No Fish Story: BitFlow Frame Grabber Optimizes Hyperspectral Imaging System Assessing Salmon Health

WOBURN, MA, SEPTEMBER 21, 2021 — Smoltification is a complex series of physiological changes that allow young Atlantic salmon to adapt from living in fresh water to living in seawater. In salmon farming, this transition from “parr” to “smolt” is controlled using lights or functional feed to ensure a continuous and predictable supply of fish to grocery stores, restaurants and other seafood markets.

Scientists at SINTEF, one of Europe’s largest independent research institutes located in Trondheim, Norway, recently developed a hyperspectral imaging (HSI) system1 to study the vital aspects in detecting smoltification, relying in part upon a BitFlow Camera Link frame grabber to grab high-speed video frames for analysis at more than 100 frames-per-second.

The ability to verify smoltification is critical since incomplete seawater adaptation may result in poor animal welfare and increased mortality. Animal welfare is of increasing importance in salmon farming, as the industry is under pressure to improve production and farming operations due to ethical concerns. Conventional smoltification assessments measure chloride content in blood samples after exposing fish to saline water, or by detecting the presence of ion-transporting enzymes through analysis of tissue samples from gills. These methods are time-consuming so only a few salmon are typically tested from populations of several hundreds of thousands of fish.

To evaluate the robustness of its HSI approach, SINTEF placed emphasis on collecting diverse data with variations in fish color, patterning, size, and shape using three different salmon farming sites. Data were collected weekly in synchronization with the sites’ respective production and testing schedules. A Shuttle SH110G computer with Intel i7 processor had the BitFlow frame grabber installed to grab frames from a Specim® FX10 hyperspectral camera (Figure 1) equipped with a 23 mm/f.2.4 (OLE23) lens. Exposure settings were regularly adjusted depending on local conditions and the state of the fish. And because smolt transition involves salmon becoming more reflective, shutter speed was adjusted to keep the exposure within the sensor’s dynamic range. To make all data sets comparable, despite differences in ambient lighting conditions and exposure settings, all were normalized for comparison using white and dark reference images.

The raw data obtained from HSI were multidimensional images of individual fish, including their background. Each layer of this multidimensional image represented a single gray-scale image corresponding to the intensity of the reflectance measurement at a specific wavelength. When stacked, all the layers and reflectance measurements represented a 3D cube (Figure 2). A step-wise procedure was used to process and analyze the data so the low-dimensional spectral characteristics could be observed, and classification of parr or smolt made possible. Wavelengths were optimized by factoring in water temperature, dissolved oxygen, water opacity, and color, as well as lighting and feeding regimes.

Upon conclusion of its study, SINTEF demonstrated a HSI system where only three wavelengths are needed to identify smoltification status of Atlantic salmon, and that this system could serve either as a supplementary or free-standing verification tool in fish production. In doing so, the researchers also laid a pathway to manufacturing low-cost HSI instruments for use in production tanks or integrated in existing sorting and vaccination systems for faster, wider and more cost-effective population sampling of Atlantic salmon.

BitFlow Returns to VISION Trade Show in Stuttgart, Germany

WOBURN, MA, SEPTEMBER 15, 2021 — BitFlow, a leading innovator in frame grabbers for industrial and commercial imaging applications, today announced details of its in-person participation in VISION, the world’s leading trade fair for machine vision, to be held in Stuttgart, Germany, October 5 to 7, 2021. BitFlow encourages VISION attendees to visit booth #10H46 to engage with its trained engineers and see firsthand its newest CoaXPress and Camera Link frame grabbers.

Because VISION could not be held last year due to the pandemic, its relaunch is a positive signal to the international machine vision market. More than 250 companies will take part in VISION, providing visitors with a current overview of the wide range of machine vision products, software and services now available, together with global insights into future technologies.

