The restricted field of view of traditional camera technology is increasingly limiting in many relevant applications such
as security, surveillance, automotive, robotics, autonomous navigation or domotics. Omnidirectional cameras with their
horizontal field of view of 360° would be ideal devices for these applications if they were small, cost-effective, robust
and lightweight. Conventional catadioptric system designs require mirror diameters and optical path lengths of several
centimeters, often leading to solutions that are too large and too heavy to be practical. We are presenting a novel optical
design for an ultra-miniature camera that is so small and lightweight that it can be used as a key navigation aid for an
autonomous flying micro-robot. The catadioptrical system consists of two components with a field-stop in-between: the
first subsystem consists of a reflecting mirror and two refracting lens surfaces, and the second subsystem contains the
imaging lens with two refractive surfaces. The field of view is 10°(upward) and 35°(downward). A field stop diameter of
1 mm and a back focal length of 2.3 mm have been achieved. For
low-cost mass fabrication, the lens designs are
optimised for production by injection moulding. Measurements of the first omnidirectional lens prototypes with a high-resolution
imager show a performance close to the simulated values concerning spot size and image formation. The total
weight of the optics is only 2 g including all mechanical mounts. The system's outer dimensions are 14.4 mm in height,
with a 11.4 mm × 11.4 mm foot print, including the image sensor and its casing.
Optical time-of-flight (TOF) distance measurements can be performed using so-called smart lock-in pixels. By sampling the optical signal 2, 4 or n times in each pixel synchronously with the modulation frequency, the phase between the emitted and reflected signal is extracted and the object's distance is determined. The high
integration-level of such lock-in pixels enables the real-time acquisition of the three-dimensional environment without using any moving mechanical components. A novel design of the 2-tap lock-in pixel in a 0.6 μm semiconductor technology is presented. The pixel was implemented on a sensor with QCIF resolution. The optimized
pixel design allows for high-speed operation of the device, resulting in a nearly-optimum demodulation performance and precise distance measurements which are almost exclusively limited by photon shot noise. In-pixel background-light suppression allows the sensor to be operated in an outdoor environment with sunlight incidence. The highly complex pixel functionality of the sensor was successfully demonstrated on the new SwissRanger SR3000 3D-TOF camera design. Distance resolutions in the millimeter range have been achieved
while the camera is operating with frame rates of more than 20Hz.
VCSELs (Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Lasers) emit circularly symmetric beams vertical to the substrate; the small footprint of the active area (around 400 um2) enables the simultaneous fabrication of several thousand devices on a single wafer. Micro-optical components can modify the free-space optical properties of VCSELs for applications such as fiber-coupling in transceiver modules, illumination purposes, or beam profiling in sensing applications. However, the alignment of a laser towards a lens, for example, is expensive when performed separately for each device. Here we demonstrate a wafer-scale replication process to realise microlenses directly on top of the undiced VCSEL wafers. The process combines uv-casting and lithography to achieve material-free bonding pads and dicing lines. Several examples of lenses and gratings are given. An organically modified sol-gel material (ORMOCER) has been used as lens material. The micro-optical components on the wafer show good stability while sawing and bonding, where temperatures up to 220°C may occur. We have compared refractive lenses on top of the VCSELs with lenses on glass substrates. The lenses on the glass wafers were illuminated from the back-side by a planar wave. Spot diameters around 1.2 um and focal lengths of 30 um to 100 um were measured depending on the radii of curvature. On the VCSELs the lenses showed a strong influence on the transversal mode behaviour.
Optical microsystems, which can be fabricated using replication technology and assembled using optical surface mounting techniques, can offer compact, cost-effective solutions for applications in optical communication, metrology, sensors, illumination and displays. Especially adapted to the needs of mid-size volume production of a few hundred to thousands modules is wafer-scale replication.
The fabrication of single micro lenses or lenslet arrays on wafer substrates and the wafer-scale replication of such lens arrays for optical microsystems in sol-gel materials is under development as a cost-effective alternative to lens fabrication in glass. For an optical microsystem with a compact module for laser beam forming, wafer-scale, singlesided and double-sided replication has been developed to fabricate refractive or diffractive optical elements onto glass substrates. Combined opto-mechanical modules have been UV-cast-replicated from a sol-gel master in a single step. In addition, step & repeat replication can be employed for the fabrication of large arrays of custom specific lenses. Replication accuracy of better than a wavelength has already been achieved for refractive lenses with 50 μm SAG. Finally, diced optical components from the replicated wafers will be used for the manufacturing of micro-optic systems. A six-axis robot motion, automated optical alignment and laser-reflow soldering method is used to assemble the photonics modules. This method, called TRIMO-SMD (three-dimensional miniaturized optical surface-mounted device), is currently being made commercially available by Leica Geosystems AG.