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CCD vs CMOS Entering the Slope of Enlightenment

Posted by Gretchen Alper on Tue, Jun 12, 2012

The trend in 2011 towards increased CCD image sensor use over CMOS, was contrary to what was expected.  We believe this is just a slow adoption of new technology and not an indication of any long-term trends.  Regardless of the differing available data we still believe that CMOS image sensors will be used significantly more in machine vision.  CMOS image sensors are just coming out the other side of the Hype Cycle as defined by Gartner Inc

With the use of CMOS sensors in the rapidly growing consumer electronics market, the quality improved very quickly.  In recent years, CMOS sensor resolutions and data quality have approached those of CCD sensors. Many are now available with global shutters or snapshot shutters for capturing images of moving objects without distortion.   This meant that CMOS has emerged as a very viable alternative even in high precision machine vision and other industrial applications.

Many system designers were dazzled by the improvements in image quality and the promises of significantly higher frame rates and hopefully lower costs.  It appeared that CMOS offered all advantages and no drawbacks as with many new technologies.  Despite this, the actual adoption of the new technology for machine vision has been rather slow.  After investigation and testing with CMOS-based cameras, many unfamiliar issues were apparent such as dark current, unless the camera manufacturer had compensated for this.  These new artifacts were different from those with CCD-based cameras, which were well understood.  More significantly, the change to CMOS also meant creating new algorithms and software.

While this has been a setback in the growth of CMOS, this is simply the “trough of disillusionment “as explained by the Hype Curve as designers have been disenchanted and then did the work to understand the technology.  Now we are entering slope of enlightenment as more integration is occurring and developed systems are going into full production.

hype cylce hype curve

Because the use of CCD is so limited in consumer electronics compared to CMOS, there is no question that there will be further adoption of CMOS.  There is so much R&D work and money behind CMOS technology that the advantages for CMOS image sensors are sure to increase.

Topics: Sensor Technology, CCD vs. CMOS

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