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Amid the bustle of Photonics West, some of the industry’s top innovators gathered on Feb. 6 to honor the best products and advancements at the “Oscars of the photonics industry” — the Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation.
“In rising to the top of an impressive field of finalists, the 2019 award-winning products and the companies behind them are taking the photonics industry to new heights,” said Thomas Laurin, president and CEO of Photonics Media and Laurin Publishing Inc. “Photonics Media is proud to stand with SPIE in supporting breakthroughs such as these, which continue to transform the photonics industry and the world.”
Thirty companies vied for top prizes in areas ranging from detectors and sensors to vision technology, but only 10 were recognized at center stage. Jointly sponsored by SPIE and Photonics Media, the annual event recognizes the best of the best from all fields of the industry.
“Across various areas critical to our daily lives, these engineers and inventors are building, creating, and innovating products that will improve fields such as health care, transportation, consumer safety, and scientific research,” said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. “The mission of SPIE, [which is] to partner with researchers, educators, and industry to advance light-based research and technologies for the betterment of the human condition, finds one of its most concrete embodiments in this industry-focused event. I’m delighted to celebrate our Prism Awards for Photonic Innovation.”
The 2019 winners, by category:
Detectors and Sensors
CloudMinds Technology Inc. (California, U.S.)
The world’s first cloud AI-based hand-held Raman spectrometer, the XI AI Raman Spectrometer touts 785-nm laser excitation. Featuring an intuitive user interface, the device is integrated with CloudMinds’ Data A1 smartphone, and is the only Raman spectrometer that can also be used for email, geolocation, and maintaining cloud connection. The cloud platform enables instant data uploads and updates for all field devices and maintains connection via a cellular link even when Wi-Fi is not available. It can be employed in the consumer market for the detection of counterfeits, including drugs and jewelry, and for monitoring contaminants in food.
Diagnostics and Therapeutics
Double Helix Optics (Colorado, U.S.)
The SPINDLE nanoimaging system enables superresolution 3D imaging with unparalleled depth and axial precision. SPINDLE’s extended depth imaging allows for the study of cellular structures down to the single molecule level in 3D. The technology, which can be installed on microscopes, captures high-precision, superresolution, 3D images across a large depth of field. This enables collection of significantly more data in a single shot (up to 20 μm).
Imaging and Cameras
Leica Geosystems (Heerbrugg, Switzerland)
The first accurate stereo photogrammetry device that fits in the palm of your hand, the BLK3D looks like a smartphone, but is a 3D measurement and documentation machine engineered to deliver accurate 3D measurements derived from 2D images. With no internet connection or cloud app required, its software features powerful edge detection and a user-friendly experience. The BLK3D makes design software and digital project management accessible to a wide range of construction and real estate management professionals by capturing stereo imagery and enabling 3D measurement of visible elements in real time.
nLIGHT Inc. (Washington, U.S.)
The nLIGHT Corona is a revolutionary fiber laser with rapidly tunable beam quality for a variety of applications, including cutting, welding, and additive manufacturing. For sheet metal cutting, the Corona provides up to 5 kW with a beam diameter tunable between 100 and 350 μm and a variety of beam shapes. Its key innovation is the ability to tune beam characteristics completely within optical fiber and is applicable to a variety of laser sources at all power levels, pulse formats, and operating wavelengths.
Smart Vision Lights (Michigan, U.S.)
An LED light driver that offers an ultrafast time for lights to be fully on, the NanoDrive can supply full current to the LED in 50 ns, and can provide up to hundreds of amps. Vision inspection applications that require fast image acquisition or short image exposure — such as robotics, illumination (LED luminaires), and other machine vision applications — can benefit from the NanoDrive.
Optics and Optomechanics
Modular Photonics (Ryde, New South Wales, Australia)
The OMPlex passive silica chips increase data transmission rates and reach in legacy public and enterprise optical fiber networks. This solution supports speeds of 1 Gb/s, 10 Gb/s, and 40 Gb/s over 2 kms of all types of multimode fiber. OMPlex offers 100× the increase in data transfer speed at a tenth of the cost and a tenth of the time needed to recable, as it allows for future-proofing fiber networks without recabling.
TOPTICA Photonics (New York, U.S.)
The DLC TOPO is a widely tunable MIR laser source. This continuous-wave laser allows automated, hands-free, high-power, tunable access to MIR wavelengths in the 1.45- to 4.0-μm range. Existing laser systems typically require multiple parallel modules to access this broad wavelength range, and include a manual interface. The DLC TOPO is fully automated and its functionality does not require additional modules.
Test and Measurement
4D Technology Corp. (Arizona, U.S.)
A hand-held, shop-floor defect inspection and quality assurance gauge for manufactured parts, the 4D InSpec XL makes instant 3D measurements of surface features. It boasts 2.5-μm resolution and a large 15- × 15-mm field of view and employs fringe projection and dynamic interferometry, making the device suitable for 3D quantification of macro structures such as rivets and counterbores, which were previously impossible to image in a snapshot measurement.
Blackmore Sensors and Analytics Inc. (Montana, U.S.)
Blackmore’s automotive Doppler lidar system is the first such system for autonomous driving. It delivers instantaneous velocity, the mission-critical element of performance for autonomous vehicles. Using frequency modulated continuous-wave lidar to gather instantaneous velocity measurements of every detected point, vehicles can safely navigate with confidence and submillisecond latency. Its lidar is immune to interference from sunlight and other sensors and is economically efficient.
QD Laser Inc. (Kanagawa, Japan)
The RETISSA Display is retinal projection laser eyewear that includes an optical see-through, head-mounted display device. It uses a miniature laser projector to draw images directly to the wearer’s retina through a combination of an RGB semiconductor laser and a MEMS mirror. The display technology produces high-resolution images with precise control of laser beams, and touts a natural appearance — all optics are integrated inside the frame, allowing the eyewear to look like conventional sunglasses and without any protrusion.