We appreciate your commitment to BitFlow during this truly unique time as we work to overcome the challenges related to COVID-19. As we have seen worldwide it is the strength of our communities that will help us past this hurdle.
These same communities are depending on your ability to sustain all production that is deemed necessary and vital to the control of this pandemic.
In April, Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring all MA businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” to close. As of May 19th 2020, the state of MA has eased restrictions on some businesses and organizations.
As a key supplier to essential businesses BitFlow is continuing to maintain operations with a minimum staff level in line with the order. Our non essential employees are all working remotely and are able to assist you in real time.
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.”
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.
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.
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
Older machine vision systems are difficult and costly to upgrade, especially those based on RS422 and low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS) type interfaces. Incompatible with most modern frame grabbers, these legacy differential systems can now be brought up to speed using the BitFlow Neon-DIF differential frame grabber. Designed on the latest PCI Express (PCIe) platform, the Neon-DIF will upgrade an older differential system to acquire images up to 32 bits at 85 MHz from an existing LVDS camera, providing greater control, plus the convenience of running on Windows 10 or Linux OS.
“There are thousands of older differential systems today that handle basic processes at minimal cost, such as mail sorting, package handling, X-ray imaging, Focused Ion Beam, and Scanning Electron Microscopes. Unfortunately, users can’t upgrade the system’s PC to one featuring more powerful processing and a newer OS because the original PCI frame grabber is no longer available or isn’t compatible with a new PC,” explained Donal Waide, Director of Sales for BitFlow, Inc. “Our Neon-DIF frame grabber enables the user to save money by keeping the same LVDS line or area scan cameras, devices and application, yet upgrade their PC to use faster, more accurate image processing algorithms.”
Rather than PCI, the Neon-DIF is built on a half-size x4 PCIe bus interface that fits into the x16, x8, x4 and x1 slots found in today’s PCs. It installs fast and simple, bringing to an existing system a full set of new control signals and sync inputs for total camera and acquisition control.
Upgrades BitFlow Road Runner and R3-DIF
Along with older PCI frame grabbers from other manufacturers, the Neon-DIF provides an upgrade path for users of BitFlow Road Runner and R3-DIF PCI frame grabbers. It has the same connector pin-out and is compatible with their cables.
Ideal for Differential System OEMs
Besides legacy situations, the NEON-DIF is a cost-effective PCIe choice for OEMs developing new systems featuring cameras or other devices that output differential data. The Neon-DIF can acquire from just about any device and efficiently DMA its data into host memory at rates of 528 MB/S.
BitFlow SDK Support
The Neon-DIF is supported by the BitFlow SDK for both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows platforms. The SDK offers drivers, DLLs, and configuration utilities for people interested in using third party software. For those customers interested in developing their own applications, the SDK has header files, libraries, and example code for Windows XP/2003/Vista/Windows 7/10.
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.
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). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42490-019-0024-x
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.
Claxon CXP1 designed for new generation of single link CXP-12 cameras
WOBURN, MA, SEPTEMBER 18, 2020 – BitFlow has expanded its Claxon™ series of high-performance CoaXPress CXP-12 frame grabbers with a new single link version that transfers image data from a CXP camera to the host memory at speeds up to 12.5 Gb/S, or twice the acquisition bandwidth of the previous generation of the CoaXPress standard. The BitFlow Claxon CXP1 provides developers of smaller-scale, yet complex vision systems with a deterministic, zero-latency pipeline ideal for applications that include aerospace, AOI, science and robotics, as well as high-speed linescan inspection of printed materials or textiles.
Like the Claxon CXP4 quad link model from BitFlow, the new frame grabber takes full advantage of a half-size PCI Express expansion bus and StreamSync™ DMA to deliver the sustained bandwidth needed to support acquisition from one of the new generation single-link CXP-12 cameras. Cameras are “plug-and-play” with automatic link speed and camera parameter detection.
