Control Applications is a small, 7-year-old research and development
company specialising in the design and development of industrial automation
systems. The company employs 6 employees, and in 1999 achieved sales
of approximately 300.000 Euro.
Specifically, Control Applications (CA) is specialised in the organisation
& automation of production lines in the industrial fields of Aluminium,
Cement, Food, Manufacturing and Mining. This includes collection of
data and visual representation, automatic control of productions lines
and quality control of end products. CA is considered to be the only
Greek company that develops machines for visual quality control. The
personnel of the company are comprised of electronic engineers and computer
scientists integrating backgrounds and skills from the domains of image
processing, industrial applications development, s/w design and development
and production automation.
Line scan sensors are utilised by the company in its products. These
products range from rice to fruit sorters and operate in real-time.
Speed and colour resolution are very important parameters.
Different sensors are used according to the application, and for each
one a new board had to be designed with the discrete technology used
today, though most of them share common characteristics. Due to the
'old-fashioned' technology that was used only the absolutely essential
functions, such as timing, correlated double sampling, gain and offset
were practicable to be incorporated.
The objective of the Application Experiment was:
- To improve the electronics in the existing sorting systems to improve
efficiency and add the capability of handling a series of line scan
- To design a new board using an FPGA. This board will be common
to all sensors and at the same time will take advantage of the increased
capabilities offered by the new technology, meaning that additional
functions will be incorporated.
- To reduce product set-up costs by 18% and increase sales (mainly
The application of FPGA technology produced the following product
- The improvement in the existing sorting systems makes the Control
System more efficient and capable of handling series of line scan
- The new board has additional functions such as timing, correlated
double sampling, gain and offset.
- Reduction in production costs, specifically the PCB costs were
reduced by approximately 60% while the component costs decreased by
- Improvement in quality.
These additional product features provide new customer benefits and
product differentiation features that improve Control Applications'
The application experiment was completed in 10 months and cost 55.000
Euro. The payback period for the application experiment will be 15 months,
and the return on investment is estimated at 364 % over 4 years of life.
Following the application experiment, Control Applications is now
capable of undertaking the incremental design of the improved product
for other applications, and the manufacture of the new products.