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Thermal night vision, a feature on the rise

Thermal night vision, a feature on the rise

Market news |
By eeNews Europe



Commercial business is expanding at a high rate thanks to three main markets analyzed in this report. The thermography boom is confirmed with camera prices now available for near $1,000 from FLIR that expands the use of IR cameras to maintenance engineers and building inspectors. The automotive sector has increased by + 40% in volume in 2010 with four new car models adopting thermal night vision. It is expected that automotive will exceed 500,000 units sales for 2016. Surveillance is becoming a key market with several CCTV big camera players introducing many new models of thermal camera : Pelco, Axis, Bosch Security, Samsung Techwin…

Military uncooled camera markets are mainly driven by the huge US Military demand: more than 85% of the world market. Main military applications are for soldiers (weapon sight, portable goggles) and for vehicles (vehicle vision enhancement, remote weapon stations). Weapon sight is the biggest application by far but vehicle vision will grow thanks to several additional thermal cameras (5 to 7) per vehicle.

“Large US military programs are supplied mainly by US military infrared companies with a strong presence of DRS and BAE on various applications”, said Yann de Charentenay, Yole Développement.

An evolving value chain

Up to now the major part of the business was done at the camera and the detector level. Cores (modules including detector, electronics and sometimes lenses) were an intermediary limited business. Cores have the advantage to simplify the detector integration for camera manufacturers and add value to detectors for detector manufacturers. As infrared cameras become a mass market, several players are expanding their offer (FLIR, Opgal) or entering in this business (DRS, SCD, Electrophysic-Ulis, Lumasense ITC, NEC Avio…). FLIR, the market pioneer and leader of uncooled IR cameras (especially for commercial market), continues in 2010-2011 to expand its presence by organic growth and acquisitions of companies (Raymarine and ICX) that use or develop already thermal cameras.

There have been many changes among the major players in the value chain of thermal detectors and cameras: vertical integration through the acquisition of detectors manufacturer by camera manufacturers (Lumasens, Teledyne) ; camera business strengthening through the acquisition of camera suppliers by thermal cameras companies (L3com with insight, FLIR with ICX and Raymarine, Allied with VDS) and new technical developments between NEC and Tamron, Ulis and N2 imaging.

Microbolometer: the key IR detector technology

Microbolometers are the dominant uncooled IR detector technology whose cost will drastically drop (about -15% per year). Vanadium Oxyde (VOx), the current dominant microbolometer material, will be strongly challenged by a-Si material and new silicon based material chosen by new market entrants, thanks to their better cost structure, and easier manufacturability. WLP is established as a significant trend for microbolometer packaging with potential packaging cost reduction: FLIR started to use WLP in 2011 on its new Quark core, an soon other players will follow (Raytheon, Sensonor, NEC…). In the past only a few microbolometers manufacturers existed (9 globally), often owned by US camera manufacturers, which limited the cost competition at the detector level. This landscape is changing over the next five years : “Many new players (Sensonor, Faun Infrared, Bosch…), focusing only on selling detectors, often in Europe, will enter on the market place with aggressive price strategies. Four new players (Teledyne Dalsa, Silex, Melexis, Magnity) have announced in 2011 their development activity in the field of microbolometer plus a Chinese company (Magnity) for the first time”, explains Dr Eric Mounier, Yole Développement.

Visit Yole Développement at www.yole.fr

 

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