“Coronavirus halted VISION and other industry events in 2020, making us all acutely aware of the value of face-to-face, in-person business meetings,” said Donal Waide, Director of Sales, BitFlow, Inc. “Keeping connected and moving forward with events like VISION is critically important for economic recovery. We are very excited to get back on the road to meet with our customers, colleagues and distribution partners.”

BitFlow will showcase at VISION its entire portfolio designed to meet the most demanding imaging needs within diverse industries such as machine vision, quality control, defense, medical research and robotics. In addition, BitFlow will join with several of its camera partners to present live demonstrations of its high-speed frame grabbers, including the new line of fan-cooled Cyton CXP4-V CoaXPress models engineered for use with small form-factor fanless computers, like the NVIDIA® Jetson Xavier Developer Kit.

BitFlow CoaXPress Frame Grabber Used in Groundbreaking New 3D Imaging System

WOBURN, MA, JULY 16, 2021 — Research scientists with the Energy Materials Telecommunications Center, National Institute for Scientific Research in Quebec, Canada, have developed a groundbreaking technique to acquire 3D images at over 1000 frames per second with resolution as high as 1180 x 860 — far beyond the capabilities of available systems today — by eliminating information redundancy in data acquisition. Certain to open new opportunities for 3D applications, the dual-view band-limited illumination profilometry (BLIP) with temporally interlaced acquisition (TIA) system or simply BLIP-TIA, relies upon the BitFlow Cyton-CXP CoaXPress frame grabber to transmit images from two CMOS cameras to a computer for processing at rates surpassing 12.5 Gb/S.

Existing 3D systems based on the widely used technique of Fringe Projection Profilometry (FPP) have two main limitations. First, each camera captures the full sequence of fringe patterns, therefore imposing redundancy in data acquisition that ultimately clamps the systems’ imaging speeds. Second, the cameras are placed on different sides of a projector. This arrangement often induces a large intensity difference from the directional scattering light and the shadow effect from the occlusion by local surface features, both of which reduce the reconstruction accuracy.

To overcome these limitations, the scientists developed BLIP-TIA with a new algorithm for coordinate-based 3D point matching from different views. Implemented with two cameras from Optronis placed side-by-side and the BitFlow Cyton-CXP frame grabber, it allows each camera to capture half of the sequence of the phase-shifted patterns, reducing the individual camera’s data transfer load by 50%, and freeing up capacity to transfer data from more pixels on each camera’s sensor or to support higher frame rates.

Besides its high-speed data transfer, the Cyton-CXP two-channel frame grabber incorporates the Gen 2.0 x8 PCI Express bus interface on its back-end for high speed access to host memory in multi-camera systems such as the BLIP-TIA. It also allows control commands, triggers and power to be sent to and from cameras over the same coaxial cable to simplify overall design.

To verify high-speed 3D surface profilometry, the researchers used BLIP-TIA in a number of tests including recording non-repeatable 3D dynamics by imaging the process of glass breaking while being struck by a hammer. The growth of cracks and the burst of fragments with different shapes and sizes were clearly shown in the reconstructed 3D images.

Besides technical improvements, researchers are now exploring new applications for BLIP-TIA. For example, it could be integrated into structure illumination microscopy, frequency-resolved multidimensional imaging, dynamic characterization of glass in its interaction with the external forces, recognizing hand gestures for human–computer interaction, in robotics for object tracking and reaction guidance, vibration monitoring in rotating machinery, and for behavior quantification in biological science.

BitFlow Frame Grabber Aids in Development of Compact, Cost-effective Subsurface Fingerprint System

High-Speed Cyton CXP-4 transmits data of 13 subsurface images at various depths captured at 720 frames per second and 2116 DPI with no latency

WOBURN, MA, MAY 14, 2021 — In an effort to disguise his fingerprints, the prohibition-era gangster John Dillinger famously had doctors cut away the outer layer of his skin, the epidermis, and dip his fingertips into hydrochloric acid. Since then, criminals looking to evade capture have had their fingerprints sanded off, burned off with cigarettes, and have applied super glue so the ridges were not identifiable.

