Microscan announces integrated liquid lens autofocus for MicroHAWK barcode readers


Microscan has announced that fully-integrated liquid lens autofocus models of MicroHAWK barcode readers are now available for pre-order featuring both truly-automatic and software-programmable autofocus.

Liquid lens autofocus technology has been offered in Microscan technology since the release of the company's high-performance QX Hawk barcode imager in 2009. This technology uses electrostatic pressure to create electrical currents that react with the two liquids inside the lens to produce the appropriate lens curvature. This enables barcode imagers to read symbols at any distance and speed in any environment, from high-density 3.3 mil Data Matrix symbols on complex PCBs, to very large linear barcodes on packages, to low-contrast direct part mark (DPM) symbols on machined parts.

Liquid lens autofocus not only enables flexible positioning within machines and other integration environments, it eliminates the need for automation engineers to research multiple configuration options before choosing a reader for an application. Microscan integrates its liquid lens technology directly into its highest-performance imaging platforms rather than requiring add-on optical accessories, eliminating additional cost, device size, and integration complexity.

The MicroHAWK platform offers the ultimate hardware configurability among industrial imaging platforms. An array of feature combinations can be packaged inside any of three all-in-one barcode readers, allowing users to tailor the performance of their chosen reader to the specific requirements of their application. A range of integrated optical options are available as part of MicroHAWK's configurable design, and users can choose from seven fixed-focus models of any MicroHAWK imager or the new autofocus model (MicroHAWK ID-30 and ID-40 imagers only) to read barcodes at distances from 2-12 in. (50-300 mm), with potentially infinite-focus flexibility.

While fixed-focus models are factory-configured to decode at set focal distances, new autofocus models offer both true autofocus (automatic, continuous symbol location and decoding) and software-programmable focus, which allows users the option to set fixed focal distances for autofocus units from the WebLink user interface.

When using a MicroHAWK autofocus unit in "triggered mode" (the unit waits for a command or signal before locating a symbol and capturing an image), users can do a quick focus by selecting the Autofocus button from the WebLink user interface and then clicking anywhere within the live view to set the reader's focal distance for specific code locations. Users can also manually adjust the reader's focus while in triggered mode using controls in the WebLink interface to set specific distances in inches or millimeters. When using a MicroHAWK autofocus unit in "continuous mode" (the unit actively locates symbols to decode), users can select and deselect the Autofocus button to switch from active autofocus to fixed focus.

With the Autofocus button selected, a MicroHAWK reader will continue to search for a symbol within its field of view at a given focal distance, adjusting focus after a set number of no-read results to search for a symbol at another focal distance. This truly-automatic autofocus capability offers both integration simplicity and peace of mind that MicroHAWK will reliably decode despite variable barcode locations and positions without manual intervention.

"Setting up an autofocus MicroHAWK reader is almost as easy as using a point-and-shoot digital camera," states Microscan Vice President of Engineering, Andy Zosel. "As soon as it is connected to power, the reader begins to automatically focus and look for symbols to decode. Users can then simply click on the image in the WebLink interface to focus on codes within the field of view, or set custom focal distances."

Liquid lens autofocus models of MicroHAWK ID-30 and ID-40 readers are slated for release in late May 2016, among several feature upgrades supported by WebLink 1.1 – the latest release of the world's first browser-based barcode reader setup and control interface. WebLink 1.1 also introduces field-upgradable speed and decoding capabilities for MicroHAWK, allowing users to request license upgrades directly from the WebLink interface to unlock unlimited Speed (up to 60 frames per second) and Decoder options from Standard (1D barcodes only), Plus (high-contrast 1D and 2D symbols), and X-Mode (Microscan's advanced decoding algorithm for reading damaged symbols and direct part marks).

Additional WebLink feature upgrades include continuous storage of images taken by MicroHAWK on external servers via Flash, RAM, or FTP; HID USB keyboard output for USB readers; and Software Development Kit (SDK) for .NET development of custom interfaces using WebLink tools. Passive Power over Ethernet (PoE) will be an added hardware option, streamlining cabling for the MicroHAWK ID-40 Ethernet barcode reader.

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