High-speed image capture accelerates automotive analysis

High-speed image capture forms a key part of testing systems in an automotive design and testing laboratory.

High-speed image capture forms a key part of testing systems in an automotive design and testing laboratory. In the analysis, for example, fast sequences of images of the spray from injectors need to be taken so the spray pattern the injector creates can be later analyzed. By analyzing these images, engine designers are better able to assess and compare architectures and make modifications.

Hindsight Imaging (Waterlooville, Hampshire, England) was recently called upon to develop such a system for a major automobile manufacturer. Using a Redlake Megaplus ES1.0 camera from Edmund Industrial Optics (Barrington, NJ), the system captures images to host PC memory using the MV-1500 frame-grabber board from MuTech (Billerica, MA). Hindsight purchased the frame grabber via Image Management Technologies (IMT; Petersfield, Hampshire, England), MuTech's representative in the UK.

Although written as a research-and-design application by Graham Hinds of Hindsight Imaging for the mechanical engineering department at Loughborough University (Leicestershire, England), the system's ES1 software enables the camera to be switched between continuous and controlled mode. In continuous mode, live images can be viewed in real time. In controlled mode, the brightness of the picture can be controlled by setting the exposure time using control outputs on the MV-1500 board. In triggered mode, the camera will respond to an external signal.

The camera takes a picture of a pulsed laser as it shines through a diesel spray. A standard Roper AIA connector interfaces the camera to the MV-1500 frame grabber in a Windows-based PC using an RS-422 interface. The ES1.0 camera can take two pictures at 5-µs intervals using ES1 Sequencer software, and a number of pictures can be recorded and played back frame-by-frame. For viewing live images, the camera's continuous mode can be set via the PC's serial communications port. This is useful for focusing the camera onto the target.

To select a new mode, the operator uses the system's SDK API to send serial commands to the camera. With two channels of data streaming out from the two-tap camera, a routine was written to remap the data and make it displayable. If the camera is in a triggered mode, it will not output any information until it is triggered and will stand idle until a trigger pulse is received. The camera will then capture an image and send either one or two frames to the frame grabber depending on its operating mode.

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