Lenses on even the most sophisticated cameras can get dirty, interfering with their function and requiring sometimes expensive methods of cleaning. But now TI has come up with intriguing technology that enables cameras and sensors to clean themselves.
Dallas-based global semiconductor company Texas Instruments announced Tuesday that it has introduced the first purpose-built semiconductors with ultrasonic lens cleaning (ULC) technology that enables camera systems to quickly detect and remove dirt, ice, and water using microscopic vibrations.
Applications include automotive cameras, traffic cameras, and more
“ULC can make widespread use of self-cleaning cameras and sensors a reality. Existing cleaning approaches are expensive and impractical, requiring complicated mechanics, costly electronics and significant processing to detect contaminants and execute cleaning,” Avi Yashar, product marketing engineer at TI, said in a statement. “With the recent proliferation of cameras in a variety of applications, from automotive and traffic cameras to smart cities and manufacturing, there’s a strong need for a simple, cost-effective way to enable self-cleaning cameras.”
Removing contaminants from lenses usually requires manual cleaning, causing system downtime, or the use of various mechanical parts that could malfunction, TI said.
What’s needed is a spot-on solution to keep the cameras operational and producing a clear image.
‘Microscopic vibrations’ do the cleaning
The company said its new ULC chipset, including the ULC1001 digital signal processor and companion DRV2901 piezo transducer driver, features a proprietary technology that allows cameras to rapidly self-clear contaminants using precisely controlled vibrations. Quickly ridding the lens of debris improves system accuracy and reduces maintenance requirements.
TI said the chipset offers designers a compact and affordable way to use ULC tech in a wide range of applications and camera sizes.
The ULC1001 controller includes proprietary algorithms for automatic sensing, cleaning, and temperature and fault detection without any image processing, TI said, making it highly adaptable to various camera lens designs. The chipset’s small form factor makes it possible to improve machine vision and sensing in a variety of applications—any place that a camera or sensor could get dirty.
Applications in autonomous vehicles
“As advanced driver assistance systems [ADAS] become more sophisticated and drivers rely on them more extensively, it will become more important than ever that the sensor suite is fully operational at all times,” Edward Sanchez, senior analyst, global automotive practice, TechInsights, said in a statement. “Dirt or foreign material on a camera lens, which would be just a nuisance in the case of a rearview camera, becomes a vital functional and safety issue on a vehicle that relies on accurate and precise imaging and sensor data. TI’s ULC approach addresses what will soon be a significant issue in the ADAS and autonomous vehicle market both practically and cost-effectively.”
TI’s chipset enables ULC in a compact footprint with a printed circuit board size less than 25 mm by 15 mm, reducing the bill of materials while providing more functionality than a discrete implementation, the company said.
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