04 Oct 2016
Thermal imaging giant moves into machine vision with cash acquisition of the Canadian camera firm.
Point Grey Research, the developer of high-performance scientific and industrial cameras, is set to become part of the ever-growing FLIR Systems empire by the end of the year, after the two firms agreed a $253 million acquisition.
While US-headquartered FLIR has historically concentrated on infrared and thermal imaging technologies, Point Grey’s expertise lies more in the visible spectrum, with particular strength in machine vision applications.
Alternative imaging spectrum
FLIR’s CEO Andy Teich believes that combining the two businesses will enable FLIR to bring infrared imaging capability to the fast-growing machine vision sector. He said:
“Thermal imaging technology provides vision systems customers an alternative imaging spectrum that offers a rich, largely untapped layer of information that can be further leveraged.”
Point Grey’s latest technology will be on view at the forthcoming Vision 2016 trade show taking place in Stuttgart, Germany, next month. The company, still based in Richmond, British Columbia, where it was set up nearly 20 years ago, will be showcasing its new 20 megapixel “Blackfly S” camera at the event.
Representing its highest-resolution offering to date, the Blackfly S is based around a Sony “Exmor” CMOS imaging sensor, and is said to be no larger than an ice cube. Point Grey is aiming the new device at a wide range of applications across science, medicine and industry.
“Top-quality images and high frame rates in a very compact form factor enable our customers to deliver superior performance and accuracy in 3D scanning, industrial inspection, medical imaging, robot navigation, autonomous driving, and many others,” said Point Grey’s sales and marketing VP Michael Gibbons when the camera was released in August.
10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity
The company will also unveil a new family of industrial cameras offering 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity for machine vision applications combining high resolution and fast frame rates. The first model in the family is a 12 megapixel camera featuring one of Sony’s “Pregius” CMOS sensors.
The Point Grey deal is the latest in a series of acquisitions by FLIR, which has for some time been pursuing a diversification strategy to augment its historic strength in defense and homeland security applications, which are more susceptible to the fluctuating spending patterns of governments on their military operations.
Other recent deals have included the 2015 purchase of New Jersey based surveillance software and hardware firm DVTEL, and the June 2016 acquisition of San Francisco’s Armasight, which sells rifle scopes, spotting scopes, binoculars, goggles, and illuminating tools into both military and consumer markets.
FLIR has also set up a strategic collaboration with China-headquartered drone specialist DJI Innovations that should see large numbers of unmanned aerial vehicles kitted out with infrared imaging capability.
Earlier this year FLIR executives described the growth in commercial applications of thermal imaging as “explosive”, with deployments in agriculture, building inspection, search and rescue, and firefighting all expected to help the company grow its business.
In its latest financial results, posted in July, FLIR reported pre-tax earnings of $115 million on sales of $782 million for the first six months of the year. Although that represented a lower profitability compared with the first half of 2015, the company pointed out that this partly resulted from the costs of an internal ramp of low-cost optics capability designed to improve profitability in the longer term.
Aside from the Richmond headquarters, Point Grey lists offices in Ludwigsburg, Germany, as well as in Tokyo, Beijing, and Trento in Italy. The firm’s 300 employees are currently said to produce more than 200,000 cameras every year.