Will USB3 Vision overtake Camera Link?

USB3After being very visible at the Vision Show (Stuttgart, November 2012), AIA USB3 Vision 1.0 will be released during Automate 2013 this week. This is a significant event for the Machine Vision industry. As I mentioned in a previous blog post (A New Predator in the Machine vision World), USB3 is an attractive medium for real-time image transfer from cameras: low system cost, native robustness and good transfer speed at 5 Gbps (which will probably end-up in the 350-400 MB/s range in practice). This will be a strong contender for Camera Link BASE. But there is more…

The advocates for USB3 (Intel, Microsoft, Texas Instruments and a few other giants) have recently announced that USB3 will double its bandwidth capacity from 5 Gbps to 10 Gbps, keeping its connector and cable compatibility. The standard update is getting ready for industry review with anticipated completion by middle of this year.

By doubling its transfer speed, USB3 Vision will now be able to tackle Camera Link MEDIUM and FULL by simply following this nice migration path. This is significant news for Machine Vision to enable fast transfer at very low cost, something not possible without a frame grabber so far.

5 Gbps USB3 is mainstream with most motherboards offering a few USB3 ports. So when can we expect the 10 Gbps speed grade to be available? If past is an indication of the future, we know that USB3 specification was released in November 2008 and took about 3-4 years to become mainstream. The 10 Gbps version is not a major release, just an enhancement  that stays within the USB 3.0 realm. Hence we can imagine that 2 years after adoption we will start to see 10 Gbps plug-in cards. This means as soon as 2015.

Camera manufacturers currently working on the first generation of USB3 Vision products have a nice highway opening up in front of them. The clock is ticking for Camera Link! But it has options to explore that I will discuss in my next post.

Till then!

About Eric

Eric is in charge of R&D activities at the Montreal office of Teledyne DALSA where he is surrounded by talented people working on the technologies of tomorrow. Chair of the GigE Vision committee, he enjoys reading and writing machine vision standards, especially the thicker ones.

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