What is a vision sensor?

Vision sensors are a type of automated solution that solve simple error-proofing applications. Typically, they perform a single function at a time, such as binary classification, defect detection, optical character recognition (OCR), object counting, and assembly verification.

More capable than other types of sensors, including photoelectric, laser, and proximity, vision sensors combine a camera’s ability to take pictures with the processing power of a computer. They analyze acquired images to gather data for inspections or to trigger other devices. Based on criteria set during training, vision sensors look for specific features to identify anomalies on parts or within processes to automate decision-making and quality control activities.

Benefits of using vision sensors

  • User-friendly setup – Automate in minutes with intuitive, no-code setup
  • Flexible performance – Analyze multiple features at the same time and perform inspections other sensors cannot
  • Ability to handle variability – Operate in unstructured environments and detect objects regardless of their speed or position on the line
  • Simplified integration – Replace multiple laser-based sensors with a single vision sensor
  • High accuracy – Improve processes and product quality by detecting subtle anomalies

Cognex vision sensors

In-Sight SNaPP, a Cognex AI vision sensor

In-Sight SnAPP

Powered by pre-trained AI, In-Sight SnAPP sensors are designed for ultimate simplicity, providing a fast-and easy-to-deploy solution for novice users with little to no technical experience. They automate a range of error-proofing tasks, including those with variable anomalies.

In-Sight 2000, a Cognex vision sensor

In-Sight 2000

Leveraging traditional, rule-based vision, In-Sight 2000 vision sensors are intended for intermediate to advanced users that require more robust programming options. They excel at solving applications with consistent or predictable anomalies.

Vision sensor applications

Cognex vision sensor conducting object presence/absence detection

Presence/absence detection

A vision sensor's primary function is to detect an object's presence or absence within a specified region of interest. The output for these types of applications is typically binary, such as “yes/no,” “pass/fail,” or “OK/NG,” and can be used in both product and process-related tasks.

Cognex vision sensor monitoring a process in an automated system

Process monitoring

Vision sensors ensure an automated system is running correctly and reduce errors in machine setup. For example, they verify that the system is diverting bad parts, communicating the right information to a centralized database and that parts are coming through the line as intended.

Cognex vision sensor performing automatic material sorting on lotion bottles


At the most fundamental level, vision sensors perform binary classification. However, they also run multi-class inspections to sort defects into different categories based on multiple features or characteristics and correctly identify parts with variation.

Cognex vision sensor verifying whether proper assembly is being performed

Assembly verification

Vision sensors recognize multiple types of components in varying layouts and configurations to automate assembly, or completeness, checks. They locate and confirm whether components are present and correct and identify damaged or missing parts in kitted products.

Cognex vision sensor performing optical character recognition (OCR) on juice boxes

Optical character recognition

In OCR applications, vision sensors convert alphanumeric text into a machine-readable format for traceability purposes. They can decipher different font types and read characters on reflective, low-contrast, and non-flat surfaces.

Vision sensor utilized in object counting applications

Object counting

Vision sensors are used in counting applications to verify the correct number of components in a kit or packaged assembly. Similarly, they are also used to ensure parts move down production lines at the correct rate to achieve capacity and throughput targets.

Cognex vision sensor reading barcodes for product identification applications.


With the ability to read a variety of 1D and 2D barcodes, vision sensors enable manufacturers and logistics facilities to track and trace parts. They interpret codes into usable information, which is then transferred to a centralized system where it can be used to track inventory and shipments, verify product authenticity, and manage returns and recalls.


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