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Prism Awards: The Oscars of the Industry

Photonics Handbook
JUSTINE MURPHY, SENIOR EDITOR, justine.murphy@photonics.com

The industry is primed and ready for Photonics West 2017. It’s a time for networking, sharing products and research, and learning. It’s a time to recognize the world’s top innovators, as well.

This largest conference and expo in the photonics industry gives companies and researchers from around the world the chance to bring their advances to center stage, by way of the Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation. To be held Feb. 1, and sponsored by SPIE and Photonics Media, this annual event recognizes the industry’s top companies and products. This year’s finalists, chosen from hundreds of entries, were determined by a panel of judges who represent all fields of photonics. And the competition is fierce.

Notable new innovations include a breathalyzer device that allows rapid screening of infectious diseases, as well as a unique optical component technology that can sense nanovibrations of the body with very high precision. The market’s first femtosecond fiber laser-pumped mid-IR supercontinuum source is also among the finalists, as is a drone-mounted natural gas surveillance system for indoor natural gas leakage inspection.

Prism Awards


The 2016 Prism Award winners and event sponsors: Photonics Media and SPIE. Courtesy of Doug Cody/SPIE.

Additive manufacturing/3D printing

The AMBIT Industrial 3D Printing System, by Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies, offers users “the freedom of [additive manufacturing] with the precision of CNC machining.”

Patented laser processing heads enable fully automated changeover between disparate types of laser processing without a beam switch for the first time. The new system achieves cladding and laser drilling seamlessly in the same machine. And unlike using beam switch or multiple cells, AMBIT achieves flexibility in a single machine through a new innovation in beam delivery.

According to the company, the system enables easy adoption of additive manufacturing and laser processing by conventional machine tool users. Deposited metal can be machined in situ — proliferation of design and manufacturing freedoms without compromise to accuracy and surface finish limitations inherent in layer-based additive manufacturing techniques.

Multiphoton Optics LithoProf3D printing platform allows optics implementation closer to the chip, supporting “a significant reduction in energy consumption,” and, in turn, more efficient computing.

The LithoProf3D processes commercially available and semicon-approved materials for both additive and subtractive manufacturing of arbitrary structures ranging from 100 nm to the centimeter scale, making integration of 2D and 3D processes into the semicon workflow possible. The packaging concept for on-chip, chip-to-chip or die-to-fiber coupling uses in situ-created waveguides for photonic integration, saving as much as 80 percent of the process steps. Micro-optics such as lenses or lens arrays with different sizes and shapes can be flexibly created with best optical quality; replication master fabrication is also supported by this technology.

The Tungsten-LAM, developed by PolarOnyx Inc., employs a femtosecond fiber laser as an energy deposition source for 3D printing. It combines additive and subtractive manufacturing in a single platform via one tunable pulsed fiber laser. The company has found this significantly reduces the cost and time required for 3D metal and ceramic printing, by eliminating separate post-processing. This system also enables layer-by-layer modification to create complex structures that have previously not been possible.

The company notes that this is the first femtosecond fiber laser-based 3D printing machine. It can be used with high-temperature materials, a function that differs from existing additive manufacturing technologies, which are limited to lower temperatures and always need post-processing.

Biomedical instrumentation

A Personal Vision Tracker now enables measurement of refractive errors and order corrective eyewear. Developed by EyeQue Corp., this new device “helps cut cost significantly and will help those in need achieve clear vision, reducing productivity loss due to impaired vision.”

The tracker is a self-administered refraction system that uses a miniscope optical device to estimate the user’s refractive error, based on an inverse Shack-Hartmann principle. It is the first such human refraction correction measuring device accessible to consumers, according to the company, essentially providing access to services that have previously only been available through optometrists.

The TB Breathalyser, from Rapid Biosensor Systems, is the first biophotonics system available for noninvasive testing for active infectious diseases (namely tuberculosis). The novel system integrates laser, optical and engineering design with medical requirements for fast, breath-based testing. It will be effective for screening people in rural communities, the company notes, and in Europe and North America it has the potential to support screening programs at ports of entry, prisons, military establishments and schools, ultimately prompting lower health care costs.

The system has already been accepted by tuberculosis medics in India and Ethiopia as the fastest test for active infectious tuberculosis with high sensitivity and specificity >95 percent.