Fingerprints link people to their arrest records and outstanding warrants. Obliterating them seemingly provides a clean slate. However, a collection of skin layers, around 200 − 400 µm beneath the finger surface, is composed of live cells that is collectively called the “viable epidermis” or internal fingerprint. It essentially has the same topography as the finger surface. One of the most promising identification technologies for imaging below the surface of an external fingerprint is full-field optical coherent tomography (FF-OCT). While effective, FF-OCT can be expensive and cumbersome, despite its proven ability for biometric use, and is limited to large benchtop systems.

To overcome these limitations, researchers at the PSL Research University (Paris, France), the Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw, Poland), and the Norwegian University of Science (Gjøvik, Norway) developed a more compact, mobile and inexpensive FF-OCT that may lay grounds for enabling more widespread use of this technology. The newly designed system is comprised of an Adimec two-megapixel camera, a BitFlow Cyton-CXP4 CoaXPress four-lane frame grabber, an interferometer and a NIR light emitting diode. The system enables recording of 1.7 cm × 1.7 cm images of subsurface finger features, such as internal fingerprints and sweat ducts. A lightweight slab of plexiglass of 30 cm × 30 cm × 1 cm in size was used to cover the top of the system, against which a hand could be rested during the fingerprint imaging for a more stable acquisition.

LED illumination provided 900 mW of spatially incoherent light at 850 nm. Light was magnified 5X by lenses so that the divergence of the emerging light from the LED is decreased. This design helped to retain as much of the LED’s light as possible, which was necessary to operate the camera close to its saturation level and to ensure the homogeneous illumination of the entire sample area.

One of the challenges the researchers faced was running the camera at a maximum speed of 720 frames per second (fps), which together with the large number of pixels put a high demand on the data transfer requirements between the camera and the computer. To address this problem, the BitFlow Cyton-CXP4 frame grabber — capable of transferring the data at the maximum speed of 25 Gb/s — was installed. The sensor was controlled by an Adventech microcomputer with one PCIex16 slot dedicated to the BitFlow frame grabber. Thirteen FF-OCT images could be acquired at different depths by stepping a reference reflector every 50 µm between the acquisitions, resulting in images acquired in the range of 0 µm to 600 µm. Each was recorded in 570 milliseconds at 2116 dpi showing both the subsurface fingerprint and sweat ducts.

To demonstrate the accuracy of the FF-OCT, testing of 585 subjects and 6 unique fingers for each subject was conducted. Commercial-off-the-shelf fingerprint software from Neurotechnology was used, resulting in a Detection Error Trade-off and Receiver Operating Characteristics that showed a false rejection rate of 1.38% and the False Acceptance Rate of 0.1%. These results support the applicability of the new system for fingerprint imaging in real-life deployment.

Researchers found that the new FF-OCT was particularly useful when the surface of a finger is heavily damaged. The FF-OCT can still record a fingerprint image because of the remaining internal fingerprint, which is actually now easier to image because most of the scattering and absorbing epidermis layer is removed.

Researchers are continuing their work hoping to create even more compact and cost-effective FF-OCT designs, along with improved algorithms for better extraction of subsurface information.

BitFlow Debuts Fan-Cooled CoaXPress Frame Grabbers to Protect Industrial Mini-Computers

BitFlow Claxon and Cyton CXP frame grabbers engineered for the challenges of embedded computing where airflow cannot dissipate FPGA heat

WOBURN, MA, APRIL 28, 2021 — Configured with a powerful processor, ample storage, and an operating system, Small Form Factor (SFF PC) computers are becoming an essential part of the Industry 4.0 landscape, but present challenges in space-constrained embedded vision applications.