In addition to transmitting bitrates up to 12.5 Gb/S, the Claxon CXP1 has an uplink interface of up to 41.6 Mbps, and further simplifies integration by supplying 13 watts of Safe Power through PoCXP — all on a single Coaxial cable using reliable micro-BNC (HD-BNC) connectors. Unlike USB3, Camera Link or other interfaces that rely on passive cable lengths of a few meters or less, the Claxon CXP1 frame grabber supports a 40-meter maximum cable length without the use of a repeater that could jeopardize signal integrity. Fanless passive cooling ensures extended use of the frame grabber without maintenance.
Claxon CXP1 frame grabbers are supported by BitFlow’s software development kit (SDK) to help developers in the configuration of vision systems. The SDK contains fully developed applications, and a variety of utilities and libraries, and supports both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and Linux. Drivers for third party applications are also available, such as LabView, VisionPro and HALCON.
WOBURN, MA, AUGUST 18, 2020 — BitFlow recently assisted OneBoxVision, an integrator located in Ireland, in developing two web-based machine vision systems for a North American film extruder. The systems ensure consistent, defect-free film for plastic bags used for storage of powered milk. Dry milk products are highly sensitive to environmental conditions, particularly to moisture. This vulnerability makes it critical that plastic bags storing the powder not have holes where water or humidity can enter to spoil the product.
To prevent holes, the extruder required its plastic film be continuously assessed for the presence of carbon or “black” specks while it was being extruded on a blown film line. Black specks in plastic film or sheet – especially in light-colored or clear plastics used to store foods – can cause holes in the material when it’s later oriented or thermoformed. Black specks also lead to expensive rejects, wasted resin, and production downtime, not to mention client dissatisfaction.
Once the extruded plastic is processed, inspected and approved at the first plant, it is shipped to a second site where an automated line fabricates it into bags during a multi-state production process. Another inspection station was installed there by OneBoxVision to scan the finished bags. OneBoxVision networked the system so that management at the second plant had access to the inspection data from the extrusion plant to compare results.
For the key technology enabler, OneBoxVision relied upon its SurfaceFlow™ software. SurfaceFlow is a complete quality package that can be deployed on plastic film lines to automatically detect holes, carbon, wrinkles, contamination and gels. Hardware included BitFlow Axion CL 2xE CameraLink frame grabbers, along with Chromasens allPIXA pro line scan cameras transmitting color images full-tilt at over 1 Gbytes per second. By adopting an “off-the-shelf” non-proprietaryhardware approach, OneBoxVision enables plastic film extruders, printers and converters, medical packaging manufacturers, and injection molding plants to deploy its high-performance solutions at a far lower cost with reduced risk.
By timing the line-by-line scanning with the transport cycle in the transport direction, a distortion-free image of the bags can be achieved. The particular strength of the line scan cameras emerges when they are used in conjunction with a highly deterministic, low latency frame grabber. In this situation, the BitFlow frame grabber synchronizes the image captures with the incoming triggers, plus provides energy to the cameras with its Power over Camera Link (PoCL).
One of the challenges for the second operation was that the bag inspection system had to be placed after a rotary punch perforated the bags. This meant the new system had to not only inspect for random holes in the plastic that could spoil the milk powder, but check that the manufactured perforations were properly made and in-place. Adding to this challenge is that the roll-feed runs continuously for hours, at high feed rates, and with limited human inspection. Again, SurfaceFlow was up to the job. OneBoxVision developed a suite of tools that perform both perforation and seam analysis while checking for the presence of defects. Simple but effective, the second vision system is made up of a single camera coupled with a BitFlow Axion CL 2xE frame grabber installed on the bag line.
The BitFlow Axion-CL is the most powerful CL frame grabber BitFlow has ever manufactured, featuring a StreamSync Direct Memory Access (DMA) engine and buffer manager to prevent overloading of the CPU with image transfer operations, along with a PCIe Gen 2 expansion bus to deliver high-speed access to host memory.
WOBURN, MA, AUGUST 6, 2020 – BitFlow frame grabber technology has been incorporated into a prototype Augmented Reality Microscope (ARM) platform that researchers at Google AI Healthcare (Mountain View, CA) believe will accelerate the adoption of deep learning tools for pathologists around the world in the critical task of visually examining both biological and physical samples at sub-millimeter scales.
