The Neon-Dif

The machine vision industry is constantly advancing: new buses, new interconnect standards, new software standards. Yet many applications do not require cutting edge technology or require "tried and true" standards. Some applications are simply recycling older technology, why throw it out if it still works? For these reasons, BitFlow has engineered the Neon-Dif. We have taken our robust Neon platform and replace the camera link front end with a 32 bit differential interface. In some ways, this board is the best of both worlds, it melds the latest PCIe speed and features with older, but very robust, differential data devices.

Simplify your industrial, medical, or semiconductor imaging application with BitFlow's Neon-Dif, the easiest to use and most reliable differential frame grabber available anywhere. The Neon-Dif captures images at up to the camera's highest frame/data rate, with precision image acquisition suitable for the most demanding applications.

The Neon-Dif is designed for the OEM that needs the performance of the PCI Express bus, a differential interface, and one of the lowest price points in the industry. The target market are applications where the current frame grabber is no longer available but the camera and application is still important. Another niche that this product fills is differential applications where the PC needs upgrading, but the frame grabber has a PCI interface. Motherboards with PCI slots are getting harder and harder to find. Finally, customers that want to port their application to 64-bit Windows are finding that their differential frame grabbers are not supported on newer operating systems. The Neon-Dif can handle all of these situations.

The Neon-Dif is not just for legacy situations, however. There are still a tremendous number of devices that output differential data, they may not even be cameras. The Neon-Dif, can acquire from just about anything, and efficiently DMA the data into host memory.

Adding the Neon-Dif to your application is simple with our SDK, which supports both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. The SDK provides high level APIs for sophisticated buffer management and low-level direct access to the board for speedy custom control.

An Upgrade Path

BitFlow is committed to long term support of its customer's applications. We still ship the Road Runner family that we first released in 1997! The problem, however, with some of these older applications is that the pace of PC progress is fast. Motherboards have changed dramatically, operating systems continue to advance and leave older technology behind. But BitFlow has not forgotten it's customers. This is the reason that we have released the Neon-Dif. We are dedicated to supporting all of our customers, old and new. The Neon-Dif provides an upgrade path for customers using these older differential systems. We kept the connector the same, so you can use old cables. We kept the API the same (recompile is required), so you can use older code. We have tried to make the experience of moving from 1997 technology to 2015 technology as painless as possible.

The Neon-Dif is not a sexy new product with fancy new features. Many people will laugh when they here that we have released, in 2015, a differential frame grabber. We don't care what they think. BitFlow is committed to support its customers over the long haul.

FlowThru Architecture

Since 1996, BitFlow's camera interface products have been built around our revolutionary FlowThru architecture. Comprised of a user-programmable Video Pipeline, a flexible Camera Control Unit, efficient high-speed video FIFOs and a highly-optimized scatter/gather DMA engine, the FlowThru architecture allows the Neon-Dif to control, acquire, reformat and transfer video data directly into the user's application at camera speeds with zero latency or CPU usage. Our FlowThru architecture has been continuously optimized and enhanced to support a wide variety of imaging applications such as document/package processing, semiconductor, continuous web inspection, sequence capture and motion analysis and can easily be adapted to the specific needs of your application.

Software Support

The Neon-Dif is supported by the BitFlow Software Development Kit (SDK), which is available for both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows platforms. The SDK is board family generic, and will work with all of BitFlow's frame grabbers (making future migration to other families trivial). The kit provides drivers, DLLs and configuration utilities for people interested in using third party software. For customers interested in developing their own applications, the SDK provides header files, libraries and huge amounts of example code. The SDK provides a wide range of Application Programming Interfaces (API), from low-level direct hardware access, to high-level automatic buffer management (ring or sequence). Every line of code has been engineered for reliability under the toughest industrial conditions. At the same time, a priority has been put on ease of use and short development times. With the BitFlow SDK, you'll have the Neon-Dif integrated with your application in no time.

PCI Express Interface

The Neon-Dif uses a x4 PCI Express bus interface. The PCI Express bus offers huge increases in DMA performance over the PCI bus. However, what is less well known is that the PCI Express bus is always peer to peer. This means the the Neon-Dif does not share the bus with any other devices. In most motherboard architectures, it will talk directly to the PCI chipset that is on the memory bus. This direct connection equates to higher sustained DMA bandwidths regardless of system load. Also, most motherboards support concurrent full DMA speed on all of their PCI Express slots. The board will work in any slot that it fits in. This means not only x16, x8 and x4 slots, but also, as is becoming the trend, x1 slots that use x4 (or larger) connectors. Performance will be degraded in an x1 slot, but the board will work fine in applications that don't require maximum data rate.

Camera Control and I/O

Supported by a GUI camera file editing utility (CamEd), the Neon-Dif can acquire fixed or variable size images and features a programmable ROI (Region Of Interest) sub-windowing capability. The board provides a full set of camera control signals (CC1, CC2, CC3, CC4) and sync inputs (LVAL, FVAL, PCLK, trigger and encoder) for total camera and acquisition control. These signals are completely independent, although there are provision for driving all cameras from a signal set up encoder/trigger signals. There is also a large number of programmable general purpose outputs and inputs that are not tied to the camera's timing. The Neon-Dif board, as with our past interface products, supports not only simple triggering modes but also complicated, application-specific triggering and control interactions with your hardware environment.

  • 32-bit differential interface
  • Accepts LVDS (RS644) and RS-422 signals
  • Programmable clock output
  • Connector pin-out compatible with BitFlow's Road Runner and R3-Dif families
  • Compatible with cables used with Road Runner and R3-Dif
  • Serial communication support on main connector
  • Half-Size x4 PCI Express Board
  • Acquire up to 32 bits at 85 MHz
  • I/O on internal connector, accessory cables available to bring signals out of PC
  • FlowThru technology means that no on-board memory is needed, even with the fastest cameras
  • DMA at data rates up to 528 MB/S
  • Supports images up to 256K x 128K
  • No frame rate limit
  • Triggers and encoders for external control of acquisition
  • Programmable signal generator for camera control
  • Sophisticated triggering modes for complex applications
  • Acquire variable length frames with line scan cameras
  • Quadrature encoder support including sophisticated triggering schemes
  • Encoder divider/multiplier
  • On board timing generator supports high-resolution exposure control
  • Drivers, utilities and examples for Windows XP/2003/Vista/Windows 7
  • Supported on both 32-bit and 64-bit platforms
  • Drivers for most 3rd party processing environments
  • Acquire image sequences well beyond the 4GB barrier
  • RoHS compliant


  • One LVDS differential camera
  • Supports up to 32 bits of LVDS data at 85 MHz
  • Supports up to two tap cameras
  • x4 PCI Express
  • Full I/O 

SDK 6.00 or later required