Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Fraunhofer facetVISION Camera is 2mm Thin

Fraunhofer researchers have developed a process enabling a two millimeter flat 1MP camera. Similar to the eyes of insects, its lens is partitioned into 135 tiny facets. The researchers have named their mini-camera concept facetVISION. The cameras are said to be suitable for use in the automotive and printing industries and in medical engineering. Their basic principle is said to be able to change the design of future smartphones.

"With a camera thickness of only two millimeters, this technology, taken from nature’s model, will enable us to achieve a resolution of up to four megapixel", says Andreas Brückner, project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena. "This is clearly a higher resolution compared to cameras in industrial applications – for example in robot technology or automobile production."

"It will be possible to place several smaller lenses next to each other in the smartphone camera. The combination of facet effect and proven injection molded lenses will enable resolutions of more than 10 megapixels in a camera requiring just a thickness of around three and a half millimeters," adds Brückner.


Update: As mentioned in comments, Fraunhofer has opened www.facetvision.de web site devoted to the project and its applications. LaserFocusWorld published an expanded article on the new camera and its future developments.

8 comments:

  1. I guess this requires some computation to form an image and also that chip looks pretty big. 4Mpixels @ 1.1um pixel pitch is a chip that is roughly 5mm^2 in area (stacked BSI), which is much smaller than what is shown. Some questions: Do you get 4Mpix resolution out of 4Mpixels with compound lenses? What about color and image quality? Also, at 4Mpix I think you want some sort of focus capability for smartphone application, right? And for machine vision applications, I think a good lens is a small part of the price of the system. Can you really do inspection with such sensors at high speed with lots of computation required and with high quality resolution? Interesting technology but seems a bit oversold in this press release. It would be more interesting if they were making these devices on a flexible substrate and wrapped around a hemisphere for 2-pi steradian FOV.

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  2. This starts only to make sense as soon as they do show real pictures taken from these disruptive wafer-level-optical lenses!

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  3. Surely this will suffer from the same issues as Pelican's array camera, namely the limits of super-resolution (<1.6x linear sub-array resolution increase is possible), and the poor thermal stability of wafer-level optics (high change in BFL with temperature).

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  4. Very interesting. Looks like not going to work for low-light scenarios though. Because each facet collecting very little light.

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  5. The IOF has experience in wafer level optics and their thermal problems. An english paper shows their idea of a "lensless" camera:

    http://www.iof.fraunhofer.de/content/dam/iof/en/documents/publications/annual-report/2004/2004_01_j_duparre.pdf

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    1. The lead author on that 2004 paper is Jacques Duparre, who was the optical lead at Pelican. Whatever experience he had at IOF, didn't prepare him for the athermalization issues he later encountered at Pelican.

      It's not an easy problem to solve. The organic resins used in WLO suffer from significant shifts in refractive index with temperature.

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  6. The camera with 2.2mm z-height using wafer level optics and a custom designed CIS has 720p format at f/2.8 and 2.2um pixel pitch and is part of IOFs earlier work.

    We have now developed an array-camera concept demonstrating 20MP at f/2, 1.12um pixel pitch and 3.5mm z-height featering actuation for AF and OIS. In addition, the camera enables the option to be switched between front and rear viewing mode. More details will follow this year. Thermal shift is always a serious issue - and has to be treated accordingly.
    If you are at CES: please step by at Las Vegas Convention Center Hall, South Hall 1, booth 20944. Or see facetvision.de for further details.

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    1. Jaques if you need an adaptive array we are still around :).

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