We present an innovative disposable endoscope based on extra flat flexible polymer slabs used as multimode
waveguides. The waveguides are compatible with low-cost roll-to-roll production technologies and can be easily
customized by patterning, coating and printing techniques according to the specifications of the target application. In
order to couple the light (i.e. the illumination beam and the imaging beam) in and out of the waveguide, diffractive
subwavelength gratings are used. These nano-scale optical structures enable an efficient and controlled light trapping by
total internal reflection, thus minimizing the distortion effects generated by the rough edges. Nano-patterning is obtained
using established techniques (i.e. hot embossing and/or UV casting) that are compatible with industrial roll-to-roll
production lines or plastic injection molding.
Unique features of these innovative endoscopes are i) the achievable very thin form that can be reduced to thicknesses
below 200 μm, ii) the ability to record lateral images with respect to the endoscope direction, iii) the ability to image
samples (e.g. tissues, tiny objects) in direct contact with the polymer slab, with a minimum imaging distance equal to
zero, and iv) the access to high volume fabrication techniques that can enable the production of low-cost disposable
A possible device implementation is demonstrated and tested, which consists of a flat line-scanning endoscope enabling
the acquisition of 1D images in monochromatic illumination and the reconstruction of 2D images by scanning. Images
taken with such a disposable endoscope are discussed and the related technological constraints such as manufacturing
tolerances, image distortion, scattered light and signal to noise ratio are further described. Finally, advantages and
disadvantages with respect to other endoscopic techniques will be discussed, thus demonstrating the potential of this
innovative approach for endoscopic applications in very confined volumes.
G. Basset, D. Marinov, C. Hofer, S. Cattaneo, P. Volet, B. Gallinet, M. Schnieper, and R. Ferrini, "Extra flat, flexible and disposable endoscope for lateral imaging," Proc. SPIE 9691, Endoscopic Microscopy XI; and Optical Techniques in Pulmonary Medicine III, 96910H (Presented at SPIE BiOS: February 15, 2016; Published: 8 March 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2209627.
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