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Emberion showcases high-speed, compact SWIR imaging solutions at Photonics West 2024

Emberion's VS20 vis-SWIR camera was being showcased with a frame rate of 400 fps for the first time at Photonics West 2024

Emberion's VS20 vis-SWIR camera was being showcased with a frame rate of 400 fps for the first time at Photonics West 2024

Photonics West saw Emberion showcase three new innovations on its booth in San Francisco this year.

First up was the firm’s newly-upgraded VS20 vis-SWIR (400-2,000nm) camera series, which is now able to capture frame rates of up to 400 fps at VGA resolution using a GigE interface.

“While 400 fps is easy to achieve in the visible wavelength using standard CMOS cameras, there are hardly any solutions on the market right now offering this full frame high speed capability in the SWIR – typically many only go up to 250-300 fps,” Jyri Hämäläinen, Co-Founder of Emberion, told Imaging and Machine Vision Europe during a visit to the firm’s booth. “In fact, just a few years ago, we had a customer questioning whether quantum-dot-based SWIR sensors (the technology we use) could even reach 400 fps, which we are glad to show can now be achieved.”

The VS20 offers high responsivity, high dynamic range and very low noise, with TEC cooling integrated in the custom sensor package for stable operation. Available in a 160 x 102 x 112mm form factor weighing 1.5kg, it was originally launched at VISION 2021 equipped with a Camera Link interface and 100 fps capability. The GigE version was subsequently unveiled in early 2023, with the 400 fps functionality having recently been added in Autumn 2023 – exhibited for the first time at Photonics West this year.

High frame rate for high-speed production lines

The impressive, newly added 400 fps functionality will be of particular interest to customers looking to conduct SWIR-based inspection and sorting applications on conveyor belts moving at around 3 to 4.5m/s, according to Hämäläinen.

“Customers are used to these conveyor speeds, and so lower framerate SWIR cameras would require them to slow down their conveyors – which they aren’t willing to do,” he said. “With 400 fps, they can establish, for example, plastic/textile sorting lines operating at full speed.”

The below video demonstrates the numerous capabilities of SWIR imaging, for example: moisture detection, crack detection on solar cells, seeing through plastic, silicon, smoke and fog, as well as spotting camouflaged material (e.g. military uniforms) through thick vegetation.

The ability to see through obscuring weather conditions could be of particular interest to autonomous vehicles, where lidar and visible cameras have been shown to struggle seeing through dense fog and snow. “So this will certainly be a topic of discussion for the automotive industry, whether SWIR imaging is being considered to further optimise autonomous vehicle guidance,” said Hämäläinen. “It’s too early to say if it will be adopted here or not, however.”

Same functionality, smaller form factor

In addition to showcasing the new 400 fps SWIR imaging capabilities of the VS20, Emberion also debuted a Compact version of the camera boasting a 98 x 50 x 50mm form factor and a GigE interface, which by Spring will also be available with frame rates up to 400 fps at VGA resolution.

“We’ve already got several evaluation customers lined up for this new system,” said Hämäläinen. “It uses the same sensor and firmware, just in a more condensed format than the larger version – it’s the next evolution of the Emberion VS20.”

The total weight of the Compact version is just 450g, making it over a kilogram lighter than the original, larger VS20. 

The compact VS20 and VS20 Camera Core

Shown here is Emberion's new VS20 Compact, delivering 400 fps VGA SWIR imaging in a smaller form factor, together with the new VS20 Camera Core, which due to its exceptionally light weight offers integrators even more freedom when adopting high-speed SWIR imaging

However, for those looking to integrate the Emberion’s advanced SWIR capabilities in an even lighter format, the firm also now offers the hardware of the Compact camera without the housing: the VS20 Camera Core. 

“The total weight of this electronics-only Camera Core is just 102g, making it perfect for integrators looking to adopt high-speed SWIR imaging in their own system using different housing,” said Hämäläinen. “We are really proud of this as there’s been a lot of demand for the core camera hardware.”

Applications of the lighter, Compact version of the VS20, as well as the Camera Core, include drone-mounted inspection and surveillance. For example, in agriculture, fields could be scanned to determine the moisture levels of crops, ensuring they have been adequately watered. The VS20 is particularly well-suited to this application as the wavelength peak of water absorption occurs at around 1,920nm, well within the camera's SWIR imaging capbilities.

Looking to the future: Megapixel SWIR imaging

Before departing the booth Hämäläinen shared with us two key developments Emberion already has in its pipeline for the first half of next year: a megapixel SWIR camera (1,280 x 1,024 pixels), as well as a monochromatic sensor for integration into pushbroom hyperspectral imaging applications.

“For the megapixel camera, we’re planning on introducing a new measurement principle that will enable switching between HDR and linear imaging capabilities,” he explained. “Meanwhile, the push broom optimised sensor, which is being built according to specifications we’re currently seeing demand for in hyperspectral imaging, would be intended for integration with any pushbroom hardware into conveyor-based plastic, food and textile sorting lines, as well as in drone-based applications."

While these next innovations will not quite be ready for next year's Photonics West, according to Hämäläinen, he assures they will be delivered within the first half of 2025.

Emberion's booth at Photonics West 2024

Emberion showcased three new innovations at its Photonics West booth this year: The VS20 and VS20 Compact, both with 400 fps SWIR imaging functionality, as well as the VS20 camera core

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