In addition to imaging in X and Y directions, 3D image sensors also acquire the Z-direction information, enabling 3D sensing. 3D sensing opens up the possibility of discerning things that are difficult with conventional 2D images, as in inspection based on volume or shape, or discerning overlapped objects. It is also a promising technology for applications utilizing relative distance information in real time, such as automated control or collision avoidance system.
ToF sensors measure the distance by using the time difference until the reflected light is detected by the sensor. The light is typically generated by a laser or a LED. There are two main types of ToF. Direct ToF (dToF) involves a simple, direct measurement of the time until reflection is detected. Indirect ToF (iToF) measures distance by collecting reflected light and discerning the phase shift between emitted and reflected light.
The iToF products such as IMX556/IMX570 are especially effective in high-speed, high-resolution 3D imaging of objects at short and long distances.
ToF image sensors detect distance information of each pixel, creating highly accurate depth map. Sony's ToF sensor is combined with a pixel technology which highly accurately detects reflected light and the back-illuminated CMOS image sensor technology with high sensitivity and low-noise performance. The back-illuminated CMOS image sensor technology, is also designed for faster processing from advances such as multilayer wiring. Greater efficiency of collecting reflected light and faster processing speed lead higher accuracy of distance measurement.
Automation and labor-saving innovations are becoming key factors for applications using industrial machineries.
ToF sensors, acquiring accurate depth map is one of these key factors. It meets growing needs in recognition, measurement, automation, and other areas such as in production lines, logistics and smart technology in agriculture and livestock.
ToF sensors contribute to the automation of various equipments in situations where 3D sensors are more appropriate. Examples include optimizing material handling lines by measuring positions, sizes, and loading rate of pallets or cargos, and for autonomous mobile systems such as AGVs, AMRs, and last-mile robots, by supporting collision detection and recognition of external environment.
ToF sensors are applied for various kinds of applications, such as intrusion detection into hazardous area, object location detection for robot picking, and operation monitoring for worker surveillance and shortage management.
Compared to 2D sensors, ToF sensors achieve more accurate multiple person recognition even when they occlude each other. Easy and Accurate measurement of crowd levels at stores, airports, theme parks, and other public locations becomes available. ToF sensors also enable more sophisticated access control for automatic doors or other access management system, including higher level decision whether to open or close.
ToF sensors are used in quality control and productivity improvement for farming. Applications include automated milking, body condition scoring, feed amount detecting, and other shape related applications. With three-dimensional data, they can also support automatic fruit picking by acquiring targets' positions and farming equipment control by providing the shap information of the fields.
ToF sensors are introducing smart technologies into heavy machinery. By detecting environmental features and objects, ToF sensors can provide driver assistance, vehicle automation.
They are also expected for site visualization and documentation, which includes monitoring the progress of construction and the status of existing infrastructure.
Back-illuminated Time of Flight (ToF) 3D image sensors
The compact and innovative sensors acquiring accurate depth maps, are used in a diverse range of fields and applications.
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