Light In, Light Out Cameras – Fiber Cable as a Game Changer in Machine Vision

It’s time for the machine vision industry to literally see the light and start to leverage the advantages of fiber optic technology.

Let me shed some light on the subject for you.

Increased consumer demand for internet content has spurred the major telecoms to bring fiber into your home at low cost. In short, they’ve decided that Coax cables no longer meet the cost/performance criteria. I’d like us to consider then, how this might also represent a game changer in the machine vision industry.

Here’s some background:

The development of Light Peak, driven by Intel, resulted in low cost, low power 10 Gbps optical engines which enabled camera designers to deliver small, light weight cameras. These optical engines connect directly to the camera FPGA and simplify high speed signal routing. System designers know that low cost FPGAs have moved from 3 Gbps last year, to 6 Gbps this year and will continue to move to 12 and 24 Gbps in the next 5 years. Camera manufacturers will be using these FPGAs in their products.  Fiber cables are not affected by skin effect losses like copper cables and will be able to accommodate increased bit rates, thereby enabling mid-life product upgrades where new higher speed models will easily replace older models over an installed base of fiber cables. Other advantages that fiber cables offer include small size and tight bend radius for more compact installations.

  • robotic applications benefit from the longer flex life and lighter weight of fiber cables
  • in large systems, cabling distances can be 50 meters or more which is easily achievable with fiber optic cables without repeaters or extra expense
  • optical transmissions are not susceptible to radiated emissions like copper media and simplify radiated emissions compliance

And here’s where the light grows even brighter. While customers continue to demand higher throughput and improved quality (lower margins of error) from their inspection systems as CMOS imagers continue to push bandwidths higher, lower costs, data transmission and image processing also need to fall in line. Fiber optic as part of the Camera Link HS (CLHS) standard meets this need by splitting the data to multiple low cost processing engines. The CLHS protocol offers guaranteed delivery with the lowest latency and jitter of trigger and GPIO messages. Its remote DMA video packet is designed for simple data reconstruction and enables on the fly regions of interest to fully exploit the capability of CMOS sensors.

Advancements in fiber optic technology coupled with CLHS are indications that there is a Light In Light Out camera in your future.



About Mike

Mike joined DALSA in 1989 and developed the company’s first generation cameras using only 32 flip flops for line scan or 64 flip flops for area array. Some of Mike’s designs are out of this world, including cameras on the International Space Station’s Canadarm2. Closer to home, Mike contributed to the initial development of Camera Link and now chairs the Camera Link HS committee. Seems Mike has a passion for camera to frame grabber communications and pioneering new ideas.
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