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Image segmentation algorithms applied to wood defect detection


J.W. Funck a,*, Y. Zhong b, D.A. Butler c, C.C. Brunner a, J.B. Forrer a
a

Department of Wood Science and Engineering, 119 Richardson Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-5751, USA b Storage Systems Division, IBM, San Jose, CA 95193, USA c Department of Statistics, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA

Abstract Image segmentation is a key stage in the detection of defects in images of wood surfaces. While there are many segmentation algorithms, they can be broadly divided into two categories based on whether they use discontinuities or similarities in the image data. Each algorithm can also be categorized based on other factors such as whether it uses color or grayscale data and is a local or global operator. While this presents a wide variety of approaches for segmenting images of features on wood surfaces, it also makes it difficult to select the most appropriate techniques. This paper presents the results obtained from using a variety of algorithms for wood surface feature detection and defines several measures used for examining algorithm performance. A region-based, similarity algorithm that was a combination of clustering and region-growing techniques exhibited the best overall performance. This was particularly true for defects that are subtle, meaning they blend in with other natural features on wood surfaces that are not considered defects. Examples include blue stain, pitch streaks, and wane. The clustering with region growing algorithm improved the detection accuracy of pitch streaks by over 20 percentage points compared to the next best algorithm. However, if subtle defects are not of interest, the edge detection algorithms performed as well as the region growing algorithm but with slightly better clearwood detection accuracies. The influence of color information, local-basis analysis, and camera resolution on algorithm performance varied by segmentation technique and defect category. Because each wood processing application has its own unique set of defect detection requirements, conclusions regarding

* Corresponding author. Tel.: '/1-541-737-4207; fax: '/1-541-737-3385. E-mail addresses: jim.funck@orst.edu (J.W. Funck), yzhong@us.ibm.com (Y. Zhong), butler@stat.orst.edu (D.A. Butler), charles.brunner@orst.edu (C.C. Brunner), johan.forrer@orst.edu (J.B. Forrer). 0168-1699/03/$ - see front matter # 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/S0168-1699(03)00049-8

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which algorithms and factors are best must be made in the context of those processing requirements. # 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Scanning; Image processing; Image segmentation; Wood; Defects

1. Introduction 1.1. Segmentation of images Many potential applications for machine vision systems exist in the wood products industry. Through-beam and profile-scanning techniques have been used extensively in the industry for many years, and now a number of equipment manufacturers offer defect scanning systems for specific applications. While there have been successes, a significant number of attempted applications in the wood products industry have met with only limited success because of the inherent variability found in wood as well as poor choices among different types of machine vision systems and algorithms. Therefore, a significant number of mill processes still involve some form of visual inspection for purposes of process decision-making and control. Applying machine vision techniques to most industrial processes involves a complicated set of elements requiring modification for each application. This is particularly true for wood products processes, because every piece of wood has a unique appearance, and these feature characteristics can even vary significantly within a single piece. Once an image has been acquired, there are many mathematical algorithms that can be used to detect and classify the features of interest. However, what represents a feature of interest in one product application may not be of interest in another. In other words, each wood product application presents a unique set of requirements and constraints. One of the key steps in this process is feature detection or extraction. Typically, segmentation algorithms are used to perform at least part of this image processing operation. There are many such algorithms; however, this presents the difficulty of choosing which one is most appropriate. This paper presents the results of a study designed to assist in determining which algorithms and classes of algorithms have the greatest potential for application to wood products processes. Segmentation algorithms fall into two general classes, based on whether they search for discontinuities or similarities. Algorithms focusing on locating discontinuities in the data are primarily edge-based, while algorithms concerned with locating adjacent pixels based on similarities are primarily region-based. Thresholding techniques, a major category of algorithms, can fall into either class, depending upon the algorithm. In addition to these two major classes, there are also a number of general subcategories. For instance, algorithms either process color or gray-scale data, operate on either an individual pixel basis (global) or a neighborhood of pixels (local), and may use different window sizes or different color representations. For general discussions of segmentation approaches, see Belknap (1999a,b) and

