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Illumination & Displays

Low-cost photometric testing of automotive headlamps from near-field measurement

A low-cost technique for photometric characterization of extended sources allows accurate photometric measurements at long distance from near-distance measurements.
4 February 2007, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.120071.0580

Testing extended sources is difficult to manage because most have complex and irregular energy patterns in the near-field region, but proper performance actually takes place farther away, in the far field. In the case of automotive headlamps, performance is tested at a number of points on a flat screen positioned at a distance of 25m. Measurements are usually made in photometric tunnels. These are expensive installations to rent and usually distant from the headlamp manufacturer, who must nevertheless use them to validate new designs. The situation has grown worse in recent years as new geometries, materials, and light have come to market, leaving previous experience to count for little.

We have developed a low-cost system, shown in Figure 1, that samples the energy in each direction in the near field, then propagates it to the far-field region, onto a plane at 25m. The components consist of a commercial 8-bit CCD camera, equipped with filters, which scans the region with relevant energy values close to the headlamp, an electronic shutter to extend the available dynamic range, and propagation software to superimpose different energy patches in the final plane.1

Figure 1. Experimental setup at work: the camera scans the near-field energy pattern of the headlamp.

It is well known that incoming light to a CCD camera with its lens focused to infinity behaves such that each pixel collects the rays with a given spatial slope. This principle is used in optical metrology for some deflectometric arrangements.2 In combination, the distance of the pixel from the optical axis and the focal length of the lens allow measurement of the 2D slope (u, v) of the ray corresponding to each pixel (see Figure 2). The grey level E registered at that pixel measures the energy traveling in that direction. Finally, the position of the camera at the moment of registration fixes the position (x, y) of the incoming ray. Thus, with each camera shot, we were collecting (x, y, u, v, E) enough data to locate E in the final plane.

Figure 2. Principle of measurement. With the lens focused at infinity, all rays with a given slope impinge at the same pixel. L: Lens. u: Slope of the incident ray. f': Focal length.

Properly converting propagated grey level values from an 8bit camera to photometric units required several arrangements.3 A combination of filters, including equalizing and photopic, yielded the required photopic spectral response, and additional neutral filters accommodated camera response to the high luminance of the headlamp output. Vignetting effects in the optical system were modeled to include them in the calculations. Finally, an external shutter that selected optimum exposure time extended the dynamic range of the 8bit camera. All these factors ensured optimal sampling of the near field close to the headlamp.

The grey-level values, propagated by simple projection to the final plane, were then converted into real photometric values, and a calibration model developed for this purpose4 divided the measurement chain into the main loss and conversion factors. A global conversion constant made it possible to quantify the effect of the various parameters in the experimental setup, and results predicted by our unit compared nicely with those from a photometric tunnel for a number of different headlamps and distributions, as indicated in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Driving-beam patterns in a commercial headlamp for (a) a reference measurement from a photometric tunnel and (b) our unit.

Thus, a simple optoelectronic system built of low-cost components can properly characterize the behavior of a complex extended source such as a commercial automotive headlamp. The working principle is general enough that it can be applied to all types of extended sources.

Santiago Royo, María Jesús Arranz, Josep Arasa
Center for Sensor Instrumentation and Systems Development, Technical University of Catalunya
Terrassa, Spain

Santiago Royo completed his PhD in applied optics in 1999 and is currently a full-time lecturer in optical technology and applied optics at the Technical University of Catalunya. He is also a senior researcher in the Center for Sensor, Instrumentation, and Systems Development at the Technical University of Catalunya. His research interests involve optical metrology and fabrication, adaptive optics, photometric testing, and optical design. He has participated yearly in a number of SPIE conferences both in the USA and in Europe.

Michel Cattoen, Thierry Bosch
Laboratoire d'Electronique,
Toulouse, France