Description Smartphones and low-cost cores are widening commercial markets and paving the way for consumer applications simultaneous with military recovery.+ 20 %/year shipments growth driven by commercial and consumer markets
The uncooled thermal camera market reentered a growth phase in 2014 (+30% in shipments and +7% in revenue) after a subpar 2012 and 2013, thanks to an earlier-than-expected stabilization of the military business and a dynamic commercial business. Also, thanks to its cost-competitive products, FLIR’s commercial business was very successful in 2014, far exceeding the market’s average growth in shipments.
Over the next several years, thermal camera shipments will continue to grow rapidly at a +22% CAGR in volume from 2015 - 2020, reaching more than 1.6M. Shipments will be driven by three rapidly expanding commercial markets:
- Thermography: this market will be driven by ultra low-end cameras with very attractive pricing (sub-$1,000) that will broaden the audience for thermal technology. In 2014 - 2015, FLIR introduced many sub-$1,000 Lepton-based products, including the AX8, the TG165, and the C2. Also, new players are entering this market with new low-cost sensors. With strong vertical integration, Bosch Power Tools will be the most dangerous.
- Automotive: Autoliv, the market leader, expects a sales jump in 2016 - 2017 with new mid-price cars adopting the company’s solutions. Increased interest in autonomous cars is driving the long-term participation of new Tier One players for thermal cameras, but competing technologies (visible camera, radar, Lidar) could also see wide adoption.
- Surveillance: this market will continue growing thanks to price erosion (-10%/year) and new ultra low-end cameras below $1,000 (i.e. FLIR’s TCX) which target the “smart building” business that specializes in safer, lower energy building design.
This report analyzes these three markets in detail (more than 20 slides/application), with in-depth analysis of the different camera products, supply chains, and market trends.
Consumer applications have entered a new growth phase in 2014 - 2015 and will be high-growth applications over the next few years, especially in terms of shipments (+41% CAGR):
- Personal Vision Systems (goggles, security-related sight, hunting, outdoor observation): Pioneered by FLIR, this market will also find support from military sensor players (i.e. BAE, L3Com, Raytheon) that have forged strong synergies in military sight and goggles.
- Smartphones: Rapid price erosion (-30%, down to $249) occurred in 2014 - 2015 when the arrival of a new challenger, Seek Thermal, pushed FLIR to react quickly with the FLIR One - Gen 2. Consistent sales growth is expected, with new technologies like augmented reality potentially opening a new world of opportunities. Indeed, Metaio, the augmented reality firm which uses a thermal camera, was just acquired by Apple in June 2015.
An additional scenario (see illustration) detailed in this report envisions an aggressive ramp-up of smartphones based on a huge price erosion and the integration of an IR core inside the phone. Indeed, smartphones were a 1.1B unit market in 2014, and any new sensor to be adopted will surely lead to higher volume. However, this high volume will only be possible if a significant cost reduction is realized in the IR imaging industry and drops the camera module cost to around $10.
Technological innovation continues reducing manufacturing costs
Technological innovation has been critical to the substantial price decline seen in infrared imaging. For the last several years, innovation has focused on camera cores introduced by key players like FLIR, ULIS (in collaboration with Sofradir EC), BAE, Heimann/Bosch, and soon Seek Thermal (based on a Raytheon sensor). FLIR in particular has adopted this strategy and obtained impressive sales results in 2014. Yole has identified several trends present in these new cores which impact both cost and size, and which will be reinforced over the next few years:
- The first major trend, which is common to any imaging device, is decreasing the sensor die size to reduce chip cost and optic cost. In 2016, every key player will have a 12µm pixel architecture (BAE, Raytheon, FLIR, DRS, NEC, etc.). The next step is six microns, but that will be a challenge since it’s below IR band.
- The second trend is imager and optics transition to wafer-level manufacturing in order to maximize the benefits of high-volume manufacturing, and increase economies of scale. Wafer-Level Packaging (WLP) is already used by FLIR, Raytheon and, Bosch, and Wafer-Level Optics (WLO) is used by FLIR.
