How do you think the new GigE standards will influence the machine vision industry?
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By Keith Reid
"CCDs are devices that were designed and developed for imaging and they tend to give the highest quality images, but that's all they do so there is further integration work that has to happen involving additional chips," said Michael DeLuca, manager of product marketing, Image Sensor Solutions Group, Eastman Kodak Company (Rochester, N.Y.). "The advantage of CMOS is that you can roll all of those things onto one chip, and it tends to be a lower-powered platform. The challenge with CMOS is that the quality of the image you get does not tend to be as high as CCD. So what you eventually want is the integration and power advantages of CMOS with the image quality of CCD."
Kodak has leveraged its in-house manufacturing expertise in CCD fabrication to enhance the quality of its CMOS manufacturing, which it outsources. "We realize that to really be successful we need control of the manufacturing process for the CMOS devices," DeLuca said. "So we set up some alliances with manufacturers such as IBM, where we've licensed some core IP to them, and we've worked some of the licensing through Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., which is the largest CMOS image sensor manufacturer in the world. That gives us the ability to have that control over the manufacturing process and leverage our experience making high-performance CCDs into the manufacture of these CMOS devices."INTERFACES
On the data path interface side, analog and camera link formats are increasingly being supplanted by technologies that have roots in the consumer market, or at least in the mainstream IT markets. USB, FireWire and GigE Vision all leverage commonly available interfaces, and in applications where a processing board is not a requirement they provide cost effective solutions, though with various limitations. For example, off-the-shelf cabling might not work in demanding environments that require ruggedized cabling.
"Both FireWire and GigE are technologies driven by the consumer market, clearly," said Levis. "These are two examples of technologies where they made their way to industry and biomedical and bioscience applications, and in the case of GigE it is an evolving technology right now. So overall it is definitely attractive for the industry to use an interface like that and leverage on the volume of the consumer market to get a more cost-effective interface."VISUALIZATION
Once the realm of supercomputers and proprietary workstations, some of today's most sophisticated visualization platforms are being driven by technology that comes from console and computer gaming. A major advancement has been the IBM Cell processor, the result of a collaborative, $400 million effort between IBM (Armonk, N.Y.), Sony Group (Tokyo) and Toshiba Corporation (Tokyo) to develop a new processor for the next-generation Playsation 3 console with applicability in other imaging- and physics-intensive areas. Cell is capable of a peak performance in excess of 200 GFLOPS—which equates to 200 billion floating-point operations per second. At the heart of Cell, is a conventional IBM 64-bit Power Architecture™ core (called the power processor element or PPE) augmented with eight specialized synergistic processor unit co-processors based on single-instruction multiple-data, or (SIMD), architecture to provide enhanced parallel processing particularly with imaging and visualization tasks. It is expected to power over 9 million Playstation 3 gaming consoles by 2008 according to Kagan Research, LLC (Monterey, Calif.), as well as future Toshiba smart televisions. It currently powers a range of server solutions from Mercury Computer Systems, Inc. (Chelmsford, Mass.), and the volume figures from the consumer side have a direct impact on the high-end visualization systems. Similarly, Mercury offers solutions based on top-end Intel processors.