Small and Inexpensive 3D Image
Image sensors are becoming
one of the key components for use in various application areas including
such sectors as automation, gaming, automobiles, medical, and many others.
Due to intense development of each of the above mentioned sectors, there
is an ongoing need for more advanced solutions such as three-dimensional
(3D) cameras that would enable on one hand more functionalities, and on
the other--will be smaller and cheap.
PMDTechnologies GmbH (PMDtec), a fab-less integrated circuit (IC)
manufacturer located in Siegen (Germany), is working on the 3D CMOS-based
digital imaging. The company provides solutions for 3D imaging developed
based on the photonic mixer device (PMD) technology.
The technology is based on the time-of-flight approach. The A light source
transmits the a signal, which is intensity modulated. The PMD sensor
detects the light that is reflected from the scene. Based on the reflected
signal the distance in each pixel can be calculated determined due to the
time-of-flight in the light that is usedof the transmitted light signal.
To their customers the company provides PMD chips together with or without
(as the customers wish) the needed electronics on a printed circuit board
(PCB) board. The company is involved in the chip design of the chipsand
offers also engineering support in all aspects of the product development
of a PMD-based solution. The fabrication of the chips is done externally
at the company partners, andfollowed by than the quality insurance, that
is done again at PMDTecchnologies GmbH itself. So the company delivers
tested and qualified imagers to its customers in high numbers.
The biggest advantage of the technology is the possibility to build 3D
cameras, which are very small and very cheap. "3D image sensing is nothing
completely new," comments Thorsten Ringbeck, director business development
of PMDTechnologies GmbH. "Before we started to establish our technology,
there were also other approaches to do 3D imaging, like for example the
stereo-vision systems. The main advantage of using PMD technology is that
you do not need two cameras but only one camera. So the technology that
you need for the 3D information detection is integrated within the image
sensor itself." When using the PMD technology, the 3D information is
provided in real time, and is stable and very robust against external
Moreover, due to additional features incorporated in the solution, such as
a suppression of background illumination (SBI), the sensor is stable for
thein case of varying background illumination for example. As the solution
is developed based on one providing the 3D information directly, it is
also more efficient from the calculation side or the computing power that
is needed. And this is an important advantage in consuming, automotive or
The solution could be beneficial for 3D information detection in multiple
application areas, including automation, automotive, medical, security,
gaming, and many others.
According to Ringbeck, future developments will include integration of
more functionalities on the image sensor itself. "We are working on
0.18-micrometer CMOS technology integration, so what we will have is a
camera on a chip where everything will be done on a chip (that is, raw
data calculation, application calculation, and so on) and you just apply
this to you system and give power supply, and what comes out of the chip
is directly distance information or even the application (the decision -
for example, if there is a pedestrian in front of the car: yes or no),"
The company has been founded in 2002 as the spin-off from the Center for
Sensor Systems (ZESS) at the University of Siegen, Germany. The basic PMD
technology has been initially developed at the University of Siegen,
however further improvements as well as the industrialization have been
done by the company itself. Currently, PMDTechnologies GmbH owns all the
patents (about 35 to 40 patents worldwide) concerning PMD-based
applications, the PMD principle and the its realization of the principle.
The company is open for collaboration and looks for new application areas,
but itby focuses focusing mainly on key players in each application
sector. "Because we do not have the know-how to design a specific product
for a specific market, but we have the know-how to develop the 3D camera
for it. So we need aare searching partner that haspartners that have the
market access and the experience to make the product more successful,"
Director Business Development at PMDTechnologies GmbH
Am Eichenhang 50
Phone: + 49-271-238-538-801
Fax: + 49-271-238-538-809
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