The optimal vision solution can be completely different than expected at the beginning of a project. It’s Dr. Frederik Schönebecks job to thoroughly understand a customer’s application and to come up with the best vision solution.
Explaining is one of Dr. Frederik Schönebeck’s strengths. As Field Application Engineer (FAE) at FRAMOS, he helps customers to make optimum use of image processing and create “seeing” products. He is the central information hub for customers and sales colleagues when it comes to the individual development of vision products. It is his job to always have an answer, to point out technical connections and to be the voice between hardware and software development. He is an expert, consultant and support technician at the same time. In his daily work, he helps companies from various industries in equipping their machines and devices with vision.
“We try to help our customers exactly where they need so they can focus on their core tasks, their applications and their markets. The resulting solutions are usually very individualized and guarantee a high level of customer satisfaction.” Whether smart refrigerators, intelligent agricultural drones or highly sensitive industrial robots, if a customer wants to bring a “seeing” product into the market or use it in their facilities, Frederik Schönebeck is usually involved from the very first inquiry at FRAMOS. To begin, he supports the sales department of the global vision partner as a pre-sales consultant. “The most important thing is to understand the customer’s application exactly”, he says. Together with his colleagues, he needs to identify what the customer wants to achieve and how they want it to work, and then determine which framework conditions exist for the project. Exact requirement profiles are gathered and serve as the basis for putting together an optimal vision system for the customer’s product or designing a customer-specific development with the FRAMOS engineering team or external partners.
Figure 1: Dr. Frederik Schönebeck works as Field Application Engineer for FRAMOS
Deep technical know-how about image sensors is indispensable for this as they are the heart of every vision system which Schönebeck has gathered over many years. He must also be familiar with cameras, optics, processor technologies, software pipelines and the complex interactions between internal and external systems. Only with this expertise can he make it easier for the customer to arrive at an optimal vision solution more quickly, which gives the company a successful product. “It happened that we received an inquiry for a sensor and a camera and at the end we delivered an OLED Microdisplay including an individually developed controller and custom optics – simply because it was the best solution for the customer.”
It was during his PhD in astronomy that this physicist collected the knowledge for these diverse tasks. “I explored the early universe.” With an enthusiasm for technology and a penchant for photography, he created his own Imaging Processing Pipeline for telescope images in order to be able to start the actual scientific work. “When viewing the high-resolution images of space, I had to distinguish the smallest stars from image noise. To do this, it is essential to understand the sensor and its technology exactly.” As a side effect, he has gained a fundamental expertise for image sensors, image pipelines and the processing of large data sets, which today benefits FRAMOS customers and their vision projects.
“My absolute favorite products are sensor modules with high-resolution Sony sensors. With a resolution of more than 60 megapixels, the customer gets breathtaking image quality at a comparatively low price. The integration effort for the small, ready-to-use modules is very manageable which makes the development of products with embedded vision simple and fast.”
Figure 2: FRAMOS Sensor Modules are available in manifold versions and with adapters and processor boards to easily build Embedded Vision solutions
When Frederik Schönebeck and his sales colleagues have submitted a successful offer, it is up to him to manage the customer project on the technical side. He draws up project plans, discusses the requirements with the engineering department and develops the solution approaches so that the customer and the development partners can come to a common ground. “The customer must be happy, as must the developers. I am both a mediator and a consultant”, summarizes Schönebeck. His recipe for success is a great deal of empathy coupled with analytical thinking. “I have to understand what my counterparts need at every step of the project, and I have to be able to come up with a solution that is quick as a flash. This requires negotiation skills, determination, openness and friendliness, a good instinct as well as perfect time management and stress resistance.“
Schönebeck spends eighty percent of his time on the phone or in meetings, helping customers on site, and being a true multi-tasker. His colleagues in the FRAMOS office in Taufkirchen often have difficulty reaching him. Nevertheless, he has an open ear and helps at every turn. “As a FAE, I am primarily a service provider, whether for the customer or my colleagues.” Both groups know that he can make their lives easier with his broad knowledge. For FRAMOS, he supervises product demonstrations at trade fairs, gives technical trainings, speeches and webinars, helps with technical articles and acts as a source of ideas for strategic positioning and product management. He also validates technical documents for customers, tests new technologies and keeps abreast of technology trends on the market.
When he is describes himself as a “swiss army knife”, Schönebeck smiles, for him, it is a true compliment. “Of course, I am a consultant, an expert and a support technician all at once. This is the DNA of a field application engineer and it would be fatal to change this. With exactly this mixture, I can help customers more precisely.” Ideally, he switches back and forth between the roles at the right time. An example of how he changes roles was for a medical device manufacturer who asked FRAMOS for a sensor consultation and the development of a camera for a surgical tool. As a consultant for this company, Schönebeck had to find the optimal solution, which appeared to be completely different than expected: Based on quality, time and resources, it was ultimately best for the customer to commission a standard camera, an OLED display with a customized driver board for the display. Switching to an expert, Schönebeck was then on hand with tips on camera setup, with specifications for the driver board and with selections of the appropriate optics. Connecting the sensor to the display, it was especially important to ensure low latency and image reproduction with as little delay as possible. “In the testing phases, I can speak the same language as the developers, I am the voice and the link between the customer and the developers. This allows me to express concerns and provide solutions to overcome any issues that are found.” The product will be available from June and promises surgeons more ergonomics and a more comfortable working environment. In his multifaceted role as FAE, Frederik Schönebeck supports not only the first production build of the product but is also there for its evolution over its lifecycle.
Figure 3: Sony OLED Microdisplays are a latency free solution to include high-resolution dislays with bright colors into vision applications
Schönebeck’s motivation lies mainly in helping customers in simplifying the use of vision technology into powerful new products. He particularly likes the diversity of applications he gets to see in the market. From image-supported operating systems for surgeons to robots in logistics or self-flying surveillance drones that automatically illuminate properties in the event of suspicious movements, sending live video to the owner’s mobile phone, the spectrum is enormous in all industries. Smart home devices, self-driving cars, FollowMe drones and intelligent mobile phone apps also provide people with more convenience in their everyday lives. In this way, Schönebeck’s work also ensures greater acceptance and market penetration of vision technology. “It is fun to see how creatively mankind deals with today’s challenges and what vision technology can contribute to making people’s lives easier. This gives hope for our digital future.”