Wasatch Photonics’ MicroAngio platform is a next-generation Fourier-domain OCT technology that provides a new imaging modality for a wide variety of applications, impacting diagnosis, drug discovery and fundamental understanding of disease mechanism. According to the company, this system is designed to help patients suffering from cancer, visual disorders and skin burns.

The MicroAngio employs broadband light source and spectral interferometry to extract phase and intensity variation of incident light. Changes are analyzed using statistical algorithms, which extract the information of red blood cell motion in the arteries and veins, while ignoring the bulk motion of the surrounding tissue. This provides “a depth-resolved map of the vascular structure without any external contrast agents.”

Detectors and sensors

The new MIRA analyzer, developed by Aeris Technologies Inc., represents a disruptive advance in the laser-based gas analysis space, achieving “gold standard” ppb-level performance comparable to systems that are 10 to 15× larger and heavier.

The gas sensing device is based on simple and robust direct absorption spectroscopy that uses solid-state lasers in the mid-IR region, where molecular absorption is typically thousands of times stronger than the commonly used near-IR. Combined with compact custom electronics, “this miniature sensor core enables the world’s smallest autonomous, ppb-level analyzer on the market.” For natural gas leak detection, the device is able to measure both methane and ethane simultaneously at the 2 ppb level, discriminating methane from fossil fuels versus biogenic sources.

GoSpectro, from Alphanov, is a universal device that connects to any smartphone or tablet, turning it into a compact, easy-to-use, cost-effective light spectrometer. It makes possible the characterization of light sources (LEDs, etc.), displays, tunable lasers, optical filters or fluorescent dyes in a matter of seconds. It is a handheld tool that also measures emission and absorption peak wavelengths, cut-off wavelengths or spectral bandwidth, and enables material analysis (e.g., gemstones, crystals), or chemical analysis in liquids associated with color-based reagents for assessing water or food quality.v GoSpectro users can measure spectra, adjust acquisition parameters, display and save spectral data. Spectra are measured from 400 to 750 nm, with a resolution of <10 nm and an accuracy of <1 nm.

Hesai Photonics Technologies Co.’s Drone-mounted Natural Gas Surveillance System is the first drone-mounted methane remote sensor for indoor natural gas leakage inspection. It has the ability to cover thousands of households a day, making it 50 times more efficient than conventional sensing methods. The company says its new system “makes enormous contributions to preventing accidents and saving lives.”

The system features a very light methane remote sensor with high sensitivity detection, range and response — “0.5 kg, compared to 4.5 kg from major competitor.” It takes advantage of wavelength-scanned, wavelength-modulation-absorption spectroscopy with multiple harmonic detections.

By using its own algorithm, the sensor can identify false alarms due to the etalon interference from windows or other occasions where parallel optical surfaces are present. These false alarms have occurred frequently during operations in other products.

Developed by Luxmux Technology, the BeST-SLED light source will ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water usage through detection efficiencies. It is already being used in the medical and manufacturing industries through increased visiblilty in OCT.

BeST-SLED’s main component is the butterfly package, which is a multiple superluminescent diode light source. It allows integrators to put the power of laboratory-grade photonics into their solutions, while providing “unparalleled spectral coverage.” This butterfly package provides 500 nm (1230 to 1730 nm) with up to 50 mW of optical power from a single-mode fiber. The system’s miniaturization is achieved without sacrifice of quality or performance.

Imaging and cameras

Developed by e2v, the 3D Time-of-Flight Solution and 3D vision systems are designed to increase the autonomy and effectiveness of robots and machines for the factory automation market, while also protecting workers in factory settings from intensive human/machine interactions.

This new system features the first commercially available 1.3-MP 3D depth resolution in 1-in. optical format in the full range to enable real-time 3D vision from fast-moving robots. It keeps the accuracy and frame rate performances at the same level as current ToF products, and ultimately allows users to obtain more information and increase the effectiveness and autonomy of industrial systems.

The TAG Inspector, from TAG Optics, is a high-resolution single camera, telecentric inspection system with the unique ability to visualize complex geometries without the need for multiple detectors or sub-system assemblies. According to the company, it is the only system that can give users independent, electronic control over the height range to be imaged without changing the system’s f-number of sacrificing resolution. It is also the first device capable of imaging multiple user-selectable focal planes simultaneously, which can be used for go/no-go inspection of complex parts.

