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New sensor allows robots to “see” transparent objects By heating

Robots and other automated systems have always had difficulty visually determining the three-dimensional shape of transparent objects, such as those made of glass. The new system solves this problem by using a laser to rapidly heat the desired surface.

The Glass360Dgree system, developed by the German Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering, includes an infrared laser as well as two highly sensitive thermal cameras.

During “fractions of a second” the laser moves over the entire surface of the object, slightly heating it. There is no risk that the object will melt or burn, as it only heats up by 3 ºC.

Although the absorbed thermal energy is stored in glass or other material for only a short time, this is enough for two cameras to simultaneously record changes in the thermal characteristic of an object from two angles. This data is analyzed by a computer system, which can then determine the three-dimensional shape and size of the object.

Along with transparent materials, the technology can be used to image hard-to-scan materials such as highly reflective materials or solid blacks.

Glass360Dgree will be presented at the Hannover Messe industrial fair.

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