JMAK Automation

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A detailed comparison of HALCON vs. Cognex VisionPro
New updated information on 07/10/16

Many times we are asked how MVTec HALCON compares to Cognex VisionPro.  Having worked extensively with Cognex VisionPro for 10+ years, we can provide a thorough analysis for you.

Executive Summary:

MVTec HALCON strengths: A significantly larger and powerful 2D and full scope 3D machine vision library at a significantly lower run time license price. HALCON supports 5 times the number of image acquisition devices, provides higher bit depth image processing, GPU acceleration, support for Windows, MAC OS X, & Linux and several embedded platforms, and ongoing support for COM, .NET, Native C, C#, C++, & Delphi programming.    MVTec's only focus is Machine Vision for PC and embedded vision processing with total hardware independence.  HALCON has very large and distinct advantages in their 3D vision technology and application capabilities over Cognex VisionPro.

MVTec HALCON weaknesses: Small market share in North America, longer learning curve for non-programmers, simpler applications can take longer to deploy, higher cost Software Development Package price than VisionPro, lack of tools for US Postal barcodes.

** New Information - MVTec MERLIC & HALCON - MVTec has announced a new software product called MERLIC that is based upon the HALCON library.  MERLIC adds an extreme ease of use capability for machine vision applications and also allows an experienced HALCON programmer to add their HALCON procedures to the MERLIC library enabling high performance applications. The ease of use gap with Cognex VisionPro has now possibly vanished.  See a demo of MERLIC here.

Cognex VisionPro Strengths: VisionPro enjoys a much larger market share in the USA, provides an easier to use interface for the non-programmer, low system software development license cost, and barcode tools for US Postal applications ( Postnet and IMBD symbologies) The QuickBuild environment in general allows non programmers to deploy applications fairly quickly.

Cognex VisionPro Weaknesses: Very limited capability 3D machine vision algorithm library, high run time software license costs, low image bit depth support, lack of GPU processing, and a small number of image processing algorithms ( for instance: no FFT) The VisionPro QuickBuild environment for advanced vision applications can add unnecessary complexity and you may be better off programming everything in C# or.NET and avoiding the QuickBuild environment altogether.

Vision Processing Performance: HALCON vs. VisionPro

2D Pattern Matching: VisionPro's PatMax and HALCON's Geometric Pattern Matching algorithms have nearly identical 2D pattern matching performance on 8 bit images. HALCON can perform 2D pattern matching on 16 bit images.  VisionPro pattern matching is limited to 8 bit image processing.

1D and 2D Metrology:  HALCON supports 32 bit depth processing  - VisionPro performs primarily 8 bit processing, but a small number of tools are 16 bit.

Blob analyis: HALCON blob tool is more extensive, much more flexible and powerful - VisionPro's tool is fairly basic and adequate for typical applications.

Image processing filters - HALCON has upwards of 100 Image Processing filters including FFT ( Fast Fourier Transformation) that run at a higher bit depth - Most HALCON filters run at 32 bits - VisionPro has a short list of image processing filters and most are 8 bit and some are 16 bit.  VisionPro lacks an FFT ( Fast Fourier Transformation) algorithm which is important in inspection applications to remove fixed pattern textures.

Image Classifier Tools - HALCON supports a large # of pre-defined classifier tools for identification and inspection applications.   HALCON supports multi-layer perceptron neural net classifier; support vector machine classifier; Gaussian mixture models classifier; clustering with n-dimensional boxes and spheres for data sets with a non-normal distribution; k-nearest neighbors classifier; automatic feature selection.  

Cognex has an "Inspection Designer" or CogDataAnalysis tool that allows you to create a custom classifier from the results within your application.  There are no pre-defined classifier tools in VisionPro.  There is an add-on software module called VisionPro Surface - training algorithms learn the appearance of each class of defect based on the user’s visual cues.

OCR and OCV: Equivalent performance on OCR applications, VisionPro has an advantage on OCV applications due to an easier to use interface.  HALCON has a library of pre-trained industrial fonts that can be used without training which is a nice feature.

1D and 2D Barcode tools -  Equivalent performance on 1D and 2D barcode symbologies -  Cognex enjoys an advantage on the number of barcode grading metrics and also has US Postal Barcode capability.

Image Acquisition and features:  VisionPro has support for cameras through their Image Acquisition partners.  A camera manufacturer or Cognex must create a custom camera configuration file - also known as a CCF.  VisionPro does support generic GeniCam for Gig E Vision devices, but oddly enough does not support generic GeniCam for other frameworks such as CameraLink, CoaXpress, or USB 3.

HALCON supports all of the image acquisition standards - Gig E Vision, USB 3 Vision, GeniCam, GenTL, DirectShow, TWAIN, .....  HALCON also has the ability to create HDR (High Dynamic Range) images from standard non-HDR cameras - typically you can get over 100dB of dynamic range using the HALCON algorithms with a typical Basler Gig E camera vision camera.

3D Vision tools: 

3D Alignment and Guidance:

HALCON's 3D vision application capability is the biggest technical advantage over Cognex VisionPro by far.

HALCON provides true 3D shape based point cloud pattern matching.  HALCON has the ability to search for 3D shapes based upon CAD file import or "golden template" point cloud data from a large variety of 3D image acquisition devices.  HALCON uses the entire 3D shape (point cloud) of an object for recognition and guidance.

HALCON provides further methods for 3D position recognition that work on images from a single camera such as Shape-based Matching of 3D CAD models as well as methods to find flat objects in 3D based on their perspective deformation.

