(19)
(11)EP 3 811 843 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
28.04.2021 Bulletin 2021/17

(21)Application number: 19204423.8

(22)Date of filing:  21.10.2019
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
A61B 1/00(2006.01)
G02B 23/24(2006.01)
A61B 1/002(2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
KH MA MD TN

(71)Applicant: Weiger, Ulrich
9462 Montlingen (CH)

(72)Inventor:
  • Weiger, Ulrich
    9462 Montlingen (CH)

(74)Representative: Pfenning, Meinig & Partner mbB 
Patent- und Rechtsanwälte Joachimsthaler Straße 10-12
10719 Berlin
10719 Berlin (DE)

  


(54)ENDOSCOPE


(57) The invention relates to an endoscope (1, 1'), comprising:
a shaft (2) having a distal end portion (3) and a proximal end portion (4),
a first objective (5) arranged at the distal end portion (3) and having a first direction of view (7), and a first optical axis (21), the first objective (5) being set up to generate an object image in infinity,
a second objective (6) arranged at the distal end portion (3) and having a second direction of view (8), and a second optical axis (22), the second objective (6) being set up to generate an object image in infinity, and
a lens system (10, 30) disposed within the shaft (2) between the distal end portion (3) and the proximal end portion (4), the lens system (10, 30) having an optical axis (9),
wherein the first objective (5) and the second objective (6) are both optically coupled to the same lens system (10, 30) such that first parallel rays from the first objective (5) and second parallel rays from the second objective (6) are input into the lens system (10, 30),
wherein the lens system (10, 30) is
an optical relay system (10) comprising at least one relay group (11) or
a tube lens group (30).




Description


[0001] The present invention relates to an endoscope having a first objective and a second objective projecting to infinity, wherein the first objective and the second objective are both optically coupled to the same lens system such that first parallel rays from the first objective and second parallel rays from the second objective are input into the lens system.

[0002] In minimally invasive surgery, rigid endoscopes are commonly used for optical diagnostics as well as for the monitoring of surgical procedures.

[0003] Fig. 8 shows a typical optical layout of a conventional rigid endoscope 51 according to the prior art. The endoscope 51 comprises an objective 52, a relay system 53 and an eyepiece 54. A real intermediate image 55 of the object 56 is formed by the objective 52 and is input into the relay system 53. The relay system 53 transfers the intermediate image 55 to the proximal end portion of the endoscope 1, where the eyepiece 54 allows seeing the image with the naked eye or an attached camera. As shown, the relay system 53 comprises several relay groups 57 each having at least two elongated rod lenses. The relay groups 57 extend the optical pathway of the endoscope 1 and generate several real intermediate images 55 of the object 56. The intermediate images 55 are formed by each relay group 57 outside of the respective relay group 57 and are input into the next relay group 57. Such conventional endoscopic relay systems 53 usually have a telecentric design to avoid vignetting especially when several relay groups 57 are used.

[0004] There is an ongoing need to improve endoscopes. For instance, conventional endoscopes can be relatively heavy due to the glass used for the optical components, e.g. the rod lenses described above. For better handling it would be advantageous to reduce the weight of endoscopes. Further, in conventional endoscopes optical components may relatively easy break when the endoscope is bended, e.g. during a medical procedure.

[0005] To adapt the endoscope to various applications and associated practical needs, it would be also advantageous to increase freedom of design of the endoscope, in particular of its optical components.

[0006] There are endoscopes with different direction of view available, which allows the clinician to investigate different directions of view of a body passage. However, in some instances, the direction of view needs to be changed during an operation forcing the clinician to exchange the endoscope, the associated light cable and possibly also the camera. To avoid this, efforts have been made worldwide to develop rigid endoscopes with a variable direction of view.

[0007] For instance, a solution for an endoscope having a switchable direction of view is the so-called swing prism endoscope. The optical layout of swing prism endoscopes differs from the standard layout by a swing prism at the tip of the endoscope (for changing the direction of view) and an erection prism at the proximal end the endoscope. However, the swing prism endoscope has some disadvantages, such as a relatively small field of view, a relatively low image quality, and a comparatively low light throughput. Furthermore, usually there is no zero degree direction of view realizable in swing prism endoscopes.

[0008] In order to solve the problems associated with swing prism endoscopes, a periscopic endoscope was developed by Ulrich Weiger in his PhD thesis "Entwicklung eines Endoskops mit variabler Blickrichtung für die Laparoskopie", TU Berlin, 2013. While said periscopic endoscope overcomes various disadvantages of the swing prism endoscope, there are disadvantages associated with the periscopic endoscope as well, such as a complex correction of image rotation and a relatively complex mechanical system rendering it difficult to scale to smaller endoscope diameters.

[0009] It is an object of the present invention to solve at least one of the foregoing issues or problems.

[0010] This object is solved by an endoscope as defined in claim 1. Further aspects, developments and embodiments are described in the dependent claims and the following description.

