PORTLAND, Ore.—The next most promising frontier in emerging ubiquitous MEMS applications, structured light illumination (SLI), is poised to revolutionize metrology applications by removing the need for touch with MEMS that both micro-miniaturizatize and increase the precision of conventional solutions.
Being pioneered by Texas Instruments with its million-mirror digital light processors (DLPs), SLI works by projecting moving stripes of light onto objects, then measures the deformity of the reflected patterns using algorithms to reconstruct their 3-D shapes. So far TI's biggest customers are OEMs manufacturing touch-free fingerprint scanners which can identify people without requiring the traditional ink-blotter protocol. Besides revolutionizing biometric-, facial-, dental- and medical-scanning, SLI is also opening whole new frontiers in DLP applications—from industrial inspection systems to scientific instrumentation of all kinds.
TI was already supplying OEM development kits that bundled its DLPs with algorithm libraries capable of recognizing three-dimensional shapes, surfaces, contours, roughness and discontinuities, enabling fast, accurate, non-contact 3-D scanning and recognition systems that operated with light sources anywhere from ultra-violet to near-infrared. But at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), TI will be showing its new DLP LightCrafter development platform uses almost a half-million micro-mirrors to simultaneously illuminate almost anything with structured light, allowing almost instant characterization and recognition of 3-D objects without touching them.
"DLP technology allows FlashScan3D to capture greater detail in fingerprints with higher accuracy than with other SLI solutions, thus cutting down on the possibilities of technician error and fraud," said TI customer Mike Troy, CEO of FlashScan3D. "And the new DLP LightCrafter development module can scan faster, store data internally versus on a laptop or separate storage device and, because of its size, enables even smaller, more portable SLI applications."
TI's DLP LightCrafter is a plug-and-play module manufactured for it by YoungOptics Inc. (Taiwan), the same company that manufactures its DLP Optical Engine for OEMs building projection televisions. Using TI's DLP 0.3 WVGA chipset, the LightCrafter is ready-to-use by OEMs for research and development, but can also serve as the main subsystems in finished end-user products too.
Combined with the DLP chip that has 415,872 micro-mirrors is a second custom controller application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) as well as a DaVinci digital video processor (DVP) with its own 128MB of NAND flash memory for pattern storage, and a configurable I/O trigger for integrating cameras, sensors and the other peripherals needed for SLI. An optional FGPA can also be added to accelerate displayed SLI patters to as fast as 4,000 per second. Finally, an integrated light-emitttng diode array for red, green and blue completes the LightCrafter by enabling it to output up to 20 lumens of light. OEMs use embedded Linux to develop their software for the DaVinci DVP in the LightCrafter, which will cost $600 when it is made available after SPIE Photonics West, set for Jan. 34-26, 2012, in San Francisco.