Laboratory diagnostics, supermarket checkout or quality control in the automotive industry – all these processes would now be unimaginable without "computer vision." To obtain a wide range of data, digital cameras record the smallest details down to the millisecond. Special software analyses these raw data and makes them visible to the human eye in the desired form and colour. One of the leading companies in this field worldwide is Basler AG. The company has around 800 employees total at the headquarters in Ahrensburg as well as other branch offices in Europe, Asia and North America. The industrial cameras they have developed are used in factory automation, medicine and the transport industry, among other applications. One of their growth markets is for "embedded vision." Small, extremely lightweight cameras are connected with a microprocessor board, often no larger than a credit card, and can thus be installed in any device.
Since 2001, mycable GmbH in Neumünster has been a well-known name in this field. After years of collaboration, the company was acquired by Basler AG in June 2017. "We were actively looking for a partner company with whom we could continue to grow," explains long-term mycable Project Manager Tiemo Krüger, who now manages the location in Neumünster. To also grow spatially, the 18 employees moved out of the heritage-listed paper factory in 2019 and into a modern office building on Oderstraße, right across from the well-known Designer Outlet in the industrial area South. "The building’s layout is rather unusual," explains Tiemo Krüger. "There is a large, open staircase in the centre and the warehouses have rather low ceilings. But for our purposes this is ideal, because our devices don’t take up a lot of space and we don’t require prestigious office spaces. Our development department works on the upper level, while the ground floor is home to production, manufacturing and our warehouse."
With the support of NORDGATE and the Wirtschaftsagentur Neumünster, Basler AG was able to get a good overview of various free properties in the city. "But we were sure right away that this building was the right choice for us." It was also clear from the start that mycable GmbH, as part of Basler AG, also wanted to stay in Neumünster. "Our employees’ expertise is our most important asset," says Tiemo Krüger. "Our employees come from the whole region, from Norderstedt to Kiel. Neumünster is easy for all of them to access." This central location also enhances the catchment area for potential specialists for Basler AG as a whole, for example through contact with universities in Kiel and Hiede.
Every commissioned project starts with an intensive advisory phase, then the 15-person Basler team develops tailored concepts, prototypes or small series of up to 1000 units. Before being acquired by Basler, mycable primarily operated in the automotive industry in the area of autonomous driving. This expertise is now fed into products for agricultural or construction machines, for example if cameras need to deliver a stable image while driving or automatically check fill levels in the vehicle. "It’s always a matter of detecting information and automatically making it visible," explains Tiemo Krüger. "Using the raw camera data, our software extrapolates precisely the information that our clients need and depicts it exactly the way they need." For example, Basler cameras in endoscopes make even the finest shades of red visible during surgery, which the naked human eye would never be able to differentiate.
Trained electrical engineer Tiemo Krüger is still as fascinated by the development of embedded visions projects as he was on the first day. "Every day we enter uncharted technical territory, because we work with technologies that are still at a very early stage of development. We design a unique solution for every client that really works." The development of a new camera software solution takes up to two years. The fact that they have the lowest return rate in the entire industry confirms that this careful approach is worthwhile. And the company’s future plans are also impressive – Basler aims to double its capacities in Neumünster in the medium term.