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Structuring Elements

An essential part of the dilation and erosion operations is the structuring element used to probe the input image. A structuring element is a matrix consisting of only 0's and 1's that can have any arbitrary shape and size. The pixels with values of 1 define the neighborhood.

Two-dimensional, or flat, structuring elements are typically much smaller than the image being processed. The center pixel of the structuring element, called the origin, identifies the pixel of interest -- the pixel being processed. The pixels in the structuring element containing 1's define the neighborhood of the structuring element. These pixels are also considered in dilation or erosion processing.

Three-dimensional, or nonflat, structuring elements use 0's and 1's to define the extent of the structuring element in the x- and y-planes and add height values to define the third dimension.

The Origin of a Structuring Element

The morphological functions use this code to get the coordinates of the origin of structuring elements of any size and dimension.

(In this code nhood is the neighborhood defining the structuring element. Because structuring elements are MATLAB objects, you cannot use the size of the STREL object itself in this calculation. You must use the STREL getnhood method to retrieve the neighborhood of the structuring element from the STREL object. For information about other STREL object methods, see the strel function reference page.)

For example, the following illustrates a diamond-shaped structuring element.

Origin of a Diamond-Shaped Structuring Element

Creating a Structuring Element

The toolbox dilation and erosion functions accept structuring element objects, called STRELs. You use the strel function to create STRELs of any arbitrary size and shape. The strel function also includes built-in support for many common shapes, such as lines, diamonds, disks, periodic lines, and balls.

For example, this code creates a flat, diamond-shaped structuring element.

Structuring Element Decomposition

To enhance performance, the strel function might break structuring elements into smaller pieces, a technique known as structuring element decomposition.

For example, dilation by an 11-by-11 square structuring element can be accomplished by dilating first with a 1-by-11 structuring element, and then with an 11-by-1 structuring element. This results in a theoretical speed improvement of a factor of 5.5, although in practice the actual speed improvement is somewhat less.

Structuring element decompositions used for the 'disk' and 'ball' shapes are approximations; all other decompositions are exact. Decomposition is not used with an arbitrary structuring element unless it is a flat structuring element whose neighborhood is all 1's.

To view the sequence of structuring elements used in a decomposition, use the STREL getsequence method. The getsequence function returns an array of the structuring elements that form the decomposition. For example, here are the structuring elements created in the decomposition of a diamond-shaped structuring element.

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