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Eggleston (1998a,b,c,d, 1999). More descriptive mathematical discussions can be found in traditional books such as Gonzalez and Wintz (1987) or Rosenfeld and Kak (1982). For examples of surveys of segmentation algorithms, see Fu and Mui (1981), Haralick and Shapiro (1985), and Zhong (1994). 1.2. Defect detection in images of wood Researchers have used a number of segmentation techniques to investigate the extraction of features in images of wood. Pham and Alcock (1998) provided a very complete review of published investigations. However, because the focus of their article was not specifically on the extraction stage, they only differentiated the segmentation approaches based on whether the algorithms operated on a local or global basis. They also did not report defect extraction success. One reason for this may have been that, depending upon the researcher, two different approaches for describing success were used. The most commonly used approach is based on the defect count. Under this system, 90% defect detection accuracy means that 90 out of 100 defects were successfully extracted. However, this measure does not indicate how much area of any particular defect was extracted. Since full knowledge of the actual size and shape of a defect can be critical in wood processing applications, other researchers have measured extraction success on a pixel basis, which will be referred to in this paper as pixel-based defect detection accuracy. Under this approach, 90 pixels successfully extracted for a sample with only one defect comprising an area of 100 pixels would represent 100% defect detection accuracy but only 90% pixel-based defect detection accuracy. In addition to failing to detect defects (false negatives), there is also the problem of incorrectly identifying clear areas as defect areas (false positives). This is known as clear accuracy and can also be on a count or pixel basis. While falsely identifying clearwood as a defect is not typically considered to be as severe an error as missing a defect, it can still cause significant processing errors and leads to increased computing costs and the production of process waste. 1.2.1. Wood-related research using thresholding techniques The vast majority of imaging applications to wood have been based on thresholding algorithms. In one of the earliest studies, Conners et al. (1983, 1984) used a thresholding technique to locate surface defects on gray-scale images of hardwood lumber. In the extraction stage of their approach, a simple threshold was used to separate the board from the background. Then the image was divided into disjoint rectangles (or tiles), and a standard Chi-squared test was used to differentiate clear regions from potential defect regions. In the classification stage, they differentiated the types of defects by texture analysis using spatial gray-level dependence. This stage used the first-order tonal measures mean, variance, skewness, and kurtosis of the gray-levels of a region and second-order texture measures of cluster prominence, local homogeneity, energy, and entropy to classify the defect. While their classification accuracies were lower, they reported an overall defect detection accuracy of 99.6%, with a clearwood detection accuracy of 93.8%. This approach was expanded by Conners et al. (1989)to color images. While a full color image was

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input, only the red and blue channels were used. A two-dimensional histogram was formed for the initial segmentation of the board. The 2-D histogram was thresholded to remove points that had a relatively low frequency of occurrence on the board. A second threshold was then used to find regions of the red/blue plane associated with peaks in the 2-D histogram. A region-growing algorithm was applied to regions obtained by thresholding in an effort of fill in any holes that might exist. Finally, the regions were expanded and labeled. The region whose elements produced the largest sum of 2-D histogram elements was assigned the clearwood label. The area of the red/blue plane that did not belong to one of the expanded regions was assigned the label unknown and passed to the classification stage. Sobey and Semple (1989) used the Conners et al. (1983, 1984) gray-scale approach on radiata pine (Pinus radiata ) lumber, but the measures were calculated for larger local areas of fixed size and only included mean, variance, and kurtosis. They reported an overall defect detection accuracy of 95% but clearwood accuracies of only 75 /80%. Sobey (1990) followed up that study with a neural network-based classifier, but only overall classification rates were given. Koivo and Kim (1986, 1989) used only the mean and variance of the gray levels as inputs to linear discriminant functions. Global thresholds were established for the discriminant function values, and the resulting parameters were used in a tree classifier. They obtained 97% defect detection accuracy for images of red oak (Quercus rubra ) lumber. No clearwood accuracy values were given, and the images were only 64 pixels square, thus resulting in histograms in which the defect comprised a much larger than normal percentage. Iwasaki and Sadoh (1991) used Koivo and Kims approach to determine knot size. Detection accuracies ranged from 90 to 100%. Forrer et al. (1988, 1989) developed three algorithms for detecting defects on color images of Douglas-fir veneers. One was a statistical-based thresholding algorithm, called SISM, which used statistical moments derived from intensity and color data and a test based on probability estimation. This algorithm produced the best pixelbased defect detection accuracy of 94.1%, while maintaining a clearwood detection accuracy of 86.3%. However, it did not perform well when detecting pitch pockets and pitch streaks. In addition to the thresholding algorithm, Forrer et al. (1988, 1989) developed a color clustering algorithm, called CISM, which was similar to an algorithm by Fukada (1980) but introduced spread and compactness of the clustering to mark outlier tiles. CISM produced lower pixel-based defect and clearwood accuracies than SISM. In 1989, Butler et al. improved the SISM algorithm (NSISM) to reduce the overall error rate in clearwood identification by 17.3% compared to the original SISM results. The main difference between NSISM and SISM was that a secondary threshold was added to the conventional single threshold (primary threshold). Since the secondary threshold was larger than the primary threshold, neighbors of marked tiles with respect to the primary threshold were more readily marked. Also, the secondary threshold allowed the primary threshold to be smaller so that fewer clearwood tiles were marked as defects.

