Three-dimensional techniques enrich imaging

By merging the latest image-acquisition hardware, computers, and commercial and custom software algorithms, system integrators are designing imaging systems that can precisely visualize objects in three dimensions. Consequently, many 3-D imaging applications are able to more closely explore, map, and replicate a variety of materials, structures, and organisms that would not otherwise be possible via conventional imaging techniques.

Sep 1st, 1998

Three-dimensional techniques enrich imaging

George Kotelly Executive Editor

georgek@pennwell.com

By merging the latest image-acquisition hardware, computers, and commercial and custom software algorithms, system integrators are designing imaging systems that can precisely visualize objects in three dimensions. Consequently, many 3-D imaging applications are able to more closely explore, map, and replicate a variety of materials, structures, and organisms that would not otherwise be possible via conventional imaging techniques.

The medical industry is probably the foremost proponent of 3-D imaging. Recent medical visualization software techniques, reports contributing editor John Haystead, are permitting physicians to navigate or interactively "fly-through" both two- and three-dimensional volumetric images of patients` anatomy and pathology and to evaluate radiological data during pre- and postsurgical examinations (see p. 58).

In another 3-D imaging process, researchers are using an electron-microscopy-based system to map viral-type molecular structures. In this approach, says contributing editor Winn Hardin, researchers are learning about the specific proteins that form genetic disease carriers and other important information that could lead to improved medical treatments (see p. 36).

On the industrial front, a leading overnight package-delivery vendor has installed accurate and automatic 3-D inspection systems to process nearly a million parcels a day. These integrated machine-vision and barcode-scanning systems, as described by contributing editor Larry Curran, scan, identify, and measure the length, width, and height of different-shaped packages moving on a conveyor belt at speeds to 300 feet/minute (see p. 46).

To execute demanding image-processing functions but with less board space, parts, and cost, researchers and manufacturers are exploring reconfigurable computing techniques. As spotlighted by editor at large Andy Wilson, system designers have integrated reduced instruction set computer cores and single-chip field-programmable gate arrays with on-board SRAM that can be completely rewritten in 100 µs to accelerate algorithms in military imaging systems.

To analyze video-imaging products, system integrators are generally using off-the-shelf pattern generators, waveform monitors, and video test sets to deliver stable video signals with carefully defined characteristics. Moreover, says Andy Wilson, these test instruments can rapidly and accurately check out such key characteristics as color fidelity, gain, and frequency response, among others (see p. 78).

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