Cognex VisionPro provides pseudo 3D pattern matching by performing triangulation on multiple 2D shapes using PatMax pose data. ( VisionPro is not true 3D point cloud) Some would consider the Cognex technique 2.5D, not 3D. HALCON can also perform the same 2.5D matching technique that VisionPro employs if that solution provides "good enough" results for the application.

3D Inspection ( Metrology) - VisionPro 3D inspection is limited to translating 3D data into arrays of data. It can only perform measurements such as height, width and volume from base planes.  I.E. - Cognex VisionPro cannot perform 3D shape based surface inspection within 3D Point Clouds using 3D CAD models or a golden surface point cloud template.

HALCON provides the ability to extract objects from 3D point clouds and measure their 3D size and shape. HALCON also can register and combine point cloud data from multiple sensors into the same coordinate system allowing the best sensors to be combined for a vision task. HALCON can detect 3D defects through surface comparison with a CAD model or "golden" image. HALCON can create an unlimted number of base planes for making measurements or 3D matching.

3D Image acquisition - HALCON can acquire 3D data from stereo images, laser line profilers, time of flight sensors, interferometers, Microsoft Kinect and fringe projection systems using industry standard interfaces such as Gig E, USB3, GeniCam, GenTL, DirectShow,.....  VisionPro can only acquire 3D data from their own branded & re-labeled Micro-Epsilon laser line profilers and stereo camera pairs. .

Programming and hardware environment flexibility: HALCON supports Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems and more programming languages and environments than Cognex.  VisionPro only supports Windows and has stopped supporting their customers who want to use ActiveX and COM.

HALCON also supports numerous embedded hardware platforms such as OMAP4, ARM, TI-DSP, and Beagle Board-xM.

Real-time Vision Processing, camera acquisition and & I/O - Some applications require hard real time vision processing, camera acquisition and deterministic I/O.  HALCON can run within a real-time kernel within Windows called Kithara ( that allows hard real time vision applications on a standard PC.  Real time vision applications from camera acquisition, to vision processing, and I/O control via EtherCat, ProfiBus and CAN Bus can be done with HALCON.  VisionPro's .NET architecture can only run within a Windows environment and is subject to Windows inherent latency effects making real-time applications impossible.

GPU processing capability:  In many applications requiring a PC based software product, speed is a very important consideration.  GPU co-processing can extend the application ceiling capability.  HALCON supports GPU processing. VisionPro does not.

Technical Support:  MVTec has over 45 software and applications engineers working on and supporting the HALCON product.  In North America the factory trained distributors such as us (JMAK Automation) are the first line of support, who then rely on a dedicated team of support engineers located in the US and Germany. Supporting a software product via the internet today via remote log in makes support location trivial.  HALCON is a very large software package and can perform very complicated tasks.  Therefore in complex vision tasks HALCON can sometimes be overwhelming and an excellent support network is necessary.

VisonPro support - Cognex is a large corporation with many different product lines. The customers we work with tell us that VisionPro technical support has waned over time.  More attention is put into the ID and InSight products so even though Cognex has more application and support engineers located in the US, only a select few actually know and can support VisionPro in depth.

Up Front License Costs: Advantage to Cognex - Provides a timed 12 month USB Development System dongle for $995/yr that must be renewed annually at $995. Disadvantage - Cognex's VisionPro Development license cannot be deployed as a run time license.

HALCON - $6875 to get started with a perpetual development license of that version and any future releases within 12 months.  Advantage - HALCON development license can also be deployed as a run-time license.

Deployment License Costs:  Advantage to HALCON

HALCON run time licenses vary from $812 to $1688 for the entire 2D and 3D library of tools and the classification tools.  OEMs and system's integrators and volume end users can enjoy very large cost savings while not giving up application capability but having enhanced capability.

VisionPro's entry level run time license without PatMax, PatQuick, Correlation Search, OCV/OCR or their 3D tools are around $1600, a run time license with PatMax is ~$4500.00.  We do not know the license charge for the VisionPro 3D tool set containing only a total of (3) 3D vision tools or the VisionPro Surface Inspection tool set.

Worldwide and North America Market Share:

VisionPro has a small advantage over HALCON in current % of sales. 

HALCON has higher market share in Germany

Asia marketshare is deemed to be equivalent

North America - VisionPro has a much larger market share.

Cognex VisionPro Users can now combine HALCON within VisionPro

A German based engineering firm called Gefasoft has developed a VisionPro Halcon Wrapper.  If your organization has standardized on Cognex VisionPro you can now easily combine the power of the HALCON library within the VisionPro environment.

Why does HALCON have such a small North American Market Share?

We are asked why does HALCON have such a small market share in the North America.  We believe this is because MVTec does not invest enough marketing dollars here in North America. This causes the trickledown effect of lack of HALCON product awareness. Cognex has an enormous direct sales force in the US .and the Cognex brand is well known. In North America popular brand names are more often chosen over the best technology or solution.   In Germany the superior products garnish a majority of the market share over time. We personally believe HALCON historically does not demo as cleanly as VisionPro does in initial sales calls especially with non-programmers; albeit HALCON continues to add ease of use "assistants" for the most common applications. Lastly some people believe that HALCON cannot be used as Cognex sued MVTec for patent infringement of their PatMax pattern matching tool in 2007.  Cognex lost this lawsuit in 2010 due to the fact that HALCON did not infringe the Cognex patents in question.- The result is anyone, anywhere can use HALCON and not be worried about legal issues!!

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If you would like to see an overview video of HALCON - click here!

We would like the opportunity to provide you with a presentation and demo of HALCON and show you the differences to VisionPro in person. Please contact us at [email protected] - We can also provide a 30 day evaluation license and an introductory webinar to get you started.