To save space, SFF PCs are typically fanless making them susceptible to overheating if airflow isn’t sufficient to dissipate heat from FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) processors that are often required to tackle demanding and intelligent vision tasks. The dense congestion of components within the SFF PC restricts airflow and space, which makes the use of many conventional cooling devices difficult to cool an FPGA.

To address thermal management challenges, BitFlow has engineered two new purpose-built frame grabbers featuring board-mounted micro fans to draw in cool air to replace hot air in the SFF PC. This dedicated design helps increase heat transfer from the FPGA while reducing the overall system size, and ensuring more reliable computing performance and preventing costly downtime.

Newly redesigned BitFlow Cyton CXP4-V and Claxon CXP4-V quad-channel frame grabbers were developed using the legacy architecture of their fan-less counterparts, so integrators can have complete confidence when selecting either of these field-proven designs for their vision systems. The Claxon CXP4 frame grabber is a quad CXP-12 PCIe Gen 3 frame grabber that supports one to four CXP-12 cameras and multi-link CXP-12 cameras, with CXP speeds from 3.25 to 12.5 Gb/S. Each connected camera has its own I/O and can draw up to 13 W of power. The Cyton CXP4 frame grabber is based on the CoaXPress 1.1 standard and has a Gen 2.0 x8 PCI Express bus interface on its back-end for high-speed access to host memory in multi-camera systems. Both frame grabbers support simple triggering modes and complicated, application-specific triggering and control interactions within any hardware environment.

“Although a small form factor PC consumes less power and produces less heat than its larger brethren, manufacturers are increasing the power of their microprocessors, putting more units per rack, and filling up the racks as much as possible, making overheating a serious issue,” said Donal Waide, Director of Sales for BitFlow. “With a lot of these small form factor PC’s the manufacturer is choosing to go fanless where possible but the powerful FPGA generates more heat than the heat syncs can dissipate quickly. Our new Cyton and Claxon CXP frame grabbers deliver extremely fast data transfer plus offer the added value of cooling protection for our customers’ computing investments.”

BitFlow Offers Starter Kit Version of BitBox High Density I/O Solution

Connect and control up to 36 devices from one BitBox

WOBURN, MA, MARCH 11, 2021 — BitFlow, one of the world’s leaders in machine vision innovation, now offers a starter kit version of its popular BitBox™ device, providing designers with a simple, cost-effective means to connect and continuously control up to 36 strobes, solenoids, actuators and other accessories in high-density input/output (I/O) applications, plus acquire data input from equipment ranging from photo detectors to triggers.

“In general, BitFlow frame grabbers come with a fairly large number of inputs and outputs, but for some systems this is simply not enough,” explained Donal Waide, Director of Sales for BitFlow. “Now, instead of purchasing another device to manage the I/O which adds expense and requires another slot, driver and SDK, they can simply deploy our BitBox which is straightforward and can be controlled solely by a BitFlow frame grabber, using the same SDK.”

The BitFlow BitBox kit (IOB-ISO-C144-KIT) contains everything a system integrator needs to save time and money, while maximizing space inside a machine. It provides 36 inputs and 36 outputs in a compact, DIN-rail mounted form factor that supports TTL, LVDS, open collector, opto-isolated and 24V signaling. All transmitters and receivers are situated in the BitBox on the DIN rail in close proximity to other equipment. This configuration isolates noisy, high-voltage signals generated by a PC, keeping those signals away from the system where they could cause data drops, video problems, malfunctions and random network errors. A 15-wire proprietary cable runs between the BitBox and frame grabber. Maximum cable length is 10 meters, providing flexibility in positioning equipment within the machine.

The BitFlow BitBox contains 12-pin connector blocks that can be added or removed, but will still lock securely in-place for factory floor reliability. Blocks are grouped by signal type and have snap-in connectors that permit fabrication of a harness without directly wiring the BitBox. 