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1.2.2. Wood-related research using edge detection A pyramidal multiresolution approach to edge detection was used by Lepage et al. (1992) on gray-scale images of lumber. They used four oriented Sobel masks to detect edges on an image at each of three spatial resolutions. A neural network-based classifier then used this information. No detection accuracy was specified. Poelzleitner (1986) used the Hough transformation to identify and classify defects, such as knots, resin pockets, bark, cracks, and regions of skip. He stated that the defects were successfully separated from the clearwood in approximately 100 test images, but no real application results or exact accuracies were reported. 1.2.3. Wood-related research using region extraction In addition to the previously discussed thresholding and clustering algorithms, Forrer et al. (1988, 1989) developed a morphological image processing algorithm, MISM, that used the gray-level generalized dilation and erosion algorithm described by Werman and Peleg (1985). The pixel-based defect accuracy for MISM was comparable to the threshold-based SISM algorithm, but it produced a lower clearwood accuracy. Patton and King (2000) used a combined neural-network and region-growing approach to segment gray-scale images of wood, but no actual performance results were given. 1.2.4. Wood-related research regarding color Most of the previously discussed research only required gray-scale or light intensity information. However, for defects that are subtle (meaning they blend in with natural wood features that are not considered defects), color information may be required for adequate segmentation. Examples of subtle features include stains and pitch streaks. In machine vision systems, color is typically thought of in terms of the red, green, and blue (RGB) signals produced by the color camera and framegrabber. Butler et al. (1989) showed that the use of RGB color information increased pixel-based defect detection accuracy for some subtle defects by over 20 percentage points compared to gray-scale accuracy. The significant increase in information provided by a color-based system provides a greater opportunity for distinguishing subtle wood features, but it also makes the imaging of wood more challenging. Processing cost is one concern, and one way to reduce it is to not use all three dimensions of the color space. For defect detection in images of wood, both Brunner et al. (1992) and Conners et al. (1985) showed that almost all of the useful information could be retained using only two of the three color components. Unfortunately, the same two color dimensions were not always the best across all features. The previously cited researchers also showed that algorithms using the RGB color space were not always effective, so it was logical to look for improvements in feature detection by converting the RGB data into another of the many color spaces available (CIE, 1986; Ohta et al., 1980). Data from veneer samples containing pitch streaks were converted into five other color spaces (see Brunner et al. (1992) for a discussion of the mathematical conversions). When the data were analyzed on a pixel-by-pixel basis (global), there was very little difference in detection accuracy

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between the various color spaces. In addition, a significant amount of clearwood in the images was falsely detected as a defect (Brunner et al., 1992, 1993). However, because defect pixels are expected to be adjacent to each other, the images were analyzed again using a window of size 8 )/8 pixels (local basis) (Maristany et al., 1991). Depending upon the defect category, this procedure resulted in a substantial separation in performance between color spaces, with the standard RGB space being one of the worst performers and the Lab space one of the best. In addition, all color spaces had very high clearwood accuracies. See Brunner et al. (1990) for a more detailed discussion of color and its use in machine vision systems as applied to wood processing. In concluding their review of the research conducted on detecting defects on images of wood, Pham and Alcock (1998) stated that the major weakness in the overall image analysis process was still the segmentation stage. Therefore, this paper presents the results of an investigation of the usefulness of nine different segmentation algorithms for detecting wood surface defects. The influence of factors such as color versus gray-scale images, camera resolution, and algorithm parameters were also investigated.

2. Materials and methods

2.1. Hardware and software Images used in this project were acquired and processed using the Oregon State University Wood Science and Engineering Departments optical scanning system. The hardware included a three-tube JVC model BY-110 color camera with typical red, green, and blue outputs. Spatial resolution was 0.59 pixels/mm (15 pixels/in.) in the x direction. The cameras gamma correction was set to 0.45, and the contour correction and auto-iris were both in the on position. Before imaging, the camera was black balanced, white balanced, and then registered. An AT&T Truevision TARGA-32 image-capture board was used to capture the cameras R, G, and B analog signals and convert each to 5- and 8-bit digital image signals for each pixel in a 200 )/256 array. The RGB images were also converted to Lab color space images following Brunner et al. (1992). Lighting was a mixture of two centered, overhead quartz-halogen lights equipped with light scattering diffusers and two 40 W fluorescent lights. All algorithms used in this study were coded in the C programming language. Basic utility software supplied with the TARGA board and extensive image analysis software developed by Department of Wood Science and Engineering personnel were used for image acquisition, preprocessing, color transformation, and enhancement.

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2.2. Samples Dry Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii Mirb. Franco ) veneer sheets were used in this study. Ten images each of seven types of features (tight knot, loose knot, wane, pitch streak, pitch pocket, blue stain, and clearwood) were captured using the previously discussed system. After the images were captured, an expert digitally marked each defect pixel on the image to serve as a reference mask. 2.3. Preliminary study A second set of images similar to the set described in Section 2.2 was used in a preliminary study to test the algorithms as they were being developed. In addition, each segmentation algorithm has parameter settings that must be established heuristically. Appropriate values and their ranges were established in that preliminary study. 2.4. Algorithms Nine algorithms were used for this study. They were chosen because they covered the range of available algorithms and had either been tested on natural scenes or appeared to possess assumptions that fit well with the characteristics of images of wood surfaces. One algorithm combined clustering with region growing (Amadasun and King, 1988). Two were edge detection algorithms: (1) compass gradient mask (Robinson, 1977a,b); and (2) entropy (Shiozaki, 1986). Three thresholding algorithms were also used: (1) Otsu (Otsu, 1979); (2) entropy (Kapur et al., 1985); and (3) transition-matrix (Deravi and Pal, 1983). In addition, the three thresholding algorithms had both local and global versions. Of the thresholding algorithms, the Otsu and entropy algorithms are both histogram-based, while the transition-matrix method is spatially-based. All the algorithms had both color-based and gray-scale versions. Algorithm parameters were chosen based on their contribution to overall performance across all defect sets; no tuning was done for a specific defect type. For a more complete discussion of the algorithms and parameter settings, see Zhong (1994). 2.4.1. Thresholding algorithms The advantages of thresholding techniques are that they give closed boundaries, they are comparatively simple in both computation and implementation, they are more immune to noise than edge detectors, there are many existing methods, and there are many surveys and comparison studies. The main problem with many thresholding techniques is that they are based on the assumption that different classes of segments of an image have different modes in the distribution of the chosen features, for instance, intensity. In many cases, that assumption is not met by images of wood. For instance, Fig. 1A shows a piece of veneer with the most common defect in wood, a knot. Fig. 1B shows the corresponding red, green, and blue histograms for that image. Note that all three are unimodal and approximate the normal curve.