[0011] According to claim 1, an endoscope is provided, comprising:

a shaft having a distal end portion and a proximal end portion,

a first objective arranged at the distal end portion (3) and having a first direction of view, and a first optical axis, the first objective being set up to generate an object image in infinity,

a second objective arranged at the distal end portion and having a second direction of view, and a second optical axis, the second objective being set up to generate an object image in infinity, and

a lens system disposed within the shaft between the distal end portion and the proximal end portion, the lens system having an optical axis,

wherein the first objective and the second objective are both optically coupled to the same lens system such that first parallel rays from the first objective and second parallel rays from the second objective are input into the lens system,

wherein the lens system is

an optical relay system comprising at least one relay group or a tube lens group.



[0012] In the context of the present disclosure, the expression "parallel rays" may mean that the marginal rays are parallel to the corresponding chief rays. More specifically, the paraxial marginal ray angle relative to the chief ray may be 0°.

[0013] The space between the objectives and the lens system may be referred to as infinity space, wherein the marginal rays are parallel to the corresponding chief rays. In said space there are no intermediate real images of the object generated, instead the images are formed by the objectives at a plane in infinity. In other words, the image distance of the objectives is set to infinity. Thus, both objectives form images at a plane in infinity, which means all rays coming from an object point are at least approximately parallel to each other at the image side of the objective, i.e. in the infinity space, therefore the marginal rays are parallel to the corresponding chief rays. In practice, due to aberrations or other optical errors the rays may not be perfectly parallel to each other. A deviation of at most 5° or at most 3° or at most 1° or less than 1° may still fall within the meaning of the expression "parallel".

[0014] The parallel rays generated by the objectives coming from respective object points are input into the lens system. In the following, the rays input into the first and second objectives and output from the first and second objectives may be referred to as first rays and second rays, respectively. Rays coming from one specific object point, input into the first or second objectives, and output from the first or second objectives may be defined as first parallel rays and second parallel rays, respectively.

[0015] The infinity space between the objectives and the lens system allows a decentering of the respective objective axis with respect to the optical axis of the lens system. Thus, both objectives share one lens system, to which their optical axes may be decentered. For instance, the first optical axis and the second optical axis can be offset from the optical axis of the lens system. Furthermore, the distance between the respective objective and the lens system does not have to obey a predetermined distance, as the object images are formed at a plane in infinity. Thus, the infinity space allows a variable distance between the objectives and the lens system. In some embodiments, a distance between the first objective and the lens system differs from a distance between the second objective and the lens system. The infinity space between the both objectives and the lens system also allows additional optical components to be inserted between the objectives and the lens system as long as they do not substantially change the parallelism of the first and second parallel rays. Such optical components may comprise optical filters, polarisers, illuminators, beamsplitters and/or shutters. It is noted that the space between the objectives and the lens system (i.e. relay system or tube lens) can be void of any focussing elements such as lenses that could change the parallelism of the first and second parallel rays. In some embodiments, the first and second rays coming from the first and second objectives are directly input into the lens system.

[0016] Typically, the endoscope has a first fixed focus corresponding to a first focal plane of the first objective and/or a second fixed focus corresponding to a second focal plane of the second objective. Thus, only objects disposed in the first focal plane or the second focal plane may be result in sharp, well-focussed and clear images that can be viewed using a connected eyepiece or a camera. If a user such as a clinician or physician wants to change position of the focus plane, the endoscope has to be moved e.g. by axially pushing or retracting the endoscope. According to an implementation, the camera may have a focussing lens for modifying the focus plane.

[0017] The first and/or second objectives may comprise a plurality of lenses. For instance, each objective may comprise an input lens group and an output lens group. Lens group may refer in the context of the present disclosure to at least one lens or two lenses or more that are preferably in firm contact with each other. The input lens group may face the object, while the output lens group usually faces the lens system (i.e. the relay system or the tube lens). In some embodiments, the input lens group of the first and/or second objectives may have a negative focal length. The output lens group of the first and/or second objectives may have a positive focal length. At least one of the first and/second objectives may comprise at least one mirror and/or at least one prism arranged between the input lens group and the output lens group. By providing a prism and/or mirror in the objective, the direction of view of said objective may be changed.

[0018] Generally, by changing the arrangement of the first objective and/or the second objective, in particular of the optical components relative to each other, the first direction of view, the second direction of view, the first optical axis and the second optical axis may be altered. Thus, the optical configuration of the first objective and/or the second objective may be such that certain specifications are met. In the following, examples for such specifications are described.

[0019] For instance, the first direction of view and the second direction of view are not parallel to each other. In this case, the two objectives at the distal end portion enable two different directions of view. To inspect a body passage a medical caregiver may switch between the two view directions using only one endoscope and without having to exchange the endoscope during the medical procedure.

[0020] In alternative embodiments, the first direction of view and the second direction of view are parallel to each other. This may be particularly useful for stereoscopic endoscopes.

