Medical Camera or Grain of Sand: Can You Tell them Apart?

By Wesley Fenlon

This is one tiny--and cheap--camera.

Medical technology rocks at doing two things: saving lives and making the rest of the tech world look like chumps on a regular basis. Even some of the most sophisticated robots we’ve seen were born from the medical world, designed to safely nurse human patients. The latest wonder product is a new camera designed for endoscopy procedures, which promises to produce higher quality images at a fraction of a cost of current technology.

endoscope camera so cheap to manufacture that it’s disposable--and so tiny that it’s almost invisible to the human eye. If you can picture a single grain of sand, you’ll start to get the idea.

over $2000 as a result.

Here’s why they’re so expensive: each camera uses about 28,000 sensors that are individually mounted onto a wafer and wired into the camera lens. Previously, the sensor couldn’t fit at the tip of the unit, meaning it was wired to the camera through that lengthy tubing and sat at the other end. Fraunhofer solved that problem.

“Now, the wiring process is faster and the entire camera system is smaller. The trick lies in the fact that they do not reach the contacts of each individual image sensor via the side any more but rather, simultaneously, with all sensors via their reverse side while they are still connected as a wafer. That means that you no longer have to mount the individual lenses. Instead, you can connect them with the image sensor wafers as lens wafers. Only then is the stack of wafers sawed apart into individual microcameras.”

The compact camera allows both lens and sensor to go body exploring together, and the streamlined manufacturing process makes the whole rig more affordable. The endoscope camera takes pictures at a 250x250 resolution; 62,500 pixels may not be much compared to the average cell phone cam, but it gets the job done for an endoscopy. How long before these microscopic cameras are everywhere? We’re going to need a lot of tiny robotic hands to work on them without accidentally mashing them into microdust.