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Fig. 1. Image of a knot on Douglas-r veneer (A) and its corresponding red (top), green (middle), and blue (bottom) color channel histograms (B).

Even for images with distributions that exhibit some degree of skew, a traceable valley is seldom evident. Three thresholding algorithms based on work by Otsu (1979), Kapur et al. (1985), and Deravi and Pal (1983) were used in this study. Local, global, gray-scale, and color versions were developed for all three. 2.4.1.1. Otsu method. The Otsu method (1979) is a maximum likelihood method utilizing population mixture models under the assumption of a normal distribution. It is based on discriminant analysis and minimizes the mean square errors between the original image and the resultant binary image. The threshold is determined by maximizing the between-class variance of gray-scales. The mean and variance of gray values (or color channels) are used as features. The Otsu method has several advantages. First, the procedure is very simple; only the zero and first order cumulative moments of the histogram are utilized. Second, a straightforward extension to multi-thresholding (color) problems is feasible by virtue of the criterion on which the method is based. Finally, the method does not require a priori knowledge about the shape of the histogram. It performed well in comparison studies by Sahoo et al. (1988) and Lee and Chung (1990). Also, Otsu tested the algorithm on a number of textured and cell images, representing a wide variety of histogram shapes. For the mathematical formulations used, see Otsu (1979). Multi-thresholding extensions of the algorithms to color images and parameter settings for images of wood are presented in Zhong (1994). 2.4.1.2. Kapur et al. entropy method. Of the entropy thresholding algorithms reviewed by Sahoo et al. (1988), the Kapur entropy algorithm (Kapur et al., 1985) performed best. In this method, the probability distributions of the object and background are derived from the original gray-level distribution of the image. Then

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the optimal threshold is dened as the gray level that maximizes the sum of the object and background entropies. The advantages of the method are that it belongs to a large group of thresholding techniques, it has a well-dened information theory model and statistical criterion, it can be extended to multi-thresholding without difculty, and it does not require clear modes in the histogram. The mathematical description of the two-level or class algorithm is the same as that described in Kapur et al. (1985). Multi-thresholding extensions of the algorithms to color images and desirable parameter settings for use on images of wood are presented in Zhong (1994). 2.4.1.3. Deravi and Pal transition-matrix method. The two previously discussed algorithms are histogram-based, thus only utilizing information about gray-level distributions. Various non-histogram-based thresholding algorithms that employ spatial information have been proposed to overcome the shortcomings of histogrambased algorithms. These commonly use co-occurrence (joint probability) matrices, which contain position information about pixels along with the gray-level distribution. The Deravi and Pal method (1983) uses a transition matrix, which is similar to the co-occurrence matrix but has a reduced computational burden. The element (i , j ) of the transition matrix species how frequently the i th gray-level is followed by the j th gray-level in specied horizontal and vertical spatial displacements. The simple case of two-class thresholding results in four transition matrix regions. The total numbers of transitions within each class and between classes are computed. These four totals are used to compute two measures, which are estimates of the joint and conditional probabilities of the intensity transition between the classes. Because these measures indicate the spatial discontinuity of the segmented regions, the thresholds correspond to the local minima of the two measures. Since the conditional probability measure is not directly related to the histogram, Deravi and Pal expected it to exhibit local minima even for unimodal histograms, which is frequently the case in images of wood. Other advantages to the algorithm include the fact that the co-occurrence matrix is widely used by many researchers, and the criteria for threshold selection are well defined and easy to understand. In addition, it can easily be extended to multi-thresholding without modification, simply by finding the second or third minima of the interaction measures. In the preliminary experiment for this project to determine parameter settings, there were some cases where a conflict occurred in the two measures; that is, the threshold values given by those two criteria were unequal. In such cases, it was difficult to decide which threshold value should be used. It was noticed that for a bimodal histogram, the two measures always gave the same threshold value. However, since the conditional probability curve exhibited a minimum for unimodal histograms while the joint probability curve did not, the conditional probability was chosen as the only measure for finding the threshold. For the mathematical formulations used, see Deravi and Pal (1983). 2.4.1.4. Global versus local thresholding. The three thresholding algorithms discussed in the three previous sections are all global approaches. However, as pointed out in

