3D technologies are gaining more and more importance and open up new markets. They are used in many ways in the industry: new applications are continuously found in the automotive industry, in medicine and on the consumer market.
3D to go
The smartphone is the driving force on the consumer market. The possibility to take 3D pictures and shoot 3D films is only the beginning. Google’s Project Tango, ARCore since 2017, makes it possible for the smartphone to detect its environment in three dimensions. Using various apps, the user cannot only check if the sofa he is about to buy fits together with the rest of his furniture, but also bring virtual dinosaurs to life for his children. However, this technology cannot only be used at home: At ifm electronic’s fair stand on the Hannover Messe 2017, visitors could experience a wide range of applications in the “digital factory” in action via a smartphone display. Motors rolled off the conveyor belt and the entering of digital data flows into the cloud was made visible by moving zeros and ones.
Helping robots see
In the industry, there are numerous applications for 3D detection, many of which in the area of collaborating robots. These robots serve to relieve workers of dangerous or straining tasks. It is imperative that they reliably detect their environment and are able to safely manoeuvre in it, so that they themselves do not become a risk for humans. These applications can only be solved satisfactorily with 3D sensors. But there are other applications that require this technology as well. For example, filled boxes can be checked for completeness, regardless of the type of contents and even if the box contains a mix of different objects. No complex configuration is necessary.
Innovations in the automotive area
Besides 3D sensors for detection of traffic situations and parking assistance, another trend currently found in the automotive industry is the gesture-controlled vehicle interior. A simple hand movement rejects incoming calls, moving your extended finger in a clockwise or anticlockwise circular motion controls the media volume in the car and swinging your fist allows you to jump to the next song in the playlist. BMW and VW are already offering this technology as a standard.
Applications in medicine
In medicine, 3D technology is mainly used for computer tomographies, but there are also other applications which are suited to support work processes in a hospital. For example, a 3D camera installed above a patient’s bed can detect quickly and reliably if the patient is about to turn into an unfavourable position or fall out of bed.
Gesture control with a 3D camera from PMDtec.
Market growth and forecasts
The report “3D Imaging and Sensing“ of the Yole Développement group from 2017 forecasts a growth of the market by a factor of seven by 2022. This will particularly affect the consumer market. 3D technology is already very present on trade fairs such as CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and the Mobile World Congress. A focus is on virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). This market development is favoured by the growing availability of low-cost solutions: it is forecast that the trend will extend to laptops and tablets, but drones and robots will be present on the consumer market as well due to falling prices.
Many different technologies are used in the area of 3D. According to Yole Développement, the time of flight technology (ToF) and structured light as well as stereo vision have the biggest potential. Among these three, ToF is seen as the winner on the consumer market. The O3D sensor from ifm also uses this technology: the area to be detected is illuminated with invisible infrared light. The sensor receives the reflected light and measures the phase shift between the transmitted and received signal. This allows to precisely determine the time-of-flight of the light and thus the distance to the object.
Threedimensional detection and analysis with the O3D sensor by ifm. Do you want to learn more about the O3D?
ifm is a manufacturer of sensors, communication and control systems. After many years of intensive cooperation with our customers we have established ourselves in the market as service-oriented sensor specialists and today we are represented by more than 6,700 employees in over 70 countries worldwide.
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