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BitFlow Axion-xB Frame Grabbers Improve Performance of Camera Link Imaging Systems

New frame grabbers acquire stable, low-latency data from CL Base Cameras

WOBURN, MA, FEBRUARY 2, 2021 — Design engineers in the machine vision industry now have more configuration options than ever before with the introduction of the new Axion-xB line of frame grabbers from BitFlow, with support for the highest performance Camera Link® Base cameras on the market. Available in single, dual and quad link versions for maximum design flexibility, the new frame grabbers demonstrate BitFlow’s ongoing commitment to the highly popular Camera Link (CL) standard.

“Axion-xB frame grabbers represent a major upgrade from our renown Neon family of CL frame grabbers that we are phasing out in favor of this faster, more economical design,” said Donal Waide, Director of Sales for BitFlow, Inc. “Today, we are making it much easier for developers to bring the power, acceleration and versatility of technologies we’ve incorporated in our high-end CoaXPress frame grabbers into a Camera Link system environment, including the BitFlow StreamSync DMA engine and buffer manager that eliminates the need for on-board memory.”

As data generated by faster, higher-resolution cameras continues to grow exponentially, the Axion-xB’s PCIe Gen 2 interface — with the DMA optimized for modern computers — is now in line with the rest of the Axion family. Features such as, easier switching between different tap formats, more powerful acquisition engine and a more flexible I/O and timing generator are all now readily available in a dedicated low cost CL Base orientated frame grabber.

NEON UPGRADE SOLUTION The Axion-xB line addresses the challenge to developers of delivering greater return on machine vision system investments. One way to add value is to upgrade to the Axion-xB from existing Neon frame grabbers. Moving from the Neon family to the Axion family is simple. No code alterations are required — designers just recompile with the latest BitFlow SDK (6.5). Or if a 3rd party application is installed, such as Cognex Vision Pro or LabVIEW, the user can download the latest driver from BitFlow and the program will be immediately supported.

BitFlow Axion-xB frame grabbers are complimented by a sophisticated application software package and the BitFlow SDK for Windows and Linux operating systems. They can be integrated with virtually every available software library to permit seamless custom application development.

BitFlow Reaches for the Stars Helping Mount Wilson Observatory Capture Celestial Images

WOBURN, MA, JANUARY 7, 2021 — Located on Mount Wilson, California, Georgia State University’s Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy array (CHARA) is the world’s largest optical interferometer and has delivered landmark sub-milliarcsecond results in the areas of stellar imaging, binaries, and stellar diameters. CHARA is comprised of six separate telescopes across Mount Wilson that act together as one enormous telescope to attain the resolving power to define amazingly small details. To operate, the light obtained from each telescope is combined and a final reconstructed image can be observed that is of far higher resolution than would otherwise be possible.

Achieving observations of faint targets such as young stellar objects and active galactic nuclei required a new higher sensitivity adaptive optics system to correct atmospheric turbulence and path aberrations between the six telescopes in the array and the beam combiner lab. A BitFlow Neon CLB was used in the optics system as a low-latency frame grabber solution for the Andor iXon Ultra 897 EMCCD cameras capturing light from each telescope. The frames are then written to an instrument shared memory to be accessed directly by the main wavefront sensor server for processing and analysis.

Simple and affordable, the Neon CLB is a Base/PoCL Camera Link frame grabber that acquires images up to 24 bits at 85 MHz. It is one component in CHARA’s entirely commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system. In all, the optics system features six Andor ENCCD cameras, six frame grabbers, 12 OKO MMDM deformable mirrors, and six Intel CPU 6 core computers, one for each telescope. The fundamentals of the computers and the BitFlow frame grabbers are identical, meaning they use the same motherboard, processor, and RAM. Other frame grabbers were originally tested by the system designers but the latency jitter was too high compared to the BitFlow Neon CLB. In addition, the BitFlow grabber worked ideally with the Andor iXon Ultra 897’s non-standard Camera Link out: base configuration, 3-tap interface and 16-bit greyscale.