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the introduction, previous research has shown that local thresholding may improve performance when attempting to detect defects on veneer surfaces (Maristany et al., 1991). For veneer, a trees annual rings can produce wavy light and dark patterns in the nondefect areas of an image (Fig. 1A). It can be difcult to select thresholds for global algorithms that will segment the defect without also including signicant portions of the darker pixels in the annual ring pattern, which should not be considered as defects. Therefore, local versions of all three algorithms were developed. In the local thresholding versions of the algorithms, the original image was divided into smaller regions or tiles, and the global thresholding method was used to determine the threshold for each region. This can lead to several problems. First, attempting to threshold a tile that contains no object can be dangerous, since the algorithms will still select threshold values if the region is not perfectly uniform. Second, if the value of the threshold is fixed, it can be a problem if the number of objects is different in each window. Third, if an object overlaps several tiles, then it may be represented as several objects, since several different thresholds may be used. Another problem can be the computational time and memory. For images of wood, the first problem is the most significant, because defects typically only comprise 10 / 20% of the total image. 2.4.1.5. Post-processing after thresholding. The binary images obtained by any of the thresholding algorithms (either global or local) were not clean; there were small spots in the background corresponding to the very dark latewood and some small white spots or holes inside the detected defects corresponding to light defect portions. Therefore, post-processing was required to clean up the image. One of the functions of a post-processing algorithm is to clean the image by removing incorrectly marked spots in the clearwood. This was achieved by setting an acceptable size of defect according to the smallest defect size discernable in the application. In this project, the acceptable size was set to be ve pixels combined in any shape (0.59 pixels/mm spatial resolution). Any defect blob less than that was deleted. Another function of post-processing was to ll the holes inside the detected defects because all defects in this study were solid. 2.4.2. Edge detection algorithms One of the most important visual cues in an image is the existence of edges. However, one problem with edge detection algorithms is that they do not perform well when the transition between regions is not abrupt enough. This can be the case for defects on veneer surfaces, especially subtle features such as stain and pitch streaks. Another problem is that the determination of meaningful regions as defined by detected edges can be very difficult because the detected boundaries of objects are often not closed. Therefore, edge following and thinning processes must be utilized to determine the boundary of an object. Also, edge detection algorithms are sensitive to noise and can be computationally expensive. Edge detection algorithms can be divided into the two broad categories of sequential and parallel operators. In sequential edge detection, already-detected edge

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pixels exert an influence on both the position of the next potential edge pixel and the result of its acceptance test. Therefore, appropriate application areas for sequential edge detection techniques are where a considerable body of a priori knowledge about the shape or the position of the edges in an image is known and the background is more or less uniform as compared to the objects. Since most defect edges in veneer images are mixed up with the many edges between latewood and earlywood and the position and shape of a defect are not predictable, sequential edge detection techniques did not appear to be appropriate for detecting defects on images of veneer and were not investigated. On the other hand, parallel edge detection algorithms do not use decision rules that are dependent upon the neighboring point sets being on an edge. Two parallel edge detectors were chosen, the compass gradient mask algorithm (Robinson, 1977a,b) and Shiozakis entropy algorithm (1986). 2.4.2.1. Compass gradient mask method. Robinson (1977a) described an edge detection algorithm that made use of 3 )/3 compass gradient masks. The edge angles were determined in eight equally spaced directions. In contrast to using traditional operators such as the Kirsch, Prewitt, or Sobel, he proposed a set of masks called ve-level simple masks such that only four of them were needed to obtain eight directions of gradients. Edge direction was determined by the mask producing the largest output, but the ve-level simple masks were designed to emphasize the horizontal and vertical directions. Robinson (1977b) extended the compass gradient masks to color images by comparing the 24 gradient values in three color components and eight directions. The gradient that gave the maximum value at a pixel point determined the direction of the edge, whether due to a discontinuity in the rst, second or third color component. The binary edge map was generated by using local connectivity in the edge direction map and a threshold map that used a locally adaptive threshold at each point of the image. A common problem of the gradient operator is its dependency on predetermined thresholds to get the edges from the edge map. Robinson solved this by developing a locally adaptive threshold. Also, local connectivity checking was said to improve the performance of the compass masks. To better understand defects on veneer surfaces, Sobel and Roberts operators were used on the preliminary study image set. The edge strength maps generated showed the edges of most tight knots, loose knots, and pitch pockets but not light blue stain or light pitch streaks. Some of the boundaries between latewood and earlywood also appeared and the defect boundaries often had gaps. To provide more detailed edge pixel strength and edge pixel angle information, the compass gradient masks method was chosen for use in this study, and five different gradient operators were included (Sobel, Roberts, Kirsch, Prewitt, and Robinsons five-level). Work with the preliminary study image set also showed that the locally adaptive threshold suggested by Robinson did not work well for veneer images, because too many small edges between latewood and earlywood were inside the image background. A fixed threshold for the gradient image was found to be more suitable, and the same threshold was applied across all image defect categories. Robinson used a low-pass mask to smooth the image before applying the compass gradient masks. The