Efficient algorithms that make use of the physical and optical characteristic of the system allow the user to obtain precise 3D quantitative and qualitative information about the part being imaged, such as surface finish, defects and relative height measurements.

The first device to capture and process a full multi-megapixel hyperspectral data cube without the need for external processing, the new Handheld Hyperspectral Imager Model 4100, by TruTag Technologies Inc., essentially displaces existing multispectral imagers, which trade off spectral resolution for spatial resolution.

This new handheld imager allows users to dynamically select acquisition wavelengths that are not necessarily contiguous. It offers real-time processing, as well, the company notes, enabling processing for object identification and characterization. The camera can also identify and decode TruTag’s optical memory microparticles, decode their spectra, and authenticate the origin of things like foods and pills.

Industrial lasers

The Tangor 100W, from Amplitude Systèmes, is an extremely compact, industry-ready, affordable ultrafast tool for high-precision processing. Its unique combination of high power, short pulse duration and high repetition rate could prompt new industrial applications, according to the company. This is currently not possible with other existing laser technology such as surface texturing or functionalization.

The new Tangor system is the first true (<500 fs), affordable 100-W femtosecond laser, designed for 24/7 high-precision, high-yield industrial manufacturing. The Tangor shows potential for micro-machining applications where process quality and speed are key to an efficient and economically advantageous solution.

Photonics Industries International’s RGH Series/Pulse Picker laser has been proven a more efficient ps laser with an enormous impact enabling this massive market. Specifically, it is able to more efficiently manufacture novel high-end devices.

The RGH series industrial ps lasers offer the highest pulse energy (up to 700 μJ), the smallest footprint, and are the lightest weight commercially available.

The RGH series also touts a unique all-in-one single box design to simplify installation and system integration by removing the need to manage a separate controller or power supply box and umbilical cable.

The Ultra-short Pulsed Seeder for Fiber Laser, from QD Laser, features a less than 10 ps optical pulse, which, according to the company, “has been strongly needed.” And its ultra-short pulsed seed laser is one of the key components for MOPA (Master Oscillator Power Amplification)-type fiber lasers.

By designing this laser chip and high-speed module, the company notes that next generations of such short optical pulse become possible. These lasers can be used for nonthermal precise microprocessing and have become a strong competitive light source to mode-locked lasers. Other advantages such as flexible tuning of repetition rate and high reliability are also possible, enabling “an enormous impact for the progress of the precise microprocessing technology.”

Materials and coatings

Crystalline Mirror Solutions has developed the XTAL MIR, a “crystalline supermirror” coating that is based on substrate-transferred, single-crystal semiconductor multilayers. This novel technology exhibits a number of advantageous properties, according to the company, including a 10× reduction in Brownian noise, the highest thermal conductivity (~30 Wm−1K−1 compared to <1 Wm−1K−1 for SiO2/Ta2O5). This new technology targets ultralow-loss mid-IR optical coatings for the 3- to 5-µm wavelength range. The coatings are designed for high finesse optical cavities for power enhancement and signal recycling, enabling previously unachievable signal-to-noise ratios in the measurement of trace gases.

Element Six’s Single Crystal Synthetic Diamond creates an engineered SC chemical vapor deposition (CVD) diamond. It is useful in attenuated total reflectance (ATR) accessories as compared to other IR materials because it has the widest transmission spectrum of any optical material, the company notes, from 220 nm to greater than 50 µm. Combine this with its extreme hardness and scratch-resistance properties, and the CVD optical-grade SC diamond is the most versatile ATR accessory.

The NIR QuantumFilm sensor, developed by InVisage Technologies Inc., is a proprietary solution of quantum dots that senses light with near-IR, and allows cameras to achieve 35 percent quantum efficiency at the 940-nm wavelength with built-in global shutter. The new QuantumFilm eliminates the need for NIR sensors to operate at 850 nm, which produces an obtrusive red glow and competes with ambient infrared in sunlight. IoT devices rely on active illumination for authentication, autonomy and augmented reality, and NIR QuantumFilm enables them to perform more accurately and safely.