[0021] In some instances, the first optical axis is defined by a lens of the first objective (e.g. the output lens group) most proximate to the lens system and the second optical axis is defined by a lens of the second objective (e.g. the output lens group) most proximate to the lens system.

[0022] For instance, the first direction of view, the second direction of view and the optical axis of the lens system may be tilted relative to one other. The first direction of view, the second direction of view and the optical axis of the lens system may not lie in the same plane. The optical axis of the lens system may not be parallel to the first direction of view and/or the second direction of view. Optionally, the first optical axis may be parallel with the first direction of view and/or the second optical axis may not be parallel with the second direction of view. The optical axes of the two objectives may define a plane, while the axis of the direction of view of the first and/or the second objective does not coincides with this plane.

[0023] In some examples, the first and second objectives are fixed relatively to one other. Furthermore, the first and second objectives may be fixed relatively to the shaft. For example, all optical components of the first and second objectives are fixed relatively to the shaft. For instance, the first objective, the second objectives and/or the lens system do not comprise any moving or rotating parts. By providing fixed objectives without moving or rotating parts, the endoscope can be designed in a particularly robust manner. Thus, the two different directions of view may be fixed relative to the shaft of the endoscope.

[0024] It should be mentioned that the endoscope may comprise more than two objectives as well.

[0025] In the following, the endoscope having the relay system is described.

[0026] The relay system typically extends the optical pathway. Sometimes the relay system also inverts the image. The relay system may preferably be an afocal system. Generally, an afocal system (a system without focus) may be regarded as an optical system that produces no net convergence or divergence of a beam, i.e. has an infinite effective focal length.

[0027] The relay system may include one or more conventional lenses and/or achromatic doublets. In some instances, the relay system comprises at least one relay group or a plurality of relay groups. The number of relay groups may be selected depending on specifications such as the length and diameter of the inserted section of the endoscope and the brightness and the like of the optical system. The plurality of relay groups may be arranged in series such that light exiting a relay group may enter the next relay group. For instance, if at least two relay groups are envisaged, the endoscope may configured such that the first and second parallel rays are coupled out of the first relay group and are input into the next relay group. Each relay group may be configured to invert or rotate the image and to extend the optical pathway. In preferred embodiments, each relay group has the same optical layout.

[0028] It may be envisaged that the relay system has a total magnification of -1 or 1. That is, the relay system does not alter the width or the height of the beam. For instance, each relay group of the relay system has a magnification of -1.

[0029] Optionally, the relay system is configured to generate first and second intermediate images from the first and second rays, respectively. Usually, the first and second intermediate images are generated within (i.e. inside) the relay system and at least partially overlay. For instance, the endoscope is configured such that the first and second intermediate images concentrically overlay within the relay system. The images of both objectives may be concentrically overlaid in the intermediate images of the relay system, while the pupils of both objectives are decentered in the pupil plane of the relay system.

[0030] The endoscope may be configured such that the first parallel rays and the second rays are coupled out of the relay system at the proximal end portion. In particular, the first rays and the second rays may be spatially separated from each other at the proximal end portion (pupil plane). Further, at the proximal end portion the first parallel rays and the second parallel rays coming from the first and second objectives and coupled out of the relay system still have marginal rays, which are parallel to their corresponding chief rays. In particular, the first parallel rays and the second parallel rays may be spatially separated from each other at the proximal end portion. To form an image in front of an eyepiece or for a proximally located image sensor an additional lens group may be used. Said lens group may comprise, for example, the input lens group 12 and the field lens 13 as shown in Fig. 4. Alternatively, an additional tube lens forms the intermediate image at the proximal end. Alternatively the relay system is designed and corrected in such way, that the angle of the parallel rays coupled out of the relay system is suitable to directly see the image with naked eye or an attached camera.

[0031] The shaft of the endoscope may be rigid. Usually, rigid endoscopes give higher quality images, are easier to use and are less expensive than flexible endoscopes of similar quality. However, in alternative embodiments, the shaft of the endoscope may be flexible, e.g. may be configured to flex or articulate around an axis.

[0032] In conventional rigid endoscopes it is common to use rod lenses in the relay system to reduce air gaps and increase the possible numeral aperture in the system for the same amount of relays. To get the image of the objective through the relay system without significant vignetting, the optical design of such conventional endoscopes is usually telecentric within the relay system. This means that the chief rays coming from the object are parallel to the optical axis. The disadvantage of such conventional setups is that the position of the "stop" surface is restricted to create a telecentric design (e.g the exit pupil must be at infinity to obtain a telecentric image space). As the position of the stop influences several aberrations, its position can be only partly used to reduce aberration when its position is already defined by telecentricity. It is further noted that, in conventional endoscopes, intermediate images are generated outside the respective relay groups, i.e. after the output lens group of the respective relay group and before the input lens group of the next relay group.

[0033] According to an aspect of the present disclosure, the chief rays coming from different object points and output from the objectives are usually not parallel to each other and/or are typically not parallel to the optical axis of the lens system. The only exception may be the chief ray coming from the middle of the object. Said chief ray may be parallel to the optical axis of the lens system.

