Infrared cameras based on hybrid focal-plane array sensors are unlike consumer video products such as camcorders. They are complicated imaging devices that output very large amounts of digital image data at high speeds, require multiple levels of camera control, and produce imagery that must be corrected for non-uniformities inherent in the sensor array. A software package, called IRvista, combines all these requirements and functions into one application designed to work with Indigo Systems' cameras from the near-infrared (0.9 to 1.7 microns wavelength) to the mid-and longwave infrared (3-5 microns and 7-14 microns respectively). The infrared is a very rich portion of the spectrum in terms of the number of phenomena that emit or absorb infrared light. These phenomena occur in various time domains, including real-time, high-speed and low speed.

High-speed thermal events take place at speeds faster than human perception, and include phenomena such as air bag deployment, rocket ignition, train wheel bearing failure and automotive brake disc heating. Characterizing these events requires images to be captured at hundreds or thousands of frames per second. IRvista handles these data rates by allocating large buffers in the host computer's RAM, then writing image data to the buffers at speeds of up to 12.4 megapixels per second. The user can also view live images displayed at rates of up to 50 frames per second for composing the shot and focusing the optics of the system.

Slow-moving thermal events happening at time scales of minutes, hours, or days include the gradual heating or cooling of a machine, a building, or an accelerated life test of a thermal barrier coating stressed to failure over many days by overheating. These slow-changing phenomena are captured by recording time-stamped sequences directly to disc at frame rates as high as ~20 frames per second or as slow as one frame every 277 hours.

IRvista runs with the National Instruments PCI-1422 digital frame grabber board. Functions are accessed through a main graphical user interface (GUI) panel. This architecture takes advantage of existing LabVIEW libraries of image processing functions, GUI controls, and GUI indicators. In addition to LabVIEW code, Winsoft wrote subroutines in C where high-speed array manipulation was needed.

IRvista development was directed by Dr. Austin Richards of Indigo Systems Corp., Goleta, CA and Gabriela Schwartzberg of Winsoft Corporation, Santa Ana, CA. For more information, please contact Aileen Wrench of Indigo Systems at 805-964-9797 or visit .

A graphical user interface (GUI) provides users with access to IRvista functions. Here the main panel displays a live near-IR image of semiconductor circuitry.

Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the April, 2003 issue of Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine.

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