What impact has the miniaturization of cameras had on endoscopic imaging?
The miniaturization, and in particular the usage of semiconductor miniaturization technologies, allows us to build smaller, in volume and lower priced endoscopic cameras. This enables the proliferation of disposable endoscopes for a wide range of applications.
CMOSIS NanEye endoscopic camera, next to ants for scale. Courtesy of CMOSIS.
The most exciting new applications are those that previously had to be done “blind”, meaning without endoscopic vision. Think for example of an intubation tube for artificial respiration. In difficult cases it would be good to see that you are in the lung and not in the stomach.
How do miniaturized camera modules compare to the fiber optic image bundles previously used in reusable flexible endoscopes?
Fibre optics based endoscopes are much less flexible and provide significantly lower amount of image points at the same diameter compared to a miniature camera modules.
Furthermore fibre bundles are quite fragile, and suffer from breakage of individual fibres leading to black dots in the image.
Finally imaging fibre bundles are more costly.
What are the main drivers behind single-use endoscopes and are these viable in terms of the cost of the cameras?
There are many drivers to use disposable equipment in medical procedures. The most obvious being the risk for infection by insufficient sterilization in reusable devices. Especially if they are flexible.
Other drivers are the availability and logistics. If in an operation an unforeseen complication occurs that may need an endoscope, the disposable can just be pulled out of the drawer, while a reusable endoscope tower might at this moment be in the sterilization, or being used in another procedure.
Finally the cost of sterilization and repair of reusable endoscopes is not negligible.
Please can you give some examples of how your customers have used the moderate-cost disposable camera modules?
Unfortunately we cannot disclose the specific application of our customers. But in the open literature you can read about existing and potential applications in laryngoscopy, dental, gastroenterology, bronchoscopy and urology.
Do you think miniaturized camera modules will be used in the doctor’s office as well as the operation theatre in the future?
Bringing procedures out of the operation theatre to the doctor’s office, which might not have the equipment and procedures for sterilization required to operate reusable endoscopes, is one of the big drivers behind disposables.
Also if the overall size of the scope can be reduced to fit in a disposable needle, it is possible to introduce the scope by punctuation, which can be done in a doctor’s office, as opposed to an incision which normally is reserved to the operation theatre.
This provides tremendous potential, particularly in developing markets.
Is it possible to introduce 3D visualization using the mini optical modules?
Yes, for that purpose CMOSIS already offers endoscopic stereo camera modules. Multiple camera modules can provide 3D image information as needed for dental applications, or for the absolute measurement of features in laparoscopy or gastroenterology.
What do you think the future holds for image sensor modules for endoscopic imaging and how do CMOSIS plan to add value?
The market for image sensor modules for endoscopic applications will continue to grow. CMOSIS can add value by continuing to develop and offer miniaturized camera modules based on CMOS image sensor optimized for these applications and tailor such modules for the wide range of different endoscopic procedures.
Where can readers find more information?
About Martin Wäny
Martin Wäny graduated in microelectronics IMT Neuchâtel, in 1997. In 1998 he worked on CMOS image sensor at IMEC. In 1999 he joined the CSEM, as PHD student in the field of digital CMOS image sensors and High Dynamic Range pixels.
In 2000 he won the Vision prize for the invention of the LINLOG technology and in 2001 the photonics circle of excellence award of SPIE . In 2001 he co-founded the Photonfocus AG. In 2004 he founded AWAIBA Lda, where he is currently CEO.
AWAIBA is a design-house and supplier for area and linescan image sensors specialized on high speed and high dynamic range sensors and miniature wafer level camera modules for medical endoscopy and portable miniature vision.
Since AWAIBA joined CMOSIS group in 2014, Martin Wäny is leading the business unit for endoscopic and linear image sensors. Martin Wäny was member of the founding board of EMVA the European machine vision association and the 1288 vision standard working group. He is member of IEEE and SPIE societies.