"The last step is then dicing the image sensor into individual camera chips," he said.
Each of the three sides of the camera measures a mere 1 millimeter. One wafer can be used to assemble 25,000 lenses on 25,000 cameras. The resulting resolution for each of the miniature cameras is in the range of 25,000 pixels. While that's not high enough for a professional photographer, it is high for medical applications, Töpper said..
More efficient manufacturing means lower costs, and the microcameras themselves are disposable. Töpper points to a process for sterilizing reusable endoscopic cameras, saying that usually involves lots of chemicals. Although the new microcameras are not recyclable, he says that they are primarily made from silicon and glass. "There are no hazardous materials."
In medicine, gastroenterologists regularly use small cameras to check patients. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, resulting in 150,000 cases every year, according to Dr. Gregory Cooper, a Case Western Reserve University professor of medicine and oncology, and gastroenterologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.