After taking an apprenticeship with the UK Ministry of Defence, Bob Fisher went on to become Director of Fisher Smith - a company specialising in machine vision. Bob talks to The Industry Leaders about his passion for the machine vision industry and why you should always be nice to people!
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I had a broad apprenticeship with the MOD's Royal Aircraft Establishment near Bedford, ending up designing model positioning control systems for wind tunnels. This led to a job with a special-purpose machine builder where I was introduced to the fantastic topic of using camera images to measure and track material. Eventually, this led to a 30-year career in machine vision, of which 17-years have been with Fisher Smith.
What kind of work does your role involve?
The job involves managing the business and keeping the Fisher Smith brand on track, but most of my time is spent engineering inevitably bespoke solutions for our customers. This requires a knowledge of illumination, optics, camera technology and software toolkits and development platforms. The work is varied in terms of the range of applications and hardware/software solutions. This has led to worldwide travel, installing and commissioning systems and training customers.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Machine Vision is a fast developing industry. We're constantly excited by new hardware, methods, and algorithms - especially over the last five years with the maturation of 3D imaging and Deep-Learning technologies.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Be nice to the people on the way up as you might meet them on the way back down!
What, or who inspires you?
My business partner, Iain Smith, inspires me most. Other than that, I'm inspired by the beautiful country we have the good fortune to live in; the rivers, lakes, roads and hillside and the wonderful music created, performed and maintained in all genres.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
With the technology developing at such a pace, not replacing older technology, and mostly expanding on the scope of what's possible, we have to engage with a lot of manufacturers' courses, webinars and online training.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
Measuring 14um (0.014mm) diameter, laser-drilled holes in a small plastic part. This required us to design a vertical scanner moving a camera through the focal point such that our software could measure and extract the best-focussed image and then accurately measure the size of the hole.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
That's a hard one! But, as much as I love my work, it would be nice to indulge some time in my other passions, particularly my volunteering as a canoe/kayak coach and mentor. So I would probably invest some money in the business to take a step back but still stay involved. I'd make sure my family are provided for and carry on.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
Play guitar, go cycling and canoeing or 'playing trains'.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
To bring back more manufacturing to the UK through automation. Also, for the automation industry to be recognised and appreciated both for the unique skills of its people and the value that it has to the country as a whole.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
How should people connect with you?
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