June 16, 2022

Toppan ToF prototype400x275Toppan, which develops communication, security and electronics solutions, has announced a partnership with Brookman Technology to employ a hybrid time-of-flight (ToF) method to develop a three-dimensional range image sensor that can measure distances from one to 30 meters.

The new sensor can measure over a range that is five times greater than possible with 3D sensors employing a conventional indirect ToF method, Toppan said. The new development will contribute to enhancing operability and safety for autonomous drones and robot carriers that are equipped with sensors to allow them to avoid obstacles. The hybrid ToF sensor also includes a unique ambient light canceling function, which makes it the world’s first CMOS image sensor that can measure distances up to 20 meters under conditions with an illuminance of 100,000 lux (equivalent to mid-summer daytime brightness), the companies said.

Both groups presented details of the new ToF sensor technology at the 2022 IEEE Symposium on VLSI Technology & Circuits on June 15. They added the 3D sensor market is expected to expand as smartphones and game consoles become more sophisticated, and the use of autonomous robots in industry grows. ToF sensors for smartphones and other devices are increasing due to their compact form factor and low power consumption.

Autonomous robots and drones need to have an environment mapping function that lets them detect obstacles tens of meters in front of them, and ascertain their own position from video images. But more widespread use of 3D sensors that employ the conventional indirect ToF method has been limited, due to insufficient ambient light tolerance when used outdoors.

Toppan distance measure

With Brookman Technology on board as a subsidiary of Toppan, the company said it can leverage the strengths of both companies to drive development of the new 3D sensor. The hybrid ToF sensor is based on refining Brookman’s unique “short-pulse modulation” method, enabling long-distance measurement, better ambient light tolerance, high-speed imaging, and simultaneous use of multiple 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.”

For more details on Toppan, visit its website here.