Monday, March 5, 2012

Overall IR detector business to grow from $152 milllion in 2010 to $286 million in 2016

LYON, FRANCE: Yole Développement announced its report “Infrared Detector Market, Applications & Technology Trends”. New MEMS thermopile players and applications are the main trends boosting the market growth identified by Yole Développement’s Technology & Market analyst, Yann de Charentenay.

Infrared detectors present in our daily environment
Infrared detectors are used as motion detectors since decades in our daily life for lighting controls and alarms. This business is very important in terms of volume with 150 million units sold in 2010, but the price of the detectors is very low (less than $1).

“Even if this motion detector business is mature, it will continue to grow at a significant rate (CAGR 2010-2016 in value: + 9 percent) driven by the concern for energy savings”, announces Yann de Charentenay, senior analyst. In the coming years it will be increasingly used to switch off/on automatically lighting and home appliances such as HVAC, TVs, etc.Source: Yole Développement, France.

Another common use of infrared detectors is for non-contact temperature measurement for applications like human ear thermometer, or industrial pyrometers. IR detectors can also be used to detect gas, fire or to analyze materials. For those applications, the detector price can vary very much from single dollar to tens of dollars each. Here also, the business is growing driven by interest in IR detection: very robust non-contact measurement with a long lifetime.

The technology behind those applications is quite mature and use small detectors from one to four IR sensitive elements that can be made with two technologies: pyroelectric sensors or thermopile sensors.

Large market players entering market
The infrared detector industry was quite stable up to now with a few players dominating the business specially for motion detection: Perkin Elmer who sold its IR detector branch that became Excelitas (DE), Nicera (JP), Murata (JP) and Heimann (DE).

Some niche players (Pyreos, Irisys) have also developed innovative pyroelectric technologies (thin film, ceramic hybrid) that enable arrays of sensitive elements, but the volume sold are still limited to niche markets (counting people, gas detection, spectroscopy).

Large MEMS manufacturers are entering the IR detector business in 2011: Texas Instruments, Omron, Panasonic, and Hamamatsu. These companies, who have substantial revenues and resources, have developed thermopile detectors which are processed on their MEMS large production line (6 to 8’’). In that position, they have very competitive production costs that will provide access to new applications. For instance Texas Instruments targets temperature measurement function for portable consumer electronic applications (notebook, tablet).

New large detector apps adding further market growth
Large detectors (from 16 x 16 to 64 x 64 pixels) are developed to obtain advanced person detection functionalities meaning it is possible to locate the position of a person precisely in a space, to identify immobile persons (not possible with motion sensors) or to monitor large areas. The end markets will be for home automation, healthcare, or security businesses.

On this “large detector” market, several technologies will compete: pyroelectric, thermopile and microbolometers. Pyroelectric and thermopiles are well advanced thanks to their position on small detectors, but need still to increase their detector size.

Microbolometer technology is leading the infrared imager business where image resolution is higher than 10,000 pixels and prices of several hundred dollars. Microbolometer players (Ulis, Flir, NEC, DRS) have started to develop or investigate large detector applications, but the low cost target will be a big challenge for those players. “Next year will be crucial to determine which technology will be the most adopted,” said Wenbin Ding, Technology & Market Analyst, MEMS Devices & Technologies.

All in all, with the arrival of new MEMS players and the emergence of large detector applications, Yole Développement expects that the overall IR detector business will grow from $152 million in 2010 at a rate of + 11 percent/year to reach $286 million in 2016.

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