Using the BitFlow frame grabber, the cameras now operate at a 440Hz measured frame rate and have a -3dB closed-loop bandwidth of 19Hz. This is a similar performance to the adaptive optics system of the Auxiliary Telescopes of the VLTI (Very Large Telescope Interferometer) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile which is so powerful that it can detect an astronaut on the moon.

According to the CHARA researchers, the initial on-sky tests of the optics system have been very promising with more than a magnitude sensitivity improvement. In addition to observations of faint young stellar object disks and active galactic nuclei, researchers are using it to observe celestial objects in weather conditions that previously were not possible.

CAPTION: Georgia State University’s Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy array on Mt. Wilson is the world’s largest optical interferometer
CAPTION: BitFlow Neon CLB is being used as a low-latency frame grabber solution for the CHARA array

BitFlow Frame Grabber Eliminates Data Bottlenecks in New Optical Mapping Platform

New approach opens up dual mapping technology to broader cardiovascular research community

WOBURN, MA, OCTOBER 19, 2020 — Optical mapping is an imaging technique that measures fluorescence signals across a cardiac preparation with high spatiotemporal resolution. Optical mapping of transmembrane voltage and intracellular calcium is a powerful tool for investigating cardiac physiology and pathophysiology.

Researchers at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric and Surgical Innovation, Washington, DC, recently introduced a novel, easy-to-use approach to optical mapping that requires only a path splitter, a single camera, a frame grabber and an excitation light to simultaneously acquire voltage and calcium signals from whole heart preparations.1 This cost-effective yet highly reliable system eliminates the need for multiple cameras, excitation light patterning, or frame interleaving, therefore aiding in the adoption of dual mapping technology by the broader cardiovascular research community, and decreasing the barrier of entry into panoramic heart imaging.

At the heart of the new system is a BitFlow four-channel frame grabber. It is used for imaging control and acquisition from an Andor Zyla 4.2 PLUS Scientific CMOS (sCMOS) camera acquiring images at 4.2 megapixels. A 10-tap CameraLink™ connection with a clock rate of 85 MHz was necessary to achieve the fastest frame rates possible. The researchers selected the BitFlow frame grabber in part because of its “2x” mode that shares DMA responsibility between two DMA engines, effectively doubling the frame grabber’s bandwidth and providing much needed headroom to DMA images from the camera continuously, regardless of system load. Because of the high data rate of acquisition — due to high spatial and temporal resolution and bit depth — an NVMe SSD disk was also essential for reducing data rate bottlenecks.

To achieve optimal results, an image splitting device is positioned in front of the sCMOS camera. A fixed focal length 17 mm/F0.95 lens is attached to the front of the device for experiments with rat hearts, while a wide-angle 6mm f/1.2 lens is used for pig hearts. To guide manual alignment, MetaMorph software from Molecular Devices overlays live images as contrasting colors or as subtractive grey scales to highlight misalignment. With this live feedback, images are quickly aligned using the “long” and “short” control knobs. After alignment, any standard image acquisition software can be used such as MetaMorph, μManager, or Solis. The acquired image includes two fields which can be separated using imaging software that includes automated tools.

The computer consisted of a Xeon CPU E3–1245 v5 3.50 GHz (Intel corporation), 32 GB of RAM, and a non-volatile memory express solid state disk (NVMe SSD, Samsung 960 Pro). Notably, the platform is composed entirely of off-the-shelf components, which will help in the adoption and successful implementation of this setup by other laboratories.

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1. Jaimes, R., McCullough, D., Siegel, B. et al. Lights, camera, path splitter: a new approach for truly simultaneous dual optical mapping of the heart with a single camera. BMC biomed eng 1, 25 (2019).

Photo caption: A Optical system configuration with image splitting device positioned in front of a sCMOS camera. B Emission of each complementary probe (Vm, Ca) is separated by wavelength using an image splitting device. C Dichroic cube setup with the two emission filters and a dichroic mirror.