NSI3100 sensor chip
A glance at the NSI3100 sensor chip does not give an inkling of the groundbreaking features hidden in it. The specifications mention a 2048x8 pixel line sensor with 40,000 frames-per-second; but once more, Newsight Imaging has pushed the limits of the technology to deliver a truly exceptional solution for machine vision, barcode reading, Industry 4.0, Lidar and AFS systems for automotive applications.
The chip has three modes of operation: 1. Triangulation mode, in which the chip drives a laser source and captures the return signal, allowing it to measure one point at a time (for example, in the rotated head lidars use case), and also supports Newsight proprietary solutions. 2. TOF technology, enhanced-Time-Of-Flight eTOF™ mode, which can generate a full line of depth points in one shot. 3. Regular camera mode, which can also be used in applications that require extra sensitivity and a high frame rate.
For Triangulation, the chip has a "context switching between consecutive frames” capability, or simply put, the chip can work with eight different pre-set steps, in up to four pre-set configurations, and toggle between them in a preset order. Specifically, the chip can work in triangulation mode in one frame, and then shift to a high exposure time setting and take a monochrome image, etc., all without any stopping or reset between frames.
The Context Switching capability is also implemented in an exceptional feature: "Auto Exposure". This feature allows the user to define four different configurations with different exposure times; when the sensor reaches saturation, it can toggle to a shorter exposure time setting, and in this way, react to a combination of indoor and outdoor robots, or to changing lighting conditions in warehouses etc. Given the extensive weakening of the returning light with distance, extending the dynamic range with this feature can make 3D applications (e.g. Lidars) much more effective.
In triangulation mode, determining the peak of the returned signal is critical. The chip has therefore been equipped with an internal hardware mechanism to calculate the peak pixel, and the ability to use the four rows of small pixels with an ultra-high resolution algorithm to emulate an 8K pixel array. The ultra-high resolution algorithm running on the NSI3100 has also been found to be highly useful in reading barcodes; barcodes that could not be read using conventional sensors can now be read using the chip.
Newsight did not spare any efforts to make its eTOF™ even better on this chip. It is well documented that in the case of TOF technology, the laser pulses must be extremely short. This creates an issue for most TOF solutions as the returned signal is extremely weak, and may be heavily masked by ambient noise. Newsight solved both these hurdles. First, the chip allows accumulation of returned pulses in the same pixel and before analog-to-digital conversion, so that even if the returned pulses include only a few photons, the overall accumulation generates a measurable quantity. And speaking of Newsight products, its patented method for calculating the depth points increases accuracy significantly. What’s more, Newsight has developed and implemented proprietary technology in this chip to achieve 16-bit accuracy, in a patented mode.
In sum, Newsight has created a truly exceptional solution for machine vision depth imaging, which can be demonstrated using the Newsight Evaluation board, the NSI3100EVB, which is equipped with Laser drivers, lens, documentation and application so that the user can test and see the features in a setup that takes less than an hour to build.