Over the last several decades, the development of technology for camera and projection modules has changed considerably. The modernization of optical alignment and advanced manufacturing automation systems has also transformed due to consumer demands for more immersive experiences on their devices. Let’s take a dive into the evolution of optoelectronics and explore why it’s vital for these devices and future technologies to be aligned and assembled with high precision.
The Action Camera Becomes Mainstream
In the early 2000’s, action cameras entered the mainstream market with companies like GoPro introducing miniaturized cameras that were easy-to-use, incredibly rugged, and captured remarkable visuals. Now, the company has morphed into an international enterprise that has sold over 26 million GoPro cameras in more than 100 countries. As we see newer models and brands enter the market that can do more with less bulk and better price points, there continues to be massive interest in and demand for manufacturers to continue designing these devices with increasing optimal clarity.
AR/VR Capabilities Enable Advancements in the Real World
As technology continues to advance, being able to simply see a powerful moment is no longer enough. People want to experience powerful moments and become part of them. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) use technology and digital elements to create immersive experiences used in nearly every industrial sector including entertainment and gaming, search and rescue, education and architecture, construction and design, and much more.
One of the interesting things many people don’t realize is that this technology has actually been around for quite some time. For example, one of the first AR systems was developed nearly 30 years ago whereas the first recorded VR machine patent goes back even further to 1960. Today, these optical innovations continue to grow and we are seeing a redefinition in the way people work, play, and connect- with companies like Facebook and Google even jumping on board with new device introductions.
Advances in Imaging Technology
If one industry stands above the rest to demonstrate the importance of imaging technology, it’s the medical field. Market analysis reports suggest that the demand for technologically sophisticated medical cameras has progressively grown since 2014 with the increasing need to capture high-resolution digital images with clarity and precision. Imaging applications are utilized in fields ranging from dentistry to ophthalmology for diagnosis and monitoring of medical conditions. New technological advances will be necessary to drive image quality and production efficiency as innovations expand which will require absolute precision in optical manufacturing.
3D Sensing for Facial and Object Recognition in Everyday Life
From facial to object recognition, three-dimensional sensing is no longer a technology of the future. People are using this capability in a variety of applications for day-to-day activities. 3D sensing augments camera capabilities to enables object recognition, object placement and depth data. Companies like Microsoft have started embedding advanced facial recognition into apps that have built-in security and are easy to use. We also see this technology entrusted and used for security purposes like mobile banking, so the need for accuracy in its design is paramount. These devices require the precise relative positioning of optical elements for both projecting accurate patterns onto the face and receiving the image back, during the device’s manufacturing process.
Precision Mechanics Drive the Automotive Industry Forward
Vehicles have evolved greatly over last several decades. Applications that were once considered extravagant are now standard in many of the cars on the road today. Optical modules and active alignment plays an important role in enabling the next generation of automotive safety and performance. Heads-up displays, touchless dashboard controls, laser depth sensing, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) require optical design and production that is highly precise. The fact that these are safety systems designed to save lives, necessitates this high precision, and the manufacturing quality assurance that goes along with it. The continued advancement in this vertical market will be one of the key areas we will undoubtedly see substantial technological growth and increasing optical precision in the coming years.
The Need for Active Alignment as Innovations Evolve
Over time, ideas have gone from illustrations to manufacturable products with speed and scale as we’ve never seen before. As devices started getting smaller, so do optical devices – cameras and projectors. The optical assembly that’s required to take a concept from lab to mass production requires active alignment precision mechanics, high-resolution positioning, and cost-effective solutions for optimal clarity and ultimately a better consumer product.
Thanks to automation, advanced manufacturing algorithms, and many of the current innovative systems that continue to enhance the quality and optical performance for applications across a variety of technologies, consumer products like AR and VR headsets, LiDAR systems, laptops, cell phones, cameras, automotive displays, medical devices and more will continue to evolve. By using active alignment, the resulting optical modules will have the most uniform clarity available and help drive the enhanced development of next-generation capabilities of electronic devices to transform the marketplace as we know it.
Justin Roe is the co-founder and president of Kasalis. With more than 20 years of industry experience, Justin has a wide depth of knowledge and education around optical alignment and advanced manufacturing automation systems. Over the years, he has led teams of highly skilled engineers, design experts, and material scientists to drive modernization in active alignment, automation, and innovation management. Justin has a BSc in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Edinburgh and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.