Mr. Lübbecke, you’ve been director of the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Quality Assurance and Image Processing since 2009, and managing director of the company Steinbeis Qualitätssicherung und Bildverarbeitung GmbH since it was founded in 2011. But you originally came from a completely different area of engineering. What made you decide to move into image processing?
That’s right, I originally studied Civil Engineering in Weimar. My first project right out of college brought me into contact with image processing and work with the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Quality Assurance and Image Processing. We were inspecting the angle of tilt on a leaning church tower in Bad Frankenhausen using an optical inclination sensor. Even then I was amazed by the variety of areas that overlap with image processing. The technology has made leaps and bounds ever since and it’s now impossible to imagine manufacturing – and increasingly even consumer markets – without it. It was this potential, my interest in image processing, my experiences and my contacts at Steinbeis that resulted in my moving into this field.
You invest a lot of time and energy in sensor systems and image processing. Looking at it today, which developments have had the most lasting influence on this sector of industry?
I’d say that the most influential development on positive developments in image processing and sensors has been computer technology, although the miniaturization of cameras and sensors has also opened up lots of new areas. The performance of cameras has also improved markedly in terms of image rates and resolution. Industrial image processing is an excellent match with in-line quality assurance in production and assembly processes, and, if it’s used systematically, it can almost result in zero-defect production.
Steinbeis Qualitätssicherung und Bildverarbeitung GmbH offers its customers applied research and the customer-specific development of components, equipment and machines used in industrial image processing, as well as the production of industrial applications. Which services are in particularly high demand from SMEs?
A growing number of our companies ask us about services related to the integration of image processing systems – the tasks they’re working on are becoming even more complex and they often can’t be carried out using standard solutions. Image processing is having a large impact on automation and quality assurance in production processing. But our consulting services are also popular, especially in quality management related to DIN standard EN ISO 9001, environmental management related to DIN standard EN ISO 14001, or energy consulting related to DIN standard EN ISO 50001.
As in the past, quality is still tremendously important in manufacturing. What role does image processing have to play in this area?
An increasingly central role. Lots of our customers are experiencing upturns in production volumes so they’re shifting away from manual quality checks to semi- or fully automated image processing systems, because they’re more reliable and effective.
3D image processing, CMOS image sensors, miniaturization – just some of the more recent trends in image processing. What challenges do these present and what sort of impact are they having on your work?
One particular challenge is miniaturization, often simply because it’s difficult to cram all the required components into the smallest possible area. Then there’s the cost squeeze because image processing is making more and more inroads into the consumer market and the automotive sector. 3D applications for recording our environment and creating graphical representations are coming up strong at the moment.
Steffen Lubbecke is the managing director of Steinbeis Qualitatssicherung und Bildverarbeitung GmbH. Work at the company revolves around applied research and the customer-specific development of components, devices and systems for industrial image processing, as well as consulting in the fields of quality assurance/quality management.