Monday, September 29, 2014

Machine Vision Sensor Trends

IMV Europe publishes its Vision Yearbook 2014/15 with many interesting articles (pdf version). "Taking the pulse of the industry" is a collection of short summaries on industry trends from various companies. Few quotes:

Henning Tiarks, head of product management at Basler:

"The year 2015 will be an exciting one for modern cameras and camera technology again! ...It will be the first time the whole range of standard resolutions, from VGA to five megapixels and above, is expected to be covered by CMOS technology. CMOS will therefore become relevant for all existing and new applications in machine vision, as well as in applications outside the factory floor such as medical or intelligent traffic systems."

Guy Pas, VP worldwide for instruments sales at FLIR Systems:

"For many years Flir Systems has made efforts to make thermal cameras more affordable and accessible. This is a trend that will continue in 2015. Because of this increased affordability, it will be possible to deploy multiple cameras for a variety of applications and more customers will be able to benefit from the economies of scale."

Lou Hermans, COO at CMOSIS:

"The demand for very high-resolution area image sensors for machine vision applications is expected to continue to grow. This growth is mainly fueled by the expanding need for inspection of LCD panels used in smart phones, tablets and TVs. These screens are not only becoming bigger, but also the resolution is continuously increasing. This combination is at the basis of the demand for 50+ megapixel resolution inspection cameras and image sensors.

Frame rate requirements are in the 10 frames per second range – out of reach of most CCD-based camera solutions. Although most camera users and producers would prefer global shutter based CMOS solutions, a fair amount of these applications can also be realized with rolling shutter type pixel-based image sensors. ...The realisation of smaller, high-performance global shutter pixels will remain a challenge. It implies that image sensor manufacturers have to migrate to more advanced and more expensive CIS process technologies.

I also expect a growing demand for image sensors optimized for wavelengths outside the visible spectrum, more in particular for the capture of UV and NIR images. UV imaging is mainly driven by the needs of the semiconductor industry whereas NIR imaging is by non-obtrusive machine vision applications. I expect that the demand for UV sensitive imagers will accelerate the development of backside-thinned and illuminated CMOS image sensors in industrial and professional applications. Although backside illuminated imagers are now the standard in mobile phone camera applications, they are still the exception in machine vision area. The larger pixels of machine vision imagers do not benefit much in terms of QE increase in the visible when using backside illumination. The limited performance increase cannot justify the significantly higher price. For UV however, the QE increase is significant and customers are willing to pay the higher price.

The introduction of backside illuminated devices in industrial cameras is also delayed because few foundries are ready to support backside thinning and processing for such low-volume applications. For the same reasons, I do not expect to see so-called stacked backside illuminated CMOS image sensor technology to be applied shortly in dedicated machine vision image sensors.

Nicholas James, imaging product line manager at Edmund Optics:

"In the past year imaging and automation customers have been adopting larger, higher resolution sensors. One-inch format sensors have become more readily available, and the machine vision industry is moving toward four and six-megapixel resolution versions of these larger sensors. The market will continue to push upward toward the nine- and 12-megapixel options – and even higher as technology evolves."

Dale Deering, senior program manager at Teledyne Dalsa:

"One of the most significant trends in imaging today is the continued evolution of CMOS image sensors as the technology of choice for general machine vision applications. A complementary trend is the reduction in the cost of processing image data within the camera – the price of FPGAs, microprocessors and memory continues to drop, while speed and capability continue to increase."

Terry Arden, CEO of LMI Technologies:

"For LMI, we have identified two major segments of growth for 3D sensing technology. The first is the 3D scanning market where 3D scanners are used to build real world models of objects. The second segment is the 3D inspection market where 3D smart sensors are used to scan, measure, and pass or fail parts in an assembly process within a factory."

Frank Grube, president and CEO of Allied Vision Technologies:

"One emerging market segment on the cusp of a major change due to the introduction of machine vision is the transportation industry, an industry which has long suffered from an inability to collect quantifiably accurate infrastructure level information. With the introduction of MV technologies, the transportation industry could collect data multiple times per second, providing a quantity and quality of data not only cheaper than a magnetic loop, but considerably more robust than any other current sensor technology."

Michael Gibbons, director of sales and marketing at Point Grey

"New CCD and CMOS sensor technologies have also evolved in the last few years and have dramatically influenced the development of completely new types of imaging and machine vision systems. The number of global shutter CMOS sensors available in the market has increased and CCD technology, such as Sony’s new line of EXview HAD CCD II sensors, has also become more advanced, providing improved quantum efficiency, reduced smear, and increased sensitivity, including into the near infrared."

Sebastien Teysseyre, head of the marketing and solution creation team at e2v:

"as applications are moving away from the factory floor and its controlled environment, the imaging sensors are exposed to extreme and possibly harsh environmental conditions, such as fog, rain and snow. Technically, we know how to get a decent image in these conditions by using high power lasers and gated image intensified CCD cameras, but these solutions are physically large, fragile and expensive, limiting their adoption to high-end, niche market applications. It is very likely that, based on the initial results, in 2015 we’ll demonstrate that a CMOS-based system can be used instead of a gated tube intensifier, removing the barrier to entry for many applications."


  1. Increased UV as well as high IR sensitivity would be nice to see :)

  2. Hi Piotr,

    CMOS will easily make the NIR more sensitive (out to 1000nm) than CCD. UV is tricky, you may see some advancements in this area

  3. Well, theoretically, a lateral anti-blooming CCD should offer the same NIR response as CMOS providing the epitaxial thickness is comparable.


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