Miniaturized piezoelectric motion modules move hundreds of lenses with micrometer precision, contributing to unprecedented image detail in the wide-field-of-view camera developed at Duke University
Victor, NY – November 7, 2012 – New Scale Technologies’ M3 focus modules have been designed into the next-generation AWARE cameras, the ground-breaking gigapixel cameras developed at Duke University and featured in the journal Nature earlier this year. New Scale’s tiny piezoelectric motion modules further improve the image quality by providing automated micrometer-scale lens adjustments in each of the hundreds of sub-cameras that make up an AWARE camera system.
In an AWARE camera, hundreds of 14-megapixel microcameras are grouped around a spherical lens with 30 mm semi-diameter. The image from this objective lens is refracted outward to the microcameras, and each microcamera captures a specific area of the field of view. Images from the individual microcameras are rapidly stitched together using image processing to create a single image with wide field of view and unprecedented detail across the entire image. View images from an AWARE camera at http://mosaic.disp.duke.edu:90/aware
Independent focus adjustment of a smaller lens on each microcamera allows every area in the field of view to be brought into sharp focus simultaneously. This requires extremely small lens motion systems that fit into the densely-packed spherical array of microcameras. New Scale delivered a customized version of its M3 micro-mechatronics module to meet the requirement.
The custom module has a cross section less than 6 X 10 mm, a stroke of 2.5 mm and resolution of 0.5 micrometers. It moves a lens weighing several grams. This complete motion system integrates New Scale’s patented SQUIGGLE piezoelectric motor, ASIC motor driver, magnetic position sensor and microprocessor with closed-loop motion firmware.
“The spherical arrangement and close spacing of the image sensors, optics, electronics and focus module in the AWARE camera is quite an engineering feat,” said Justin Vacca, program manager at New Scale. “Our challenge was to make a longer and thinner version of our M3 motion module to fit in the AWARE camera system. With our M3 micro-mechatronics module platform and our motion systems expertise, we quickly delivered a custom solution to meet the difficult requirements.”
Details of the AWARE camera were published online in Nature in June (see http://www.nature.com/news/gigapixel-camera-catches-the-smallest-details-1.10853). In September the researchers formed a spin-off company named Aqueti to commercialize the technology, which they see as potentially attractive for use in security, events or online publishing applications.
The team’s research was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and is a collaboration of Duke University, the University of Arizona, the University of California San Diego, Aptina, Raytheon, RPC Photonics, and Distant Focus Corporation.