[0034] Moreover, according to some embodiments the relay system and/or at least one relay group can comprise an input lens group, an output lens group and a cavity defined between the input lens group and the output lens group. The cavity may have a length spanning at least 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70% or 80% of a total length of the relay group. Optionally, a field lens is disposed in the cavity. The field lens may be a positive-powered lens or group of lenses. The field lens may be used to direct the chief rays into the next lens (e.g. the output lens group) of the respective relay group and therefore may reduce the vignetting without telecentricity. Thus, by using the relay system with the field lens as described above, the stop position may be more variable and can be used for a better aberration control. In this way, the use of rod lenses may be obviated. Thus, the endoscope, the at least one relay group and/or the relay system may lack any rod lenses.

[0035] Thus, by providing the cavity and preferably the field lens, the weight of the endoscope can be reduced as compared to systems having rod lenses. Furthermore, the risk of breaking optical components such as rod lenses may be reduced when the endoscope is subject to mechanical stress such as bending.

[0036] The relay system typically has an entrance side at which the first and second rays enter the relay system. Further, the relay system typically has an exit side at which the first and second rays exit the relay system. As indicated above, the optical design of the relay system may be such that the entrance side and/or the exit side are not telecentric. This means that the chief rays are not parallel to the optical axis in front of or behind the relay system. Further, chief rays coming from different object points may be not parallel to each other. In this way, the optical design freedom can be enhanced, which in turn may have the effect that the optical design can be improved with regard to telecentric systems.

[0037] Optionally, the first rays and/or the second rays input in the relay system are converted within the relay system to first intermediate images and/or second intermediate images, respectively. For instance, each relay group may be configured to generate first and second intermediate images within the respective relay group. The first and/or second intermediate images may be generated within the respective relay group after the field lens. In particular the first and/or second intermediate images may be generated such that the first and/or second intermediate images have a size, which is smaller than a maximum diameter of all of the relay group's lenses. Furthermore, all intermediate images generated in the relay system may have the same paraxial size.

[0038] In various embodiments, the endoscope may further comprise an eyepiece. The eyepiece may be disposed at the proximal end portion of the endoscope. The number of relay groups may be selected such that the final image projected by the eyepiece is in an upright position. Usually this means an uneven number of first and/or second intermediate images generated in the relay system. For instance, the total number of relay groups may be uneven. An optical sensor such as a camera may be connected to the eyepiece. The optical sensor may also be used instead of the eyepiece. In this case, a tube lens may be disposed between the relay system and the optical sensor to project the final images onto the optical sensor. As mentioned above, To form an image in front of the eyepiece or for a proximally located image sensor an additional lens group may be used. Said lens group may comprise, for example, the input lens group 12 and the field lens 13 as shown in Fig. 4. Alternatively, an additional tube lens forms the intermediate image at the proximal end. Alternatively the relay system is designed and corrected in such way, that the angle of the parallel rays coupled out of the relay system is suitable to directly see the image with naked eye or an attached camera.

[0039] The endoscope may further comprise a shutter having at least two operational states being configured to selectively block the first or second rays. The shutter can comprise e.g. a rotating disc, a shifting mask or other suitable means for selectively blocking the first and second rays. The shutter may be arranged, for example, within the infinity space or after the relay system. In particular, the shutter may be arranged in the last pupil plane at the proximal end of the relay system. By partially blocking the pupil plane of the relay system a user can switch between the images of the two objectives. Alternatively, the shutter may be disposed between two relay groups of the relay system. The shutter can also be arranged between the relay system and the tube lens. It can also be arranged between the objective and the relay system or the tube lens.

[0040] Instead of the relay system, the infinite images or first and second rays produced by the objectives, wherein the marginal rays may be parallel to the corresponding chief rays, are input into a tube lens. In the following, the endoscope comprising the tube lens is described.

[0041] In some embodiments, the endoscope comprises an image sensor arranged at the distal end portion of the shaft. The tube lens group may be arranged between the first and second objectives and the image sensor. The tube lens group may be configured to project a first final image and/or a second final image onto the image sensor. Thus, the image sensor may be disposed in the focal plane of the tube lens group.

[0042] The tube lens group may comprise solely one lens or a plurality of lenses, which may be in firm contact with each other.

[0043] In many rigid endoscopes with integrated image sensor, the image sensor is placed on the image side of the objective instead of using a relay system. With the two decentered objectives as described above, one tube lens group is disposed in front of the image sensor. In this way, a larger image sensor can be used, which has advantages in terms of e.g. signal to noise ratio or availability.

[0044] The shutter may be disposed between the objectives and the tube lens group. If the first and second objectives have the same direction of view, the shutter may switch between left and right creating a 3D image (stereoscopic image) using just one image sensor. By partially blocking the pupil plane of the objectives a user can switch between the images of the two objectives.

