Uncooled infrared (IR) imagers are already established in markets such as thermography, surveillance, firefighting and defense, and opportunities are growing in areas like personal vision systems (PVS), automotive, consumer and medical.
These areas will drive the market to expand at 15.8% CAGR from 2016 to 2021, reaching 1.5 million units in 2021, according to Yole Développement’s “Uncooled Infrared Imaging Technology and Market Trends 2016” report. Yole Développement has interviewed Cyrille Trouilleau, Product Manager at ULIS, the world’s second largest thermal imager manufacturer, to share the company’s insights about the current and future trends for uncooled IR imaging applications.
Yole Développement (YD): Can you please introduce ULIS and its activities?
Cyrille Trouilleau (CT): ULIS, a subsidiary of Sofradir, specializes in designing and manufacturing innovative thermal image sensors for commercial and defense applications. It enables makers of consumer electronics and infrared equipment to produce low weight, low power consumption and cost-effective thermal cameras in high volume.
Founded in 2002, ULIS has grown to become the second largest producer of thermal image sensors (microbolometers). It offers a targeted range of microbolometers that are the key component of many top brands in thermal imaging equipment sold across Europe, Asia and North America. ULIS is active in the surveillance, thermography, defense and outdoor leisure markets where we already sold more 500,000 thermal sensors worldwide.
YD: Which are the main applications for you in terms of volume or value?
CT: Commercial and defense related remain strong markets both in volume and sales. Historical application such as thermography for temperature measurement is still a major segment one for us, as like as surveillance for fence protection or firefighting for search and rescue. Great market trend can be seen in the outdoor observation. Last year, we noticed strong interest in the leisure market, monocular outdoor and observation systems.
YD: We have found your imager in Opgal’s consumer video cameras. Is this an important market for you, or just an exploration?
CT: Opgal’s products offer the highest end add-on product mainly for ‘prosumer’ [professional uses for consumers]. This shows there is strong interest to add thermal imaging capability to the smartphone market to provide either night vision capability or thermography measurement. Initiatives like Opgal are very important to reach a wider audience and then educate new users on the benefits of thermal imagery. We’ll see what will be the killer apps based on thermal!
YD: We noticed significant growth of your sales in 2015. Are there other special events that happened in 2015 or at the beginning of 2016?
CT: ULIS experienced strong growth in 2015, with close to a 20% increase in volume sales over 2014. Not due to exceptional event, growth we saw is supported by an increase of the demand coming from all the markets; 2016 signs remain as so positive and we expect to reach at least the same growth. We can take as an example the firefighting market, where innovative application have been introduced and will help to strongly develop this market. But we expect our effort in other emerging markets like smart buildings will deliver sales results.
YD: We noticed several companies, like I3system, which were previously working more on industry and military products enter the prosumer module market. Do you see many participants entering from other fields or with other technologies?
CT: Thermal image sensor providers using microbolometer aim to expend their market position from defense and commercial to prosumer market, towards consumer for some of them. This is a strong market dynamic. In the opposite path, we can see other player using other technologies such as thermopile, thermodiode or pyroelectric moving from single element thermal detection to thermal image sensor. But microbolometer is likely the best detection technology to manufacture at cost the right sensor for prosumer thermal imaging. Finally only dealing with night vision or low light detection such as flashlight application, development at visible CMOS sensor are also good competitor too.
YD: What can we hope for ULIS for the following months and years?
CT: We expect first to strengthen or current position in the commercial and defense market. But ULIS’ objective is to ‘democratize’ thermal imaging technology, making it accessible/affordable for everyday use in sensor-driven smart devices and IoT related applications.
YD: You are one of the sponsor of the 1st Executive Infrared Imaging Forum that will take place next september8th. Why is it important for ULIS to be visible on such event, co-organized by Yole Développement and CIOE?
CT: Asia is a very important market for us. We are very proud to take part in the 1st Executive Infrared Imaging Forum. It will be a great opportunity to unite experts, share our market vision and present new innovations. It will be a key moment for ULIS to introduce its first Unique Wafer Level Package technology and to promote here our complete range of thermal sensor of second generation we just completed, including a diversification into low-resolution dedicated to smart building called Thermal Activity Sensor. I will present during the forum, do not forget to come and listen to the presentation (register – agenda)
CIOE is a great event we attend every year for more than 12 years. China is particularly attractive and important for us, and we continue promote our image in China and strengthen our relationship. But CIOE not only covers China but all Asia applications and customers. It is a great place to be!
Cyrille TROUILLEAU, product manager at ULIS, is in charge of developing and commercializing a new class of thermal sensors designed for smart building applications. He joined ULIS in 2002 first as a developer of new products, a post he held for three years. Then he spent the next eight years in customer services, where he was responsible for managing customer relations in Asia and across Europe. Prior to ULIS, Cyrille spent a year working for THALES Microelectronics. From 1998 to 2000, he designed and tested readout circuits for CERN projects at the French National Center for Scientific Research. Cyrille holds a Masters degree in analog design engineering from the Institut Supérieur d’Electronique et du Numérique in Lille, France.
In a dynamic IR imaging market with ever more competitors, technologies and products, uncooled IR imager shipments are expected to grow at 15.8% CAGR from 2016-2021. More here.
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1st Executive Infrared Imaging Forum: From Niche to Large Volume Applications
The IR Imaging Forum, organized in collaboration with CIOE, is an exceptional opportunity to understand the IR imaging market evolution, meet the leaders of the industry and analyze their strategy. Today, IR imaging companies make radical strategic choices: develop high-end products, focus on performances and select the best technologies… What are the latest insights? Register today!