Contact Image Sensors (CIS) are a relatively recent technological innovation in the field of optical flatbed scanners that are rapidly replacing CCDs in low power and portable applications. As the name implies, CISs place the image sensor in near direct contact with the object to be scanned in contrast to using mirrors to bounce light to a stationary sensor, as is the case in conventional CCD scanners.
Scanner unit with CIS. A: assembled, B: disassembled; 1: housing, 2: light conductor, 3: lenses, 4: chip with two RGB-LEDs, 5: CIS
A CIS typically consists of a linear array of detectors, covered by focusing lenses and flanked by red, green, and blue LEDs for illumination. The use of LEDs allows the CIS to be highly power efficient, allowing scanners to be powered through the minimal line voltage supplied via a USB connection. CIS devices typically produce lower image quality compared to CCD devices; in particular, the depth of field is greatly limited, which poses a problem for material that is not perfectly flat. However, a CIS contact sensor is smaller and lighter than a CCD line sensor, and allows all the necessary optical elements to be included in a compact module, thus helping to simplify the inner structure of the scanner. With a CIS contact sensor, the scanner can be portable, with a height of only around 30 mm. CIS is both a key component of, and widely used in, scanners (especially portable scanners), electrographs, bar code readers and optical identification technology.