Seed counters look at the seeds straight on," explains Paul Falkenstein, vice president of Automated Inspection Systems. "We're looking at seeds dropping in two directions instead of one, and can count in much higher volume."
Coleman Technologies spent four years developing the machine in partnership with Chicago-based Ball Horticultural
, a company that now owns exclusive sales and distribution rights to the product. Coleman is currently investigating additional partnerships and wants to apply their technology to a range of industries. With the enhanced machine, the mining industry, for example, wouldn't have to sift through their findings -- in addition to counting, the Ball-Coleman can also identify different types of objects or materials.
The company has grown from two to eight employees in the past four years. They are hiring LabView Developers with software engineering experience.
"There's a lot of possibilities out there," says Falkenstein. "We already have one partner who loves it."
Paul Falkenstein, Coleman Technologies