Next generation CMOS Time-of-Flight sensor reaches 30m

Next generation CMOS Time-of-Flight sensor reaches 30m

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Toppan in Japan has developed a hybrid CMOS Time-of-Flight (ToF) 3D sensor capable of measuring distances from one to 30 meters.

Toppan subsidiary Brookman Technology is a spinout from Shizuoka University developing CMOS image sensors. It has developed techniques that enable a sensor is capable of measurement over a range more than five times greater than conventional indirect ToF devices.

The hybrid ToF sensor also has a unique ambient light cancelling function, making it the world’s first CMOS image sensor capable of measuring distances up to 20 meters under conditions with an illuminance of 100,000 lux, equivalent to mid-summer daytime brightness.

This can be used by autonomous drones and robot carriers to avoid obstacles. These need  environment mapping to detect obstacles tens of meters in front and ascertain their own position from video images. However, more widespread use of 3D sensors employing the conventional indirect ToF method has been limited due to insufficient ambient light tolerance when used outdoors.

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Toppan developed the new sensor using Brookman’s short-pulse modulation sensing technique rather than continuous wave modulation. This enables long-distance measurement with ambient light tolerance, high-speed imaging, and simultaneous use of multiple cameras.

Distances can be measured without blurring, which can cause errors, because measurement and elimination of ambient light noise are performed in a single frame. This makes it possible to take a maximum of 120 range images per second, approximately four times the capability of existing models.

A unique control technique makes it possible to cancel out signals emitted from other cameras by treating them as ambient light. This means that up to 256 cameras can be operated at the same time without interference between cameras.

“Together with Brookman Technology, we hope these new sensors contribute to greater safety and convenience by functioning as ‘3D sensing eyes’ that expand the possibilities for autonomous robots and industrial devices,” said Tatsuo Noguchi, head of Toppan’s ToF Business Development Center. “Toppan will drive further development of cameras with range sensors employing the new ToF technology, with a plan to make models available for testing from December this year and launch sales in the fall of 2023.”

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