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preliminary work on veneer showed that a median filter performed best. See Robinson (1977a) for a detailed discussion of the masks. 2.4.2.2. Shiozakis entropy algorithm. Shiozaki (1986) presented an edge operator called the entropy operator that extracted edges using the entropy of intensity in a local region of an image (3 )/3 window). Entropy of intensity is a probabilistic measure of the rate of intensity change in a region. Since the entropy is small when the change in intensity is severe and large when the change in intensity is small, the edges can be extracted by the detection of the regions where the entropy is small. The entropy of color can be dened and the color edge detected in a similar way. Shiozakis nonlinear entropy edge detector depended not only on the rate of change but also on the average value in a local region or operation window. This algorithm was chosen because it is sensitive to the edges in dark regions, utilizes the rate of change and average value in the operation window, has been extended to color images, and is simple to implement. In working with the preliminary study image set, it was determined that the entropy differences in a veneer image were very small due to the normalization of entropy and the low contrast edges. Therefore, a weighting factor for entropy was introduced in order to enhance the entropies corresponding to the stronger edges between defect and clearwood. A color median filter was also used for preprocessing the original image to eliminate some small, weak edges between latewood and earlywood. The threshold for the binary image was selected manually based on the preliminary study information. 2.4.2.3. Edge following and post-processing. As previously mentioned, the detected boundaries of objects as determined by edge detection techniques are often not closed or one-pixel in width. Therefore, edge following and thinning processes must be utilized to obtain the one-pixel width closed boundary of an object. For edge thinning, there are many algorithms and most of them were developed for machine recognition of patterns. Lam et al. (1992) wrote a survey about thinning methods, which discussed a wide range of algorithms including iterative deletion of pixels and nonpixel-based methods. Most commonly, a priori information about the object and end-use purpose are required. There are a number of methods to perform edge following, for instance image intensity interpolation by Nawla (1987), to avoid the gaps occurring in a binary edge map. However, most common edge following techniques for closing the boundary of an object are object driven and a priori information about objects in the image is also usually required. For the research being reported in this paper, the outermost pixels of the detected defect were used as boundary pixels so that no thinning process was required. There were several reasons for using that strategy. First, most of the defect edges found by the two edge detectors were far from accurate in terms of edge positions because the actual defect boundaries had broad transition bands and the edge detection algorithms themselves were inaccurate. The second reason was that no overall and consistent tendency of over- or under-estimating the defect was found, and no a priori knowledge about the defect shapes helped.

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Because edge detection algorithms only return an edge map, post-processing algorithms were required to determine defect regions. First, using the same procedure as for the thresholding algorithms, the image was cleaned by removing incorrectly mapped, small spots in the clearwood. Second, missing edge pixels were interpolated using a cubic spline approach. Finally, holes inside the blobs were filled because all defects in this study were solid. 2.4.3. Region extraction Region extraction techniques utilize similarity properties, so they offer good noise immunity and give closed objects. One of the main advantages of region extraction is that different image characteristics and similarity criteria can be utilized according to the image characteristics and segmentation method. This means that the region extraction algorithms are much more flexible than thresholding and edge detection algorithms in terms of application goals. Another advantage of region extraction is that use of color information is not as difficult as in thresholding. The edges of the detected regions can be easily found by differentiating the segmented image. Problems can arise in the selection of initial regions. Also, a partially processed image would not contain a few clear, dominant regions in the image but would contain many small unmerged regions, thus requiring procedures to eliminate the unmerged small regions. As in edge detection, region methods use local information heavily and have difficulty utilizing global information. This drawback was overcome by developing a new algorithm based on a combination of two published algorithms. 2.4.3.1. A method combining clustering with region growing. Amadasun and King (1988) proposed a segmentation approach that combined clustering with the concept of region growing. Essentially, the technique involved the computation of the mean feature values of each region in an image. If the number of mean feature vectors was larger than the number of categories that were to be segmented, the two most similar mean features were considered to be from regions belonging to the same category. Then those mean feature vectors were used to classify the pixels. The one problem they found was that the choices of neighborhood size and uniformity criterion were critical to the accuracy of the final results. Another characteristic of the algorithm was that the user specifies the number of categories. This was not a problem in this study, since only two categories were considered, clearwood and defects. The idea of combining clustering with region growing as described by Amadasun and King was used in the study, but the criteria used for region growing and clustering were completely different and global information about the image was utilized. In this study, a strategy similar to the method of combining splitting-and-merging with region growing was used for finding clearwood features in the region growing stage. The original image was divided into square tiles (except that the right most and top most tiles could be rectangular depending on the whole image size and tile size), and a seed tile with the minimum standard deviation and minimum mean edge strength was found. The tri-parameter features mean, standard deviation, and minimum mean edge strength of the seed tile

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were calculated. Then a certain number of tiles whose tri-parameter features were most similar to the seed tile were combined to obtain the clearwood tri-parameter features. In clustering, each pixel in a tile was classified as either a clearwood pixel or defect pixel by a heuristic criterion given in Eq. (1). If Eq. (1) was true, then the pixel was declared a defect pixel. sr jx ( mclear jw maxoriginal ( minoriginal range (1)

where sr is the standard deviation of the tile; x is the value of the pixel; mclear is the mean value of the clearwood found in region growing area; w is the weighting factor; maxoriginal is the maximum value of the original whole image; minoriginal is the minimum value of original whole image; range is the camera resolution (32 for 5-bit pixels and 256 for 8-bit pixels). For a tri-parameter color image, all the values became three-dimensional vectors. If the pixel value failed to meet the criterion in any one or more color channels, then that pixel was declared a defect pixel. Otherwise, it was a clearwood pixel. 2.5. Performance measures Three measures of algorithm performance were used to determine the effectiveness of discerning wood surface features. All operate on a pixel basis. Pixel-based defect detection accuracy is the ratio of the number of true defect pixels detected divided by the total number of defect pixels in the reference mask. Clearwood detection accuracy is the ratio of true clearwood pixels detected divided by the total number of clearwood pixels in the mask. The mean centroid difference (C ) is defined as the mean value of the centroid differences between detected defect and true defect pairs, as given in Eq. (2). The hand-marked reference mask defined the true defect. Npair q X (xi ( xi?)2 ' (yi ( yi?)2 C 0 i01 (2) Npair where xi , yi are the centroid coordinates for the i th detected defect; x i?, y i? are the centroid coordinates for the i th true defect (mask); Npair is the number of defect pairs. 2.6. Signicance testing All ANOVA statistical tests were conducted at the 5% significance level using the SAS statistical package. A four-factor, factorial design with all crosses was used. However, during the preliminary study, it became clear that because they were pixelbased, the performance measures might not show significant differences visually, even when the statistical tests indicated a statistically significant difference at the 5%