[0045] Features that have been described with regard to the endoscope with the relay system but are not related to the relay system thereof may be combined with the endoscope having the tube lens group as long as they do not contradict each other. Furthermore, features that have been described with regard to the endoscope having the tube lens group but are not related to the tube lens group thereof be combined with the endoscope having the tube lens group as long as they do not contradict each other.

[0046] Various objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description of embodiments, when read in light of the accompanying drawings.
Fig. 1
shows schematic representations of two endoscopes.
Fig. 2
schematically illustrates several optical components of an endoscope.
Fig. 3
schematically illustrates several optical components disposed in a front/distal tip of the endoscope of Fig. 2.
Fig. 4
schematically illustrates a relay group of one of the endoscopes depicted in Figs. 1-3.
Fig. 5
schematically illustrates a part of the endoscope depicted in Figs. 1-3.
Fig. 6
schematically illustrates a detail of the endoscope shown in Figs. 1-3 and further including a shutter.
Fig. 7
schematically illustrates a front/distal tip of an endoscope.
Fig. 8
schematically illustrates a conventional endoscope.


[0047] In the following, recurring and similar features in this and in the subsequent representations are provided with the same reference numerals.

[0048] In Fig. 1 two endoscopes 1, 1' are schematically illustrated. The endoscopes 1, 1' comprise an elongated rigid shaft 2 having a distal end portion 3, a proximal end portion 4 and an intermediate portion extending therebetween. The endoscopes 1, 1' further comprise a first objective 5 and a second objective 6 which are disposed in the distal end portion 3 of the shaft 2.

[0049] The first objective 5 has a first direction of view 7, a first focal plane 25 on the object side coincident with the object plane, and a first optical axis 21. The second objective 6 has a second direction of view 8, a second focal plane 26 on the object side coincident with the object plane, and a second optical axis 22. The first and second objectives 5, 6 are set up to generate an object image in infinity. The objectives 5, 6 are typically disposed inside the shaft 2. The field of view of each objective 5, 6 is indicated in Fig. 1 by a cone accompanying the respective direction of view 7, 8.

[0050] Reference is additionally made to Fig. 3, which shows several optical components disposed in distal end portion 3 of the endoscope, which is sometimes called the front tip 33 of the endoscope 1. It should be mentioned that the optical layout of the objectives 5, 6 shown in Fig. 3 can also be used for the objectives 5, 6 of endoscope 1'.

[0051] The first and second objectives 5, 6 include a plurality of lenses. In the embodiment depicted, each of the objectives 5, 6 includes an input lens group 27 and an output lens group 28. The input lens groups 27 of the objectives 5, 6 can be of the same design or may each have a different optical design. The output lens groups 28 of the objectives 5, 6 may have the same optical design or differ from each other. The input lens group 27 gathers light coming from the object being observed, while the output lens group 28 faces the lens system 10, 30. In some examples, the input lens group 27 of the objectives 5, 6 has a negative focal length, while the output lens group 28 of the objectives 5, 6 has a positive focal length. The second objective 6 comprises a prism assembly 29 arranged between the input lens group 27 and the output lens group 28. The prism assembly 29 can comprise an arrangement of reflective and/or refractive prisms. By virtue of the first lens group 27 and the prism assembly 29 the second direction of view 8 of the second objective 6 differs from the first direction of view 7 of the first objective 5. In particular, the first direction of view 7 and the second direction of view 8 are not parallel to each other.

[0052] The first optical axis 21 of the first objective 5 is defined by the optical axis of the output lens group 28 thereof. Further, the second optical axis 22 of the second objective 6 is defined by the optical axis of the output lens group 28 thereof. The first and second optical axes 21, 22 may be parallel to each other, but do not overlap each other. Furthermore, the first and second optical axes 21, 22 are parallel to the optical axis of the lens system 10, 30 and the longitudinal axis of the shaft.

[0053] In the depicted embodiment, the optical axis 21 and the first direction of view 7 are parallel to each other. Furthermore, an axial extension the first optical axis 21 coincides with an axial extension of the direction of view 7. According to alternative embodiments, the first direction of view 7 is not parallel to the first optical axis 21. In contrast, the optical axis 22 is not parallel to the second direction of view 8. As follows from the above, the optical axes 21, 22, the directions of view 7, 8 can be varied and adapted to practical needs.

[0054] As can be seen from Fig. 7, which shows a front tip 33 of exemplary endoscopes 1, 1', the second direction of view 8 is tilted with respect to the optical axis 9 of the lens system 10, 30 and the longitudinal axis of the shaft 2. Consequently, the first direction of view 7, the second direction of view 8 and the optical axis 9 do not lie in the same plane. In a further example, the first direction of view 7 and the second direction of view 8 are tilted with respect to the optical axis 9 of the lens system 10, 30 and the longitudinal axis of the shaft 2.

[0055] In alternative embodiments (not shown), the first direction of view and the second direction of view are parallel to each other. This may be particularly useful for stereoscopic endoscopes.

