Live From SPIE Optics + Photonics 2011: Sensors Unlimited Details Their Imaging Capabilities

Don Pancza, Sales Account Manager at Sensors Unlimited, shows a variety of cameras and discusses their applications, which include machine vision; military, homeland security, and defense; and solar inspection. With their InGaAs technology, Sensors Unlimited basically covers from .9 to 1.7 microns, beyond where visible, traditional, silicon CCD imagery falls off.

Visit the Sensors Unlimited - Goodrich ISR Systems storefront.

Video Transcript

Good afternoon, my name is Don Pancza. I’m with Sensors Unlimited, Goodrich Corporation, and I want to welcome you to our booth at the Optics + Photonics 2011 event. Most of the world knows us as Sensors Unlimited. We’ve been part of Goodrich ISR Systems now for seven years. Our spectral range that we specialize with, with our InGaAs technology, basically covers .9 microns out to 1.7, beyond where visible, traditional, silicon CCD imagery falls off. We have many applications beyond that where our cameras and imaging technology can be a benefit in many different, diverse applications.

Probably the best place to begin, as you take a look at our exhibit, is the actual spectral region that our technology covers. Our standard response cameras cover from .9 out to about 1.7. Traditional silicon CCD imagers fall off in this area right here at the end of the visible range.

We can also offer a near-SWIR, going down to 700 microns, and we can take that below to about 400 nanometers in the visible range. Beyond that, with our two-dimensional products, we basically cut off at about 1.7. Beyond that, your midwave/longwave thermal technology would focus in that area.

In terms of our product offerings, we manufacture one-dimensional linear arrays, which are used by manufacturers of spectroscopy equipment. We also manufacture our two-dimensional focal point arrays, which we package into video-rate area cameras.

What we’re showing right here is a 320 x 240 pixel resolution, two-dimensional video rate area camera. We have it focused out on the crowd right now, people passing by, but our technology is more reflective as opposed to thermal. As a result, you can see that clothing, even dark clothing, appears light, and people with the darkest hair colors appear lighter.

Skin tones, on the other hand, that have higher moisture content, will appear darker. To give you an example, a normal bottle of water imaged with our camera would appear dark. It looks like a bottle of iced tea or a Coca-Cola.

This is our 640KTSX two-dimensional area camera. The reason why I’m focusing in on this right now is to make the point that, although we’re not a custom lens manufacturer, we are starting to offer more options now in terms of accessorizing the cameras. Normally, we’re supplying our area cameras with a standard photographic-grade 25-mm CCTV-type security lens, just plain, photographic glass.

Now with our higher sensitivity cameras, our higher gain cameras, we’re offering a choice of either the standard, photographic-grade lens or we’re offering the camera with a 50-mm f1.4 lens, which is optimized for the SWIR waveband, with a photon throughput that’s much better than the standard photographic-grade glass.

I’d like to move on now to some of the interesting applications that our technology is suited for. Here, we’re pointing out with machine vision applications, our cameras are very effective with inspection and sorting. In particular, in the agriculture arena, with plastics.

We’re also very effective with the semiconductor and wafer-inspection industry as well, being able to image right through silicon wafers. We’re involved with beam-profiling laser diagnostics, and we can image pot and glass applications where our cameras are able to image. Unlike midwave and longwave cameras, our cameras can image directly through glass, as you can see there.

In the agriculture arena, there’s a visible shot right here taken with a visible camera of a common apple, but actually when imaged with our SWIR-camera, bruises, because of the additional moisture that’s present below the skin level, can easily be imaged. In the consumer product arena, our technology can image through opaque plastic bottles and detect fill levels.

You can see a visible shot right there, and a shot of the same detergent bottle taken with a SWIR camera, and we can image right through that plastic. Aside from the commercial and industrial machine vision-related applications, one of the bigger portions of our business deals with the military, homeland security, and defense applications.

In particular, night vision, low-light-level imaging. Our cameras are very effective for laser designation and tracking, covert targeting, all kinds of port security surveillance. Another big area for us is the UAV market. We also have an acquisition that we made a few years ago in Oregon, in Hood River, Cloud Cap Technology, who specializes in gimbal systems and enclosures.

We’ve worked together very closely with them as well in offering a SWIR solution. Just to give you an example, our cameras are very, very effective in imaging through fog and haze. This particular shot right here was taken with, I believe, a 250-mm lens, with one of our 640 x 512 imagers.

We were about a mile-and-a-half away from this particular hotel structure in Florida. A fog rolled in, and this was the same picture taken side-by-side with a visible camera, so you can see how effective our InGaAs technology is at imaging through obscurance, such as fog and haze.

The industry right now that we’re very excited about, where our cameras are being deployed in huge quantities, is the solar inspection market. The really exciting thing about our technology, about our InGaAs product line, is we are very effective along every step of the solar manufacturing process.

We’re starting out right here at the raw material level, and that’s where it all begins, with a silicon brick. What you’re seeing right here is with our 640KTS area camera, and we have it hooked up to a monitor right here. I have a resolution target taped on the back of the silicon block actually illuminated with the lighting, but our camera’s imaging right through that block and focusing on the resolution target.

We’re serving a dual purpose right now in the solar industry. When companies start up, they become familiar with our technology and very excited about it, and they’ll start basically in their lab at the QC level to experiment with an area camera.

When they move on to full-scale production requirements, that’s where we are going to, being the supplier of the camera, we’re focusing on the major manufacturers of the actual inspection platforms that are selling to the solar manufacturers. What we’re showing here is that our camera is basically a component of the entire system.

The silicon block that we were imaging through, the end user, the equipment manufacturer, is going to put that camera in a system and they’re going to combine it with very sophisticated 3-D mapping software where they’re going to image that block, every side of that particular block, and they’re going to map out the entire geometry of that block in a three-dimensional manner.

The reason why that is important is because, if there are any defects or occlusions within that block, they’re going to know where to cut. They’re going to know where not to cut or they’re going to know when, or if, they should just discard the entire block and move on to the next one.

It’s one thing to waste the material, but if you’re cutting through a block that has a lot of defects, you’re going to be naturally consuming a lot of time and a lot of expense, but you’re going to be paying out a lot of money for replacing very expensive diamond saw blades, and companies want to cut their costs with waste as much as possible.

The only other area in the solar arena that I wanted to maybe touch upon was moving away from the block. We’re also very effective with the actual, individual cells, with the L-measurements. It’s a very good area for us, and we cover a tremendous amount of ground in the PV industry. I’d like to thank you very much for stopping by. We’re looking forward to working with you with any applications you might have in the shortwave infrared. Thank you.

Sensors Unlimited Inc., An RTX Company