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level. Therefore, rule-of-thumb tests were developed from the preliminary study results. For the pixel-based defect detection accuracy and clearwood detection accuracy measures, any difference less than 5% did not show visually. Also, centroid differences less than 0.5 pixel could not be seen visually. These rules-of-thumb were used in conjunction with the statistical tests to form a two-tiered acceptance test. To be considered significantly different, measure values had to be both statistically different and greater than the appropriate rule-of-thumb threshold.

3. Results and discussion 3.1. Parameter settings As previously mentioned, each algorithm has parameters that must be set heuristically. Values for these parameters were chosen using the preliminary study image data set. While the values could vary depending upon algorithm, camera resolution, and color space, it was not practical to have different values for each wood feature because that a prior information would not be known in an actual imaging application. Therefore, the values chosen were a trade-off in performance across all the features, based on results when using the preliminary study image set. All parameter settings are listed in Zhong (1994). 3.2. Algorithm performances Figs. 2 and 3 present defect accuracy results for the various algorithms and feature types. Both figures contain the same data. Fig. 2 is arranged by algorithm, while Fig. 3 presents the same data but by feature type. When reviewing these results, remember that defect detection accuracy is determined on a pixel-by-pixel basis. Therefore, 60% defect accuracy does not indicate that 40% of the defects were missed; rather, it means that 40% of the aggregate defect area was not identified as a defect. From a pixel-based defect detection standpoint, the best overall performer was the region-based algorithm, which was a combination of clustering and region growing (Crg). It significantly outperformed the other algorithms on the pitch streak and wane samples, while matching (no significant difference) or exceeding performances on the other features. As expected, the two edge detection algorithms, compass gradient mask (Comp) and entropy (Ent), were the poorest performers on the blue stain and pitch streak samples. This is due to the lack of a strong edge in those images and the potential for confusion with background noise caused by springwood/summerwood boundaries. Of the three thresholding algorithms, the best defect detection performance across all defect categories was provided by the global version of the Ostu algorithm (Goth). Only the entropy-based algorithm showed a significant improvement in pixel-based defect detection accuracy when using the local (Leth) versus the global version (Geth). Wane was the only feature exception to that result. The use of second-order statistics in the transition-matrix algorithms did not improve the overall performances when compared to the histogram-based

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Fig. 2. Pixel-based defect detection accuracies for various wood surface features in 8-bit resolution and RGB color space images using nine different segmentation algorithms (BS, blue stain; PS, pitch streak; WA, wane; LK, loose knot; TK, tight knot; PP, pitch pocket) (Crg, clustering with region growing; Comp, compass gradient mask; Ent, entropy edge; Geth, global-basis entropy thresholding; Leth, local-basis entropy thresholding; Goth, global-basis Otsu thresholding; Loth, local-basis Otsu thresholding; Gtmth, global-basis transition-matrix thresholding; Ltmth, local-basis transition-matrix thresholding).

Fig. 3. Pixel-based defect detection accuracies for various wood surface features in 8-bit resolution and RGB color space images using nine different segmentation algorithms (BS, blue stain; PS, pitch streak; WA, wane; LK, loose knot; TK, tight knot; PP, pitch pocket) (Crg, clustering with region growing; Comp, compass gradient mask; Ent, entropy edge; Geth, global-basis entropy thresholding; Leth, local-basis entropy thresholding; Goth, global-basis Otsu thresholding; Loth, local-basis Otsu thresholding; Gtmth, global-basis transition-matrix thresholding; Ltmth, local-basis transition-matrix thresholding).

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thresholding algorithms. As expected, the thresholding algorithms did not perform as well on the loose knot, tight knot, and pitch pocket images. As previously mentioned, thresholding algorithms are based on the assumption that different classes of segments will have different modes in the distribution. This is not true in many images of wood. Also, the extension of thresholding to the three-dimensional color space creates segments that are cubic (rectangular parallelepiped). This does not match images of wood, where the defects and clearwood pixels blend in elongated three-dimensional clouds. This explains the better performance of the region-based algorithm, where blobs can have non-uniform shapes. In general, clearwood accuracy results were very high for all algorithms and feature types (Fig. 4). The main exceptions to this were the low performances by all the thresholding algorithms on the samples that contained no defects. While the lack of any defect in the image would seem to be a more significant problem for the edge detection algorithms, it actually creates more difficulties for the thresholding algorithms. This is due to the fact that the thresholds must be set to optimize the detection of defects at the cost of clearwood accuracy. Thresholding algorithms do not perform well on images where the object size is small, the color values show low contrast between the defect and background, or the background is noisy. In other words, if no defect is present, the color contrast between earlywood and latewood tends to trigger the threshold rules.