Metrology

4D Technology Corp.’s 4D InSpec Surface Gauge reduces measurement time from over an hour to just a few seconds, enabling more accurate and thorough assessment of surface defects, as well as faster reporting and better traceability. The result is fewer missed critical defects and greatly reduced scrapping of expensive components, and safer products.

The 4D InSpec, designed for aerospace applications, has shown it can fundamentally change precision surface measurement by enabling direct inspection of components on the shop floor. According to the company, it is the only system that provides the speed, portability, resolution and affordability now required by manufacturing and field service inspectors.

Made for use by airline line technicians and mechanics in airline maintenance applications, 8tree’s dentCHECK technology produces first-of-its-kind objective and consistent dent-inspection results. It has demonstrated reduced aircraft turnaround time, which, in turn, reduces lost revenues and improves operational efficiency for airlines. This enhances safety, as well, through an improved understanding of airframe reliability.

Existing methods for inspecting dents and corrosion are subjective, inconsistent and manual. The new dentCHECK overcomes these problems by consistently delivering a go/no-go answer, as opposed to just data, which satisfies the specified accuracy (+/−50 μm).

Leica Geosystems has developed the Leica BLK360 Imaging Laser Scanner, “a technological leapfrog and a picture of creative expression.” It provides users a unique ability to capture the reality around them in a way that was previously impossible.

The new device touts faster tablets, virtual reality goggles, ubiquitous bandwidth, and awareness of laser scanning. It generates massive amounts of content, for use in applications such as reality capture for virtual retailing, space mapping, and stage calibration for films and the visual arts. The laser scanner provides a degree of miniaturization that has never been seen before, allowing users to spend more time analyzing data and less time performing scans. The technology ranges up to 60 m, which can be measured with a precision of a few millimeters.

Optics and optical components

The Opto-phone, from ContinUse Biometrics, is a unique photonic technology with the ability to sense nanovibrations of the body with very high precision. It is designed for biomedical remote sensing and can provide authentication based on the acoustic signature the heart is making.

The technology features a laser, fast camera and special lenses that are positioned to prompt the secondary speckle patterns generated after back-reflecting the laser beam from the inspected subject; this changes in time and space in a very predicted way that is associated with the movements and vibrations of the back-reflecting tissue. In addition to biomedical applications, the Opto-phone could be used for smart homes as part of other such smart modules, including a smart mirror, television or smart cars.

NuBEAM Flat-Top fiber technology, developed by Nufern, offers simplified system integration, improved efficiency, reproducibility and reliability of performances, as well as a smaller footprint and less expensive execution. According to the company, the new flat-top fiber technology offers an all-fiber solution designed as a simple drop-in replacement, compared to existing beam shaping techniques that are based mainly on free-space systems or complex optical assemblies.

The new technology employs well-established advantages of optical fiber technology — easy integration, efficient light transmission, robustness over time, small footprint, low maintenance and cost-effectiveness.

SoraaLaser’s LaserLight SMD is the world’s first laser lighting package that utilizes a high-power blue laser diode to excite a very small spot (300 µm) on a remote phosphor target in reflection mode. Specifically, in addition to the blue laser diode, the system pumps phosphor to safely produce 500 lumens of high luminance output; this output can be collimated to <2 degree beam angle for 5 to 10× range compared to LEDs.

LaserLight SMD is based on the company’s semi-polar GaN laser diodes, combined with advanced phosphor technology. These laser light sources combine the benefits of solid-state illumination, such as minimal power consumption and long lifetime, with the highly directional output that has been possible only with legacy technology.

Scientific lasers

The MatchBox2 Series of lasers will allow analytical instruments to become smaller and more affordable. Developed by Integrated Optics, the laser enhances point-of-care diagnostics, food safety and homeland security.

Lasers in the MatchBox2 series utilize diodes, VBG diodes, DPSS (CW and Q-switched), and dichroic combiner techniques. New to this series of lasers are single-frequency nanosecond lasers that are based on passive Q-switch to offer unmatched pulse-to-pulse stability. The company anticipates market expansion, and more accessible Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy.

The Mid-Infrared Supercontinuum Laser, developed by Thorlabs Inc., is a compact MIR-SC laser designed to accelerate instrument development in the mid-IR market. It is the first such femtosecond fiber-laser pumped source on the market.