The application driving the ARM platform runs on a standard off-the-shelf computer with a BitFlow Cyton CoaXPress (CXP) 4-channel frame grabber (CYT-PC2-CXP4) connected to an Adimec S25A80 25-megapixel CXP camera for live image capture, along with an NVidia Titan Xp GPU for running deep learning algorithms. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), the platform enables real-time image analysis and presentation of the results of machine learning algorithms directly into the field of view.
Importantly, the ARM can be retrofitted into existing light microscopes found in hospitals and clinics around the world using low-cost, readily-available components, such as the BitFlow Cyton frame grabber, and without the need for whole slide digital versions of the tissue being analyzed. This innovation comes as welcome news: despite significant advances in AI research, integration of deep-learning tools into real-world diagnosis workflows remains challenging because of the costs of image digitization and difficulties in deploying AI solutions in microscopic analysis. Besides being economical, the ARM platform is application-agnostic and can be utilized in most microscopy applications.
According to Google researchers, opto-mechanical component selection were driven by final performance requirements, specifically for effective cell and gland level feature representation. The Adimec camera’s 5120×5120 pixel color sensor features high sensitivity and global shutter capable of capturing images at up to 80 frames/sec, while the BitFlow Cyton CXP-4 has a universal PCI-E interface to the computer that simplifies set-up. The eMagin SXGA096,1292×1036 pixel microdisplay mounted on the side of the microscope includes an HDMI interface for receiving images from the computer. This opto-mechanical design can be easily retrofitted into most standard bright field microscopes. Including the computer, the overall cost of the ARM system is at least an order of magnitude lower than conventional whole-slide scanners, without incurring the workflow changes and delays associated with digitization.
The basic ARM pipeline consists of a set of threads that continuously grab an image frame from the camera, debayer it to convert the raw sensor output into an RGB color image, prepare the data, run the deep learning algorithm, process the results, and finally display the output.
Google researchers believe that the ARM has potential for a large impact on global health, particularly for the diagnosis of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and malaria, in developing countries. Furthermore, even in hospitals that will adopt a digital pathology workflow in the near future, ARM could be used in combination with the digital workflow where scanners still face major challenges or where rapid turnaround is required as is the case with cytology, fluorescent imaging, or intra-operative frozen sections.
Since light microscopes have proven useful in many industries other than pathology, the ARM can be adapted for a broad range of applications across healthcare, life sciences research, and material science. Beyond the life science, the ARM can potentially be applied to other microscopy applications such as material characterization in metallurgy 12 and defect detection in electronics manufacturing.
WOBURN, MA, JUNE 23, 2020 – The challenges facing today’s machine vision integrators are more complicated and critical than ever before, as they strive to build faster, more accurate and cost-efficient systems in the wake of changing technology. To that end, BitFlow has published a new whitepaper Controlling CoaXPress Cameras from The BitFlow SDK Tools, Configuration File and APIs designed to help integrators new to the CoaXPress (CXP) standard introduce advanced CXP cameras into system infrastructure to shape positive outcomes.
CoaXPress is the world’s fastest standard for professional and industrial imaging applications such as machine vision, medical imaging, life sciences, broadcast and defense. It is an asymmetric point-to-point serial communication standard that transmits video and still images, scalable over single or multiple coaxial cables. It has a high speed downlink of up to 12.5 Gbps per cable for video, images and data, plus a lower speed uplink up to 42 Mbps for communications and control.
An invaluable learning tool, the 10-page whitepaper details the flexible CXP tools available in the BitFlow SDK (Software Development Kit), and how they work in concert to meet different application needs. It also provides examples showing optimization of a CXP machine vision system, accelerated and simplified by the BitFlow SDK.
The publication of the new whitepaper is part of the rollout of the new BitFlow Claxon CXP-12 PCIe Gen 3 frame grabber. CXP-12 is the latest CoaXPress speed jump, now transmitting video at 12. 5 Gb/S.