Fig. 4. Clearwood detection accuracies for various wood surface features in 8-bit resolution and RGB color space images using nine different segmentation algorithms (BS, blue stain; PS, pitch streak; WA, wane; LK, loose knot; TK, tight knot; PP, pitch pocket; CL, all clearwood) (Crg, clustering with region growing; Comp, compass gradient mask; Ent, entropy edge; Geth, global-basis entropy thresholding; Leth, local-basis entropy thresholding; Goth, global-basis Otsu thresholding; Loth, local-basis Otsu thresholding; Gtmth, global-basis transition-matrix thresholding; Ltmth, local-basis transition-matrix thresholding).

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Fig. 5. Mean centroid differences for various wood surface features in 8-bit resolution and RGB color space images using nine different segmentation algorithms (BS, blue stain; PS, pitch streak; WA, wane; LK, loose knot; TK, tight knot; PP, pitch pocket) (Crg, clustering with region growing; Comp, compass gradient mask; Ent, entropy edge; Geth, global-basis entropy thresholding; Leth, local-basis entropy thresholding; Goth, global-basis Otsu thresholding; Loth, local-basis Otsu thresholding; Gtmth, globalbasis transition-matrix thresholding; Ltmth, local-basis transition-matrix thresholding).

The mean centroid differences did not show any pattern between algorithms (Fig. 5). As expected, the largest errors occurred in the blue stain and pitch streak images. These defects have large, irregular shapes, so errors of 10 /15 pixels would be expected, especially given the poor detection performances shown in Figs. 2 and 3. The large value for blue stain using the entropy edge detection algorithm is a direct result of the extremely low defect accuracy, which was less than 1%. Since the compass gradient mask algorithm also had a very low blue stain detection accuracy, it may seem surprising that it did not have a larger mean centroid difference. This results from the fact that while it did not detect much of the defect area, it did detect the area surrounding the centroid. As expected, the use of color images significantly improved the detection accuracies for the subtle features blue stain and pitch streak for the region growing and edge detector algorithms (Fig. 6). However, in almost all cases, thresholding algorithms performed better on gray-scale images. As mentioned earlier, this is probably due to the fact that color images present a significant increase in the number of data levels, which can end up confusing the algorithms. Contrary to previously cited literature, the RGB color space proved to be more useful than Lab,

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Fig. 6. Pixel-based defect detection accuracies for various wood surface features using three different segmentation algorithms on 8-bit resolution gray-scale, RGB, and Lab images (BS, blue stain; PS, pitch streak; WA, wane; LK, loose knot; TK, tight knot; PP, pitch pocket) (Crg, clustering with region growing; Comp, compass gradient mask; Goth, global-basis Otsu thresholding).

especially for the subtle features. One potential reason for this discrepancy might be that the previous literature used quadratic discriminant analysis rather than traditional segmentation techniques. Color space differences were not significant for the wane, loose knot, or tight knot feature categories. Clearwood detection accuracies were not significantly affected by color space (Fig. 7), except for the clear samples and the global Otsu thresholding algorithm (Goth). Reasons were discussed earlier. Camera/framegrabber resolution had little effect on the either the clustering/region growing algorithm or the edge detector algorithms (Figs. 8 and 9). Resolution crossed with color versus gray-scale also had no significant influence on the edge detectors. However, 8-bit resolution imaging provided significant increases in pixelbased defect detection rates for subtle features when using the thresholding algorithms. These increases, though, came at the cost of significantly lower clearwood detection accuracies. As mentioned before, color added no benefit for the thresholding algorithms, either in 5- or 8-bit images.

4. Conclusions Images of wood surfaces present extremely difficult subjects for segmentation algorithms. Defect areas generally comprise less than 10 /20% of the image, the defects have low contrast with the background, and the background data are noisy. Therefore, choosing an appropriate segmentation algorithm can be difficult, and

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Fig. 7. Clearwood detection accuracies for various wood surface features using three different segmentation algorithms on 8-bit resolution gray-scale, RGB, and Lab images (BS, blue stain; PS, pitch streak; WA, wane; LK, loose knot; TK, tight knot; PP, pitch pocket; CL, all clearwood) (Crg, clustering with region growing; Comp, compass gradient mask; Goth, global-basis Otsu thresholding).

Fig. 8. Pixel-based defect detection accuracies for various wood surface features using three different segmentation algorithms on gray-scale (g) and RGB (r) images at two camera resolutions (5- and 8-bit) (BS, blue stain; PS, pitch streak; WA, wane; LK, loose knot; TK, tight knot; PP, pitch pocket) (Crg, clustering with region growing; Comp, compass gradient mask; Goth, global-basis Otsu thresholding).

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Fig. 9. Clearwood detection accuracies for various wood surface features using three different segmentation algorithms on gray-scale (g) and RGB (r) images at two camera resolutions (5- and 8-bit) (BS, blue stain; PS, pitch streak; WA, wane; LK, loose knot; TK, tight knot; PP, pitch pocket; CL, all clearwood) (Crg, clustering with region growing; Comp, compass gradient mask; Goth, global-basis Otsu thresholding).

every algorithm requires tuning of parameters for the types of images being analyzed. In addition, the importance of different measures, such as false positives or negatives, must be weighed for each application. However, an analysis of the performances of a wide range of segmentation algorithms on images of Douglas-fir veneer showed that region-based algorithms have the greatest promise. One specific algorithm in this study, which combined clustering with region growing, provided the best overall pixel-based detection rates for a variety of defect types without unduly sacrificing clearwood accuracy.

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