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Uncooled IR cameras to reach sales of 1.1m units in 2017

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The sales of uncooled infrared cameras will grow from 320,000 units in 2011 to 1.1 million in 2017, according to a report compiled by Yole Développement.

The report suggests that a cost-driven price reduction (-15 per cent per year) is rapidly broadening the use of infrared cameras in many commercial markets, especially in thermography and surveillance.

In thermography, ultra-low end cameras have been introduced with success by Flir in 2010, and Dewalt will introduce a new model in 2012 at $999. In surveillance, Flir and Axis are competing heavily on price and DRS introduced a middle-end camera at $2,000 in 2012; half the price for comparable models.

The report also highlights the automotive market, concentrated in only one supplier Autoliv, which has increased sales by 30 per cent in 2011. It is expected that IR camera sales for automotive will exceed 300,000 units in 2017, but installation rates in cars will remain below one per cent in the long term.

Trends detailed in the report include further reductions in detector cost through wafer-level packaging (WLP). This, the Yole Développement suggests, will be a strategic issue for new players entering the market. Flir started to use WLP in 2011.

Pixel size miniaturisation is a key trend to further increase the resolution of the imager and decrease the cost of the optics. In 2012, 17μm pixel pitch has become a standard in new product releases. While the size of the pixel decreases, sensitivity of new sensors has increased to approach 30mK (SCD, Ulis). That evolution will enable broader microbolometer adoption to include high performance applications, which so far have been targeted by cooled IR detectors.

An increasing trend toward multispectral imaging has driven several microbolometer developments, the report suggests. Image fusion aiming at combining several spectral bands (MWIR, LWIR, visible) will increase system performance and add functionalities to thermal camera users. SCD has paved the way for dual-band imaging by releasing a wide band imager with on-chip fusion of LWIR and MWIR.

The report, Uncooled Infrared Imaging: Commercial and Military Applications, provides an overview of all the infrared technologies currently commercialised focused on uncooled long wave infrared/thermal detection with microbolometers.

This technology and market analysis will be presented during an editorial webcast on 26 June at 8:00am PDT.

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