If you remember from last month, we talked about how optoelectronics have driven Lidar technologies. This bird’s eye view looked specifically at the role optoelectronics played in Lidar’s advancement over the years. This time, we’re getting more specific and talking about everyday Lidar applications that use precision photonics to make life more convenient and systems more efficient.
Making Life More Convenient With Everyday Lidar Applications
When you think about the connected world we live in today, the growing demand for Lidar makes perfect sense. And while 3D representations of the environment have implications for moving humanity forward in big ways (such as city planning), everyday uses are equally important.
Even for these relatively mainstream applications, precision optics are critical and exact specifications early in the manufacturing process are necessary. At Photo Solutions, we have over three decades of experience supplying custom photonics for these everyday Lidar applications.
Not too long ago, smart vacuums seemed to be straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. Now, it’s not uncommon to find them docked in the corner of a home, waiting for their scheduled moment to clean. In that time, Lidar sensors have become the ‘gold standard’ for their navigation, accuracy, and overall functionality. In much the same way warehouse robots navigate complicated environments and map the most efficient paths, these household robots use Lidar to make life more convenient.
Although not in anyone’s household, if you manufacture delivery bots you know that Lidar equips these robots with the ability to navigate obstacles, successfully chart paths, and autonomously perform their jobs. For this autonomy, precision photonics are critical.
Smartphones and Tablets
Of all the most common Lidar applications, smartphones and tablets have (currently) the most far-reaching impact. If you manufacture these electronic devices, you know Lidar’s more recent use for computational photography to improve photo modes with built-in cameras and integrate with AR apps. Just as photonics play a large role in advancing smartphones and tablets with sensing and security applications, so do they with Lidar and its many uses.
This everyday Lidar use is also one of the fastest growing for our clients. With advanced environment mapping, quicker processing, and 360-degree capabilities, Lidar can change how we drive. These vision-based systems (as with the above) rely on precision photonics manufactured to the smallest detail.
The Types of Lidar Tech Impact Your Photonics
Given our longstanding history with Lidar clients, we understand the nuance of Lidar applications. With this understanding, we can better help clients choose the right optoelectronic component for their specific needs (and end goals). For example, we deal with the following:
Solid-State Lidar: Without moving parts, solid-state Lidar systems have more resilient constructions that allow them to be smaller and more cost-efficient. Applications for this type of Lidar include bin picking, pallet loading, and other warehouse tasks.
Sensorized Lidar: Compact and lightweight, these laser scanners are typically used for simple area monitoring tasks such as those in a warehouse. Although considered entry-level tech, sensorized Lidar can also be used in certain autonomous vehicle applications.
Multi-Layer Lidar: Mutil-layer often goes by 3D or multi-channel Lidar. With more detection planes, this type is frequently used for more complicated operations, such as complex warehouse operations or packaging environments.
Photonic Products In Lidar Applications
Depending on the type of Lidar you need and the application, your photonic needs will vary. That said, encoder discs and their different iterations are still the main optical components used in Lidar applications.
For typical applications, we suggest incremental rotary encoders that provide angular precision to digital output in Lidar sensors. In general, optics in these systems face challenges such as extreme weather, temperature changes, and debris. When working with clients, we take these factors into account and suggest the optical solution that makes sense for the application and specifications.
We offer the following encoders:
Glass encoder discs: Chrome on glass encoder discs offer extreme flatness and precision with client-specified photo patterns etched from CAD data. Available from 5mm to 300mm with thicknesses from .010” to .120.”
Transmissive mode glass discs: These are standardized in soda-lime glass with low reflective chrome (LRC) at 2.8 optical dentistry, but we can manufacture up to 5.0+ when needed. We can also create these discs on ultra-flat quartz or borosilicate glass.
Reflective mode glass discs: We configure this material in configurations with high reflective/transparent patterns or high reflective patterns with ultra-low reflective chrome on the backside. We can add high reflective chrome (HRC) coating with over 60 percent reflectivity if specified.
Mylar encoder discs: We print these discs on photographic PET film with a .18mm thick base and use vision recognition die punch equipment to cut the ID/OD to within .025mm of the pattern.
Reflective Mylar encoder discs: Our PET composite discs are also available with pressure-sensitive adhesive or protective liners for easy installation. To increase thickness and stiffness, we can also bond to acrylic substrates.
Reflective aluminum encoder discs: Our aluminum discs withstand the most extreme temperature changes and environmental conditions. We manufacture these discs up to 250mm.
Use Cases From Our Clients
We’re lucky to work with some of the most innovative clients in the business using Lidar technology to make lives more convenient and, even, save them.
Our long standing client, Velodyne Lidar, is one of the best examples of elevating everyday Lidar applications. Their “robots on the move” show the power of Lidar technology when applied to autonomous robots (ARs) like delivery bots. With precision photonics, their ARs can handle a broad range of complex tasks with a sophisticated field of view, variable range, and ability to handle changing environments.
With its remote sensing capabilities, Lidar is critically important for aerospace and military applications. Photo Solutions client Rockwell Collins is redefining aerospace with a particular focus on safer aircraft, advanced sensor systems, and deep space exploration. For the company’s Lidar applications, they require unmatched precision in photonic components.
Nike is known for its forward-thinking products and innovative customer service. The company’s Nike Fit app is a great example of Lidar making virtual reality more accurate and accessible. The app allows customers to scan their feet for more accurate sizing predictions and a better overall user experience (especially if shopping online).
When we refer to clients using life-saving technologies, Initiative Surgical is one of our prime examples. Their robotic surgery tools use data-driven surgical automation via complex to make surgeries more precise, consistent, and accurate. In order to optimize the Lidar sensor systems, custom optoelectronics are critically necessary.
Precision Photonics From Photo Solutions
Lidar applications are part of our everyday life. With the growing demand, the technology offers countless opportunities for clients to help customers across industries with innovative products and solutions. Photo Solutions has over 30 years supplying custom-manufactured photonic components for Lidar solutions that are changing the world. If you have a project, we’d love to talk.