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Trends in Vision: New Camera Imagers

An interesting vision trend is that the whole camera industry is undergoing a technology revival. The last revival in the vision industry was for cheap, reliable, and bright LED lighting. While this was incredible, at the end of the day it was simply a bright light. Not much to talk about really, even though it was fun at the beginning. The most recent technology revival is being caused by the flood of new camera imagers from the consumer cell phone camera industry. A camera imager is the device that takes the photons and turns them into digital values. An imager has millions of the digital photon receptors, and each one is called a pixel.

vision automation pick placeIn the past, vision engineers treasured their large imagers in the 1” or 2/3” format, selecting CCD over CMOS because of the higher dynamic capabilities of the CCD imager. 1 megapixel, 2 megapixel and 5 megapixel were the usual bus stops for machine vision engineers, and each bus stop usually cost a thousand dollars per stop or so. This was pretty much carved in the stone tablets that came down from the mountain, and us vision guys rolled with it on the various jobs we encountered. Throw in a $250, $500, or $1200 lens for each stop, and you have a camera. If your problem was particularly involved and single pixel accuracy was demanded (or you needed a lower F number), then maybe doubling the lens cost could get you where you needed to be. Continue Reading →