- The third trend is the need for low-cost, low-resolution sensors. Low-cost technologies such as pyroelectrics, thermodiodes, and thermopiles have become increasingly prevalent on the market: for instance, pyroelectric from Irisys/Fluke in 2012, and thermodiodes and thermopiles from Bosch/Heimann in 2014. Microbolometers are also present, with FLIR and ULIS introducing low-resolution cores with higher sensitivity than competing technologies.
- The fourth and final trend pertains to core electronics integration. Core electronics now represents the most voluminous part of a core thanks to bulky PCB boards. However, FLIR uses ASIC chips in its Lepton, which significantly reduces form factor. As volume grows, other players will adopt this approach and 3D packaging technologies.
This report contains a detailed analysis of infrared imaging technology’s current and future status.
Growing volumes and price erosion have/will increase cost pressure on sensor and camera manufacturers. What’s the best strategy for survival?
For the past few years, military market stabilization and significant price erosion have deeply affected traditional infrared imaging margins at both sensor and camera level. Low-end commercial applications now drive overall growth, thus requiring much higher cost reduction in materials and manufacturing.
Some players have already suffered from cost pressure:
- Lumasense ITC’s microbolometer foundry has stopped
- DRS has exited the surveillance camera business, deciding instead to focus on core sales and aggregate volumes with other markets.
Consolidation is just beginning, and some players will probably need to merge or move into the value chain in order to be profitable. In terms of effectively reacting to strong price pressure we see several possible trends developing, depending on a company’s specific business model:
- Vertically-integrated players: with commercial market diversification, these players can no longer internalize the entire value chain. Upstream in the value chain, some players (i.e. FLIR, DRS, Raytheon) have outsourced sensor manufacturing to foundries in order to reduce sensor cost and benefit from the foundries’ wafer-level techniques. Downstream in the value chain, some camera players like DRS have exited the camera level to focus on core-making. Seek Thermal, Raytheon’s commercial partner, is also focused solely on cores in order to aggregate volume and reduce camera commercialization cost. In fact, its smartphone module is quite close to a core product.
- For sensor merchant suppliers: these players are under pressure because their camera customers can’t keep up with the price war led by vertically-integrated manufacturers. In order to maintain their competitiveness with the semiconductor foundries used by vertical companies, they’ve upgraded their production line to 8’’, ascended the value chain by providing cores with increased integration, and developed innovative MEMS technologies customized for infrared imaging.
This report provides details about key players’ business strategies and the supply chain dynamics that will dramatically change the competitive landscape and create merger & acquisition opportunities in the next few years. An analysis is provided for each different market: thermography, surveillance, automotive.
- Latest industry news, plus analysis of new market entrants and exits.
- Summary of mergers & acquisitions over the last five years.
- Up-to-date analysis of 20 market segments, including thermography, surveillance, automotive, smartphones, and personal vision systems.
- Addition of a new ultra low-end surveillance segment.
- Addition of a new “other” commercial application category which includes commercial UAV and EVS.
- 2014 market share and evolution estimates for sensor manufacturers.
- Updated market forecasts (in $ and units) for 2014 – 2020.
- Identification of the latest technological trends and ongoing developments.
- Market data on key uncooled infrared imaging market metrics and dynamics:
- Uncooled infrared imaging system sales, in units and revenue by market segment: 20 market segments covered
- Uncooled infrared imager sales, in units and revenue by market segment: five segments covered
- Market share at uncooled infrared imager level
- In-depth analysis of traditional uncooled IR imaging applications: thermography, automotive, surveillance, and military.
- Key technical insights into future technology trends and challenges.
- A comprehensive understanding of the IR imaging value chain, infrastructure, and players:
- Who are the industrial IR sensor players (IDMs + foundries), and what is their market/technological position?
- In general, who are the key players to watch, and how will the IR imaging market evolve?