[0056] The optical components of the first and second objectives 5, 6 are fixed relatively to one other and to the shaft 2. Thus, the objectives 5, 6 do not include any moving or rotating parts.

[0057] Even though the endoscopes 1, 1' shown comprise two objectives 5, 6, it should be mentioned that the endoscopes 1, 1' may also comprise more than two objectives.

[0058] The endoscopes 1, 1' further include a lens system 10, 30 disposed within the shaft 2 between the distal end portion 3 and the proximal end portion 4, the lens system 10, 30 having an optical axis 9. The optical axis 9 is parallel to the longitudinal axis of the shaft 2 and optionally coincides with the longitudinal axis of the shaft 2. Both objectives 5, 6 share the same lens system 10, 30 and are optically coupled thereto. The optical axes 21, 22 are parallel to the optical axis 9 and decentered with respect to the optical axis 9.

[0059] Both objectives 5, 6 form images at a plane in infinity, therefore the object to be observed is at a plane coincident with the object side focus plane 25, 26, which means for all rays p1, p2, p3, p4, p5, p6 coming from a specific point in the object plane (focus plane 25, 26) the marginal rays are parallel to the corresponding chief ray. Light rays coming from the objectives 5, 6 are directly input in the lens system 10, 30. In particular, since the focal planes 25, 26 are coincident with the corresponding object planes, the objectives 5, 6 generate first and second rays, where the marginal rays are parallel to the chief ray, respectively, that are directly input into the lens system 10, 30. The space between the objectives 5, 6 and the lens system 10, 30 defines an infinity space 20, as the image distance of both objectives 5, 6 is set to infinity. The term infinity space 20 refers to the production of a flux of light rays, where the marinal rays are parallel to their corresponding chief rays after passing through the respective objectives 5, 6. For instance, in Fig. 3, groups of light rays p1, p2, p3, p4, p5, p6 coming from respective object points are indicated. For each group of rays p1, p2, p3, p4, p5, p6 coming from a respective object point the marginal rays are parallel to the corresponding chief ray at the image side of the objectives 5, 6, i.e. in the infinity space 20.

[0060] The infinity space 20 allows a variable distance between the objectives 5, 6 and the lens system 10, 30. This may improve freedom of design of the optical components of the endoscopes 1, 1', especially of the objectives 5, 6. This can be very helpful since the space in the distal end portion 3 of the shaft is typically constricted. For example, according to Figs. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7, a distance d1 between the first objective 5 and the lens system 10, 30 differs from a distance d2 between the second objective 6 and the lens system 10, 30. As the lenses usually have an exit surface with an arced shape, the distances d1, d2 may refer to the smallest distance between the objectives 5, 6 and the lens system 10, 30, respectively.

[0061] As can be seen from Fig. 3, chief rays coming from different object points and output from the objectives 5, 6 are parallel neither to each other nor to the optical axis 9 of the lens system 10, 30.

[0062] In accordance with the endoscope tip 33 shown in Fig. 7, to use the available space of the two objectives 5, 6 in the endoscope tip 33 more efficiently, the two objectives 5, 6 can be arranged such that the optical axes 21, 22 of the two objectives 5, 6 define a plane, wherein at least one direction of view 7, 8 does not lie in this plane. Further, the optical axes 21, 22 of the two objectives 5, 6 and the optical axis 9 of the lens system 10, 30 do not need to be in the same plane.

[0063] In the following, reference is made to the endoscope 1 of Fig. 1, parts of which are shown in Figs. 2-7.

[0064] The endoscope 1 comprises a relay system 10 in order to extend the optical pathway of the endoscope 1 within the shaft 2. The first objective 5 and the second objective 6 are optically coupled to the relay system 10 such that the rays output from the objectives 5, 6 are directly input into the relay system 10, i.e. there are no optical components disposed between the objectives 5, 6 and the relay system 10.

[0065] The relay system 10 is afocal and has a magnification of -1. The relay system 10 includes a plurality of relay groups 11 that are arranged in series. Each relay group 11 has the same optical layout. For instance, each relay group 11 has a magnification of -1. The total number of relay groups 11 is uneven. Each of the relay groups 11 may comprise an input lens group 12, a field lens 13 and an output lens group 14. The field lens 13 may be a positive-powered lens or group of lenses. The lenses of the relay system 10 are selected such that the first and second intermediate images are generated from the first and second rays coming out of the first objective 5 and the second objective 6, respectively, wherein the intermediate images are generated at an intermediate image plane 15 inside the relay groups 11.

[0066] The field lens 13 is placed within each relay group 12 of the relay system 10 close to the intermediate image 15 to solve the vignetting issue without telecentric design. This field lens 13 projects the pupil from the front part into the rear part of the relay group 11. The design of this relay system 10 furthermore allows a lens design without rod lenses in contrast to conventional endoscopic relay system (see Fig. 8), where rod lenses are uses to get larger apertures through the relay system. The advantage of this relay design having a field lens 13 and without rod lenses is a reduced weight and a reduced risk of broken lenses.

