Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Mobile minicamera system for microscope applications

During the course of the MiCRoN project, a compact microscope unit integrated on a mobile robotic platform has been designed and realised.

The unit comprises the following components:

(1) A carrier (MINIMAN-IV robot) with 3 DOF (x, y, and rotation around the vertical axis).
(2) A linear (vertical) drive on the robot chassis to which the camera housing is attached. The resolution of this drive is about 0.1mm.
(3) A camera housing containing the CCD chip and the miniature camera board for PAL signal generation.
(4) A miniature lens that is able to provide a magnification of 5x.
(5) A miniature stepper motor that is able to independently vary the position of the camera lens with respect to the imaging chip with a resolution of less than 1 um. The travel range of the lens support is 6 mm. This is accomplished by an aluminium bracket that translates the movement of the motor shaft into a linear (vertical) motion of the lens support.

The combination of the two motors allows the camera to focus on an object present in its field of view (about 1mm2) placed at any height (within the range allowed by the mechanics of the MINIMAN-IV robot and its Z-drive). The depth of field of the camera optics is approximately 200-300um. The working distance between the front of the lens and the object is about 4-5mm.

Although this imaging device cannot replace large and powerful optical microscopes used today in a large variety of application domains, it represents an alternative and cheap solution that can be effectively utilised in many applications where physical constraints in the work area and the requirement for a mobile platform make the use of this small unit preferable to a traditional optical microscope.

In the near future, we intend to further develop our camera prototype using more recent miniaturised optical and imaging components as well as including new components such as an integrated LED light source for autonomous operation. At the same time, we will be continuing the development of the vision software to address current limitations as well as to make it portable to a variety of applications.

The successful integration of these technologies and the realisation of such a flexible and portable imaging system will open up the way to possible commercial exploitation, especially if industrial partners with a strong interest in this research sector can be found. We are currently focussing in this direction and are confident that we will soon be able to attract industrial collaboration into this project.

Related information

Reported by

Sheffield Hallam University
Faculty of ACES, Sheaf Building, City Campus, Pond Street
S1 1WB Sheffield
United Kingdom
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