An eye on the future

IPOT 2007 is a great opportunity to preview what’s new in photonics, vision and display technologies, and attend free workshops and seminars. Mark Venables takes a look around.

Next month engineers with an interest in optics, photonics, vision and display technology will congregate at Birmingham’s NEC for IPOT (Imaging, Photonics and Optical Technology) 2007.

The event — on 14 and 15 February — offers exhibitors an environment to do business with engineers, designers, buyers and end-users, as well as allowing visitors to keep abreast of the latest industry developments.

As always, the show will display a host of new products, of which we have selected a handful.

Firstsight Vision has recently launched the Spyder GigE linescan camera, which the company claims is three times as responsive as its predecessor. At its core is Dalsa’s latest line scan technology that achieves throughput rates of 80MHz. The camera is fully programmable, offering precise control over key performance variables such as gain and offset.

The camera is Dalsa’s first GigE offering. With a GigE interface, you no longer need a frame grabber which means significant system cost saving. It also incorporates features such as flat field correction and CDS (Correlated Double Sampling) which are typically found in scientific-grade cameras. All resolutions provide appropriate, readily-available standard lens options (C-mount and F-mount).

On Frankfurt Laser’s stand, it’s not size that counts — the company is showcasing its high-power versions of the world’s smallest green laser, MicroGreen and MiniGreen lasers. The optical output power of the MicroGreen is 15MW and 150MW for the MiniGreen.

The MicroGreen is mounted on a 5.6mm laser diode header and is 9mm long, while the MiniGreen is 9mm in diameter and 13mm long. The lasers are designed to be incorporated in devices demanding small space and low current consumption.

At 15MW of optical power output, the MicroGreen requires as low as 240mA of input current and can be powered with 1.8V DC. The lasers demonstrate perfect Gaussian beam profile and optical noise less than 1.5 per cent.

Middlesex-based HORIBA Jobin Yvon has the FluoroMax-4 bench-top spectrofluorometer, the replacement for the FluoroMax-3, on display. With a sensitivity of at least 400,000c/sec for the water-Raman peak at 397nm, and a signal-to-noise ratio of 3,000:1 minimum, the spectrofluorometer stands out from the crowd.

Lambda Photometrics is highlighting another GigE camera, the Prosilica GC-Series. These break size and performance barriers, and are believed to be the world’s smallest gigabit Ethernet cameras. Measuring 4.3 x 4.6 x 3.3cm, these GigE vision-compliant cameras weigh as little as 99g. Such small size, light weight and low power consumption make them ideal for semiconductor inspection, avionics and robotics applications.

But don’t let the small size fool you — more features and performance are packed into these cameras than ever before. This series has all the performance features found in other Prosilica models, including region of interest readout, binning modes to 8 x 8 pixels, high-frame rates, and various colour output modes, including RGB. The cameras also include on-camera colour interpolation, rugged design, and excellent software development kit.

Prosilica engineered every detail of the cameras — electronics, gigabit Ethernet interface, drivers, and software. The GigE Vision gigabit Ethernet interface is capable of sustained data rates of 125Mb/sec on standard Ethernet cable up to 100m in length. A resend mechanism ensures very high levels of data integrity that far exceed other camera interfaces such as cameralink, USB, and even firewire.

Not everyone needs the blazing fast data rates offered by gigabit Ethernet cameras, so the makers include controls to finely adjust the data rate so they can be operated even over very slow network links, such as wireless Ethernet networks.

‘The new GC-Series further extends Prosilica’s leadership in the Gigabit Ethernet machine vision camera market,’ claimed Prosilica’s chief executive Marty Furse. ‘The GC-Series ultra-compact GigE Vision cameras are believed to the world’s smallest, fastest, and lightest weight gigabit Ethernet CCD cameras.’

Leica Microsystems is showcasing the Leica ASP300 S tissue processor, reflecting the latest state-of-the-art technology to improve specimen quality and laboratory performance. The ASP300 S is a fully-enclosed, stand-alone system for the automated processing of up to 300 standard tissue cassettes.

The new model is a significant improvement on the company’s previous offering and uses high-quality materials and components to maximise reliability and durability. The overall focus of the design was to improve critical performance of such criteria as sample quality, process and operator safety, reagent carry-over and consumption, instrument up-time and lifetime cost.

Remote, contact-free fill and drain of reagents, superior process control, an active paraffin cleaning cycle and an improved reagent bottle and cabinet design are just a few of the features that ensure optimum specimen quality. The enhanced system ensures a consistently high sample quality with optimised reagent use.

Consequently, there will be a more economic reagent usage and so the cost of instrument operation will be reduced. A compatibility check algorithm avoids the cross-contamination of incompatible reagents and assures a new level of safety and reliability. This again extends the lifetime of the reagents and improves the sample quality.

A cost-effective management system is the offering from MVD. The Matrox Iris P700 wafer reader is a complete imaging system specifically designed for reading ID marks on semiconductor wafers. It incorporates illumination, optics and sensor in a compact remote head connected to a small footprint processor unit.

The unit, running the industry-proven Matrox Imaging Library (MIL) character recognition and code-reading software, recognises SEMI standard alphanumeric, bar and matrix code wafer ID marks.

Olympus will show the i-Speed 1Gb camera, based on the successful i-Speed series of high-speed video cameras. It has been designed for applications where a simple ‘point and shoot camera’ is the only requirement.

The camera — which is portable, rugged and easy-to-use — is a true stand-alone system with images provided to the user instantly for review and analysis. It features 800 x 600 sensor resolution, 1,000f/sec recording capability, on-board editing function and live image review and playback with the Olympus-exclusive controller display unit (CDU).

In addition to the comprehensive range of exhibitors, the show is also offering access to free workshops, seminars and feature areas.

One of these is the return of the Laser Centre — supported by the Association of Industrial Laser Users (AILU) — which will again showcase some of the UK’s top laser companies.

Both the Photonics Cluster UK and the UK Industrial Vision Association (UKIVA) will hold two days of dedicated workshop and seminar programmes, offering exhibitors and visitors valuable updates on the latest developments, techniques and legislation in their related industries.