[0067] Inside the relay system 10, the chief rays coming from different object points are not parallel to each other and also not parallel to the optical axis 9 of the relay system 10.

[0068] The images of both objectives 5, 6 are concentrically overlaid in the intermediate image plane 15 of each relay group 11 of the relay system 10, while the pupils of both objectives 5, 6 are spaced from each other and decentered in the pupil plane 16 of the relay system 10. The size of the intermediate images at the intermediate image plane 15 and the size of the pupil plane 16 are smaller than the overall diameter of the lenses of the relay system 1. By blocking the pupil plane 16 in front of an input lens group 12 or an output lens group 14 of any relay group 11 of the relay system 10 partly e.g. with a mask on a rotatable disk, a shifting mask or a shutter 18, one can switch between the images of the two objectives 5 and 6. Alternatively, the shutter 18 may be also disposed between the two objectives, 5,6 and the relay system 10 (not shown).

[0069] The relay system 10 may be configured such that the first rays 23 and the second rays 24 are coupled out of the relay system 10 at the proximal end portion 4. In particular, the first rays 23 and the second rays 24 may be spatially separated from each other at the proximal end portion 4. Furthermore, the first and second rays output from the first and second objectives 5, 6, wherein the marginal rays are parallel to the corresponding chief rays and coupled out of the relay system 10 have still marginal rays, which are parallel to the corresponding chief rays.

[0070] Table 1 below summarizes an exemplary set of lens data of the endoscope 1. It is noted that the prism assembly 29 of the second objective 6 is not incorporated in this table. However, a person skilled in the art is able to model the prism assembly 29 of the second objective 6.

[0071] As usual, the optical glasses used are designated by a numerical glass code. In Table 1, a ten-digit code is used. The first six digits correspond to the refractive index in terms of (nd-1)x106. The 4 decimals correspond to the Abbe number in terms of vdx102. E.g. for nd=1.5168, vd=64.17 the glass code is 516800.6417.
Table 1: lens data of the endoscope 1 having objective 5 and the relay system 10.
SurfaceRadiusThicknessglass codeNon-Centered data
Object infinity 110.000    
1 -5.176 0.301 640002.6021  
2 11.465 0.301 517602.6350  
3 13.743 9.085    
4 infinity 0.301 753671.3750  
5 6.879 0.701 693495.5081  
6 -9.502 3.000    
7 infinity 0.000   Decenter Y=+/- 1.6
8 30.976 2.000 692109.5454  
9 -13.225 2.000 749502.3495  
10 -137.099 34.732    
11 6.231 1.500 516800.6417  
12 10.689 35.305    
13 -133.873 0.750 740769.2779  
14 35.448 1.300 716998.4796  
15 -36.146 0.439    
16 43.892 1.300 585990.6105  
17 -199.945 3.000    
18 30.976 2.000 692109.5454  
19 -13.225 2.000 749502.3495  
20 -137.099 34.732    
21 6.231 1.500 516800.6417  
22 10.689 35.305    
23 -133.873 0.750 740769.2779  
24 35.448 1.300 716998.4796  
25 -36.146 0.439    
26 43.892 1.300 585990.6105  
27 -199.945 3.000    
28 30.976 2.000 692109.5454  
29 -13.225 2.000 749502.3495  
30 -137.099 34.732    
31 6.231 1.500 516800.6417  
32 10.689 35.305    
33 -133.873 0.750 740769.2779  
34 35.448 1.300 716998.4796  
35 -36.146 0.439    
36 43.892 1.300 585990.6105  
37 -199.945 3.000    
38 30.976 2.000 692109.5454  
39 -13.225 2.000 749502.3495  
40 -137.099 34.732    
41 6.231 1.500 516800.6417  
42 10.689 5.860    
43 -19.079 0.995 755199.2751  
44 5.221 2.830 639999.6008  
45 -7.624 0.075    
46 4.719 2.000 750840.2769  
47 22.341 0.000    


[0072] The endoscope 1' differs from the endoscope 1 in that a tube lens group 30 is disposed after the first and second objectives 5, 6 instead of the relay system 10.

[0073] The endoscope 1' comprises an image sensor 31 at the distal portion of the shaft 2 and on the image side of the objectives 5, 6. The tube lens group 30 is arranged between the objectives 5, 6 and the image sensor 31. The tube lens group 30 is configured to project a first final image and/or a second final image onto the image sensor 31. To this end, the image sensor 31 may be disposed in the focal plane of the tube lens group 30. The tube lens group 30 has a positive focal length and may comprise solely one lens or a plurality of lenses.

[0074] A shutter 32 may be disposed between the objectives 5, 6 and the tube lens group 30. The shutter 32 can be used to switch between images from the first and second objectives 5, 6, thus allowing different directions of view 7, 8. If the first and second objectives 5, 6 have the same direction of view (not shown), the shutter 32 may switch between left and right creating a 3D image (stereoscopic image) using just one image sensor 31. By partially blocking the pupil plane of the objectives a user can switch between the images of the two objectives.

