Abstract

Various existing target ranging techniques are limited in terms of the dynamic range of operation and measurement resolution. These limitations arise as a result of a particular measurement methodology, the finite processing capability of the hardware components deployed within the sensor module, and the medium through which the target is viewed. Generally, improving the sensor range adversely affects its resolution and vice versa. Often, a distance sensor is designed for an optimal range/resolution setting depending on its intended application. Optical triangulation is broadly classified as a spatial-signal-processing-based ranging technique and measures target distance from the location of the reflected spot on a position sensitive detector (PSD). In most triangulation sensors that use lasers as a light source, beam divergence—which severely affects sensor measurement range—is often ignored in calculations. In this paper, we first discuss in detail the limitations to ranging imposed by beam divergence, which, in effect, sets the sensor dynamic range. Next, we show how the resolution of laser-based triangulation sensors is limited by the interpixel pitch of a finite-sized PSD. In this paper, through the use of tunable focus lenses (TFLs), we propose a novel design of a triangulation-based optical rangefinder that improves both the sensor resolution and its dynamic range through adaptive electronic control of beam propagation parameters. We present the theory and operation of the proposed sensor and clearly demonstrate a range and resolution improvement with the use of TFLs. Experimental results in support of our claims are shown to be in strong agreement with theory.

© 2017 Optical Society of America

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