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Vision Tools Speed Development of IMB Postal Barcode Verifier

FASTechnology Group

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The new Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) has all but replaced the old POSTNET and PLANET barcodes used in United States Postal Service (USPS) automation. FASTechnology Group, already the leading developer and supplier of high-speed selective binding and mailing controllers used to address large mailings, anticipated the need for an inspection system that would validate the quality and conformity of IMBs to help mailers avoid potential additional charges. FASTech used the Cognex In-Sight® 5613 because it provides powerful tools for IMB verification and automation control connectivity that greatly reduced development time. As a result, the FASTverify Postal Verification System is the first system that not only verifies the readability and critical metrics of the bar code but also verifies that it is the right barcode.

FASTech previously offered vision systems for other barcode-based applications. Instead of simply using the same vision systems in the new product, the company decided to evaluate products from the leading vision suppliers. “We determined that we could develop our product in substantially less time using Cognex In-Sight vision systems,” said Mark Breunig, VP Product Development for FASTech. “Cognex offers a full set of built-in IMB verification tools that make it possible to program the vision system to verify IMB compliance with just a few simple commands. Cognex connectivity tools make it easier to integrate Cognex vision systems into existing automation control systems.”

The Read ID code command is used to read the IMB. The value is matched against information provided by the controller to make sure the correct code has been applied and is also used to create the file name used to store the IMB image. Next, the Verify ID command is used to generate the IMB verification metrics. All of the parameters needed to ensure the IMB meets USPS requirements are verified. The vision program compares each of these figures to the USPS IMB specifications and warning parameters and determines if the code passes, passes but exceeds warning limits, or fails. The value of the code is passed to the user interface which checks it against the controller database to ensure that the right code has been printed.

We were able to develop the application in a remarkably short period of time,” Breunig concluded. “The cameras and software that we have used in the past to develop vision applications could have done this job but it would have been more difficult and taken considerably more time. Cognex vision tools helped us quickly bring a product to market that is the first in the IMB verification space to offer a number of important capabilities. Our system is the first to provide the ability to not only verify that the IMB is produced to specifications but also to verify that the right code has been printed on the mailer. The FASTverify Postal Verification System is also one of the first systems with one button calibration and the capability to inspect every single piece of mail produced by today’s high-speed selective binding and co-mailing systems with full image archival capability.”

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