Trumpf Scientific Lasers has developed the Dira (disk regenerative amplifier) 200-1, the world’s first laser system that combines high average power with high pulse energy at kHz repetition rates. The company notes that it solely eliminates the damage risk caused by lightning strikes, thereby increasing the safety of airplanes at departure and landing.

The new system uses, for the first time, the scaling capabilities of thin-disk technology to reach unrivaled ultrafast output parameters.

The 2017 Finalists

Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing
Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies (Moira, England) AMBIT
Multiphoton Optics (Würzburg, Germany) LithoProf3D
PolarOnyx(San Jose, Calif.) Tungsten-LAM

Biomedical Instrumentation

EyeQue Corp. (Newark, Calif.) Personal Vision Tracker
Rapid Biosensor Systems (Cambridge, England) TB Breathalyser
Wasatch Photonics (Logan, Utah) MicroAngio

Detectors & Sensors

Aeris Technologies (Redwood City, Calif.) Laser-Based Gas Analyzer
Alphanov (Talence, France) GoSpectro
Hesai Photonics Technologies (Shanghai) Drone-Mounted Natural Gas Surveillance System
Luxmux Technology Corp. (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) BeST-SLED

Imaging & Cameras

e2v Technologies (Chelmsford, England) 3D Time-of-Flight Solution
TAG Optics (Princeton, N.J.) TAG Inspector
TruTag Technologies (Kapolei, Hawaii) Handheld Hyperspectral Imager Model 4100

Industrial Lasers

Amplitude Systèmes (Pessac, France) Tangor amplifiers
Photonics Industries International (Ronkonkoma, N.Y.) RGH Series/Pulse Picker Technology
QD Laser (Kanagawa, Japan) Ultra-short Pulsed Seeder for Fiber Laser

Materials & Coatings

Crystalline Mirror Solutions (Vienna) XTAL MIR
Element Six (Luxembourg) Single Crystal Synthetic Diamond
InVisage (Menlo Park, Calif.) QuantumFilm

Metrology

4D Technology Corp. (Tucson, Ariz.) 4D InSpec Surface Gauge
8tree (Konstanz, Germany) dentCHECK
Leica Geosystems (St. Gallen, Switzerland) Leica BLK360 Imaging Laser Scanner

Optics & Optical Components

ContinUse Biometrics (Tel Aviv, Israel) Opto-phone
Nufern (East Granby, Conn.) NuBEAM Flat-Top
SoraaLaser (Goleta, Calif.) LaserLight SMD

Scientific Lasers

Integrated Optics (Vilnius, Lithuania) MatchBox2 Series
Thorlabs (Newton, N.J.) Mid-Infrared Supercontinuum Laser
Trumpf Scientific Lasers (Munich) Dira 200-1


GLOSSARY
metrology
The science of measurement, particularly of lengths and angles.
biometrics
The technology devoted to the analysis of unique biological characteristics such as voice patterns and fingerprint, retina, iris, and hand and face geometry to determine or authenticate the identity of an individual.
integrated optics
A thin-film device containing miniature optical components connected via optical waveguides on a transparent dielectric substrate, whose lenses, detectors, filters, couplers and so forth perform operations analogous to those of integrated electronic circuits for switching, communications and logic.
coatingsfiber lasersFilterslensesmirrorsTunable LasersPhotonics West 2017PrismsPrism Awards for Photonics InnovationSPIEPhotonics Mediaadditive manufacturing3d printingHybrid Manufacturing TechnologiesMultiphoton OpticsPolarOnyx Inc.biomedical instrumentationEyeQue Corp.Rapid Biosensor SystemsWasach PhotonicsSensors & DetectorsAeris Technologies Inc.lasersLEDsopticsAlphanovHesai Photonics Technologies Co.Luxmux TechnologyImaging and Camerase2vTAG OpticsTruTag Technologies Inc.Amplitude Systèmesindustrial lasersPhotonics Industries InternationalQD Lasermaterials and coatingsCrystalline Mirror SolutionsElement SixInVisage Technologies Inc.metrologyTest & Measurement4D Technology Corp.8treeLeica GeosystemsOptics and Optical ComponentsContinUsebiometricsNufernSoraaLaserscientific lasersintegrated opticsThorlabs Inc.TRUMPF Scientific LasersFeatures

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