Reference numerals



[0075] 
1
endoscope
1'
endoscope
2
shaft
3
distal end portion
4
proximal end portion
5
first objective
6
second objective
7
first direction of view
8
second direction of view
9
optical axis
10
relay system
11
relay group
12
input lens group
13
field lens
14
output lens group
15
intermediate image plane
16
pupil plane
17
cavity
18
shutter
19
eye piece
20
infinity space
21
first optical axis
22
second optical axis
23
first rays
24
second rays
25
first focal plane
26
second focal plane
27
input lens group
28
output lens group
29
prism assembly
30
tube lens group
31
image sensor
32
shutter
33
front tip
51
endoscope
52
objective
53
relay system
54
eye piece
55
intermediate images
56
object
d1
distance
d2
distance
p1
light rays
p2
light rays
p3
light rays
p4
light rays
p5
light rays
p6
light rays



Claims

1. Endoscope (1, 1'), comprising:

a shaft (2) having a distal end portion (3) and a proximal end portion (4),

a first objective (5) arranged at the distal end portion (3) and having a first direction of view (7), and a first optical axis (21), the first objective (5) being set up to generate an object image in infinity,

a second objective (6) arranged at the distal end portion (3) and having a second direction of view (8), and a second optical axis (22), the second objective (6) being set up to generate an object image in infinity, and

a lens system (10, 30) disposed within the shaft (2) between the distal end portion (3) and the proximal end portion (4), the lens system (10, 30) having an optical axis (9),

wherein the first objective (5) and the second objective (6) are both optically coupled to the same lens system (10, 30) such that first parallel rays from the first objective (5) and second parallel rays from the second objective (6) are input into the lens system (10, 30),

wherein the lens system (10, 30) is

- an optical relay system (10) comprising at least one relay group (11) or

- a tube lens group (30).


 
2. Endoscope (1, 1') according to claim 1, wherein a distance (d1) between the first objective (5) and the lens system (10, 30) differs from a distance (d2) between the second objective (6) and the lens system (10, 30).
 
3. Endoscope (1, 1') according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the first direction of view (7) differs from the second direction of view (8), wherein the first optical axis (21) and the second optical axis (22) are parallel to each other.
 
4. Endoscope (1, 1') according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein all optical components of the first (5)and second objectives (6) are fixed relatively to the shaft (2).
 
5. Endoscope (1, 1') according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the first direction of view (7), the second direction of view (8) and the optical axis (9) of the lens system (10, 30) are tilted relative to each other and do not lie in the same plane.
 
6. Endoscope (1, 1') according to any one of the preceding claims, configured such that the chief rays coming from different object points and output from the objectives (5, 6) are not parallel to each other and/or are not parallel to the optical axis (9) of the lens system (10, 30).
 
7. Endoscope (1, 1') according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the first optical axis (21) is parallel to the first direction of view (7) and/or wherein the second optical axis (22) is not parallel to the second direction of view (8).
 
8. Endoscope (1) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the magnification of the relay system (10) is -1 or 1 and/or the magnification of the at least one relay group is -1 or 1.
 
9. Endoscope (1) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the relay system (10) is afocal and/or the at least one relay group is afocal.
 
10. Endoscope (1) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the relay system (10) is configured to generate first and second intermediate images (15) from the first and second rays, respectively, wherein the first and second intermediate images (15) are generated within the at least one relay group (11) (10) and at least partially overlay, preferably concentrically overlay.
 
11. Endoscope (1) according to any one of the preceding claims, configured such that the first and second rays are coupled out of the relay system (10) at the proximal end portion (4), wherein the first and second rays are spatially separated from each other at the proximal end portion (4).
 
12. Endoscope (1) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the relay group (11) comprises an input lens group (12), an output lens group (14), a cavity defined between the input lens group (12) and the output lens group (14), and a field lens (13) disposed in the cavity.
 
13. Endoscope (1) according to claim 12, wherein first and second intermediate images (15) are generated within the relay group (11) between the field lens (13) and the output lens group (14) such that the first and second intermediate images have a size, which is smaller than a maximum diameter of all lenses (12, 13,14) of the relay group (11).
 
14. Endoscope (1) according to any one of the claims 12-13, wherein the relay system (10) comprises a plurality of relay groups (11) that are arranged in series, wherein each relay group (11) is configured to generate first and second intermediate images (15) within the respective relay group (11), wherein all intermediate images generated in the relay system (10) have the same paraxial size.
 
15. Endoscope (1') according to claims 1-7, comprising an image sensor (31) arranged at the distal end portion (3) of the shaft (2), wherein the tube lens group (30) is arranged between the first and second objectives (6) and the image sensor (31), the tube lens group (30) projecting a first final image and/or a second final image onto the image sensor (31).
 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Non-patent literature cited in the description