Cognex Corporation

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Cognex Corporation
S&P 400 Component
IndustryIndustrial automation (hardware and software)
United States
Key people
Dr. Robert J. Shillman, Founder, Chairman and Chief Culture Officer; Robert Willett, President and CEO; Sheila DiPalma, Senior VP, Employee Services
ProductsVision Systems, Vision Sensors, Vision Software, ID Readers
Revenue$806 million USD (2018)
Number of employees

Cognex Corporation is an American manufacturer of machine vision systems, software and sensors used in automated manufacturing to inspect and identify parts, detect defects, verify product assembly, and guide assembly robots. Cognex is headquartered in Natick, Massachusetts, USA and has offices in more than 20 countries.

Cognex began exploring commercial applications of machine vision in the early 1980s.[citation needed] In the 1990s, Cognex’s business grew due to a demand for machine vision tools to help automate semiconductor and electronics manufacturing. Semiconductor manufacturing remains an important market for Cognex, but it has expanded to general manufacturing applications in areas such as pharmaceutical, automotive, healthcare, packaging, aerospace and consumer products manufacturing.

The company’s product portfolio includes In-Sight, VisionPro software, and DataMan.[1]


Cognex Corporation was founded in 1981 by Robert J. Shillman, a lecturer in human visual perception at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and two MIT graduate students, Bill Silver and Marilyn Matz. Cognex stands for Cognition Experts.

The company's first vision system, DataMan, was introduced in 1982. DataMan was an optical character recognition (OCR) system designed to read, verify, and assure the quality of letters, numbers, and symbols printed on products and components. The company's first customer was a typewriter manufacturer that purchased DataMan to read letters on typewriter keys and ensure that they were located in the correct position.

In 1989, Cognex went public on the NASDAQ exchange for $1.38 per share—within a year, the stock price had tripled.[2]

In 1995, Cognex made the first of many acquisitions when it purchased Acumen, a U.S. based developer of wafer identification systems. Acquisitions have played an important role in the company’s growth and enabled Cognex to enter new markets for machine vision such as surface inspection and vehicle vision.

In 2004, the company won an intellectual property victory when a federal judge ruled in Cognex's favor in a patent lawsuit brought against the estate of the inventor Jerome H. Lemelson, who had filed dozens of submarine patents, some of which purported to cover machine vision processes. The machine vision-related patents were held invalid.[3][4][5][6] The ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.[7]

Cognex sold off its in-vehicle product in 2007, citing concerns about profitability and intellectual property issues.[1]

In 2015 Cognex sold off its Surface Vision Division and the associated range of products SmartView (web inspection), Vision Gear (slit inspection), Smart Advisor (process surveillance, web monitoring) and VisionPro Surface to Ametek Inc. for approximately 160M US$. The sold division represented about 12% of Cognex in terms of revenue and number of employees.[citation needed]

In May 2017, it was announced Cognex authorized a new stock buyback program. They authorized the purchase of up to $100 million common stock in the open market.[8]


Some of the products produced by Cognex are listed below.

  • In-Sight - a vision system that combines a camera, software and processor into one compact unit.[1]
  • VisionPro vision software[1]
  • DataMan - a family of fixed mount and handheld ID readers used to identify and track items by reading 1D and 2D Data Matrix codes.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "CGNX Profile | Cognex Corporation Stock - Yahoo Finance". Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  2. ^ "Cognex - Company History". Cognex. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  3. ^ Some claim inventor Lemelson a fraud, Adam Goldman, The Associated Press, 2005
  4. ^ United States District Court District of Nevada CV-S-01-701-PMP, January 23, 2004
  5. ^ U.S. Judge Invalidates Billion-Dollar Scan Patents ,Bloomberg
  6. ^ Patents; As shown by recent cases argued in the courts, properly crediting an inventor can be murky business., New York Times
  7. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 04-1451, Symbol Technologies, Inc. et al. v. Lemelson Medical, Education & Research Foundation, LP Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, September 9, 2005
  8. ^ "Cognex Authorizes New Stock Buyback Program". Retrieved 2017-05-01.

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Coordinates: 42°18′08″N 71°21′19″W / 42.30213°N 71.35534°W / 42.30213; -71.35534