After defense, how Lynred from Isere wants to fool the automotive world with infrared (also)

A few kilometers from Grenoble, Safran and Thales subsidiary Lynred (1,100 employees) continues its journey. Although the defense market still accounts for 40% of its turnover (from a total of €232 million recorded in 2021), the company based in Veurey-Voroise (Isère) has seen its infrared imaging highlighted by applications in high demand during the Covid crisis. especially for thermal cameras installed in airports.

Ultimately, this program will generate +30% sales growth in this segment, especially for exports, but it will not exceed the threshold for 2021. But it clearly shows the bias of the company that arose from the merger between the startup Ulis. and in 2019, the Sofradir group to seek new areas of diversification to “democratize” the use of infrared rays.

Already last year, the company presented the France Relance project, where it is working on the design of a new, more sophisticated material detection tool. Opening up new areas of industrial control, it offers new possible applications using thermal chambers, for example in the field of plastics sorting.

Although this project is still ongoing, Lynred is currently working on other works involving the automotive world. ” We have been working in the area of ​​automatic emergency braking devices (or autonomous emergency braking, AEB for short) which until now have relied mainly on visible lanes and radars and have proven ineffective at night or in foggy conditions. “, explains Lynred’s strategy director David Billon-Lanfrey.

While a visible camera can thus detect a pedestrian or object at a distance of 20-30 meters, thermal detection can extend this area to a distance of 150-300 meters. It can even be used to identify a living entity at a distance of 100-200 meters (cyclist, deer, wild boar, etc.), Iséroise of the ETI emphasizes.

From the high-end market to the general public

A recent collaboration with the Belgian company Umicore, a leader in the field of circular materials technologies (11,000 employees at 46 sites worldwide), goes in this direction. Bringing together (investment amount: NC) as part of the European Heliaus project 11 partners from four countries since 2018, Lynred and Umicore have committed to developing a thermal sensor solution to improve the performance of PAEB (Pedestrian Autonomous Emergency Braking) systems.

With a clearly defined objective: “to protect pedestrians in scenarios with reduced visibility” (ie at night, in bad weather, in fog or glare) by using a sensor capable of detecting and identifying objects at longer distances and greater distances. accuracy in adverse lighting conditions. »

Lynred’s bet is to put its infrared know-how at the service of this new application to add heat path usage to consumer vehicles.

“This type of technology has been used by BMW, Cadillac, etc. since the 2000s. was available for the very high-end market of cars, but this option seemed like a simple gadget until now. Today it is quite another thing, because with the evolution of the car and applications that can be linked to autonomous driving, it can be used to change the automatic braking conditions in anticipation of bad driving conditions. “, claims David Billon-Lanfrey.

In fact, Lynred has been working behind the scenes on new applications of this technology since 2017-2018 to improve pedestrian and road user safety.

“Umicore has been able to refine and integrate Tessella optical technology into a volumetric thermal imaging solution that will provide much-needed performance improvements to current PAEB systems. “, in turn, recalled Mikael Frenkian, head of the IR Solutions business line at Umicore, in a communication.

While autonomous driving apps are also in the spotlight, Lynred knows they won’t be the first to be developed in the market: it’s really the driving tool apps for the general public that could be first. “one of the new growth levers of the group”.

Reduce traffic accidents in low visibility areas

Although Lynred is cautious about the numbers, he cites two reports from the United Nations on road safety, which estimate that 1.3 million people worldwide die in road accidents and 50 million are injured annually, 75% of those figures. . related to poor vision.

It will also, and above all, be a major industrial gamble for the Isère ETI, and will in particular involve volumes related to the automotive industry, which are disproportionate to the production carried out at the site today.

David Billon-Lanfrey adds: “Until now, this market has been relatively small, around 100,000 to 200,000 units per year for the top end, with a single supplier, Flir (a Teledyne group company, editor’s note). But we see ourselves as the second generation of the product. we want to place on it, production is supposed to start in 2024-2025.”

Starting from the first series, the volumes will approach 30,000 units, eventually increasing to a million units. ” It will also address industry challenges in terms of reliability, robustness and control of manufacturing costs. “, Lynred’s strategy director admits.

The role of regulation

But for this new market to take off, a few lights need to turn green: “Insurers and rating agencies are now calling for autonomous vehicle emergency braking systems to work more effectively in the dark. Lynred says.

A change in regulations could be a particularly important market stimulus, even if the ETI reminds that the technology needs to prove itself and exist above: “ This will parallel the roadmap for equipment manufacturers who may add low visibility scenarios themselves in the face of new regulatory requirements. But for that, they still have to have something to offer, and that’s the main goal of our work with them.”

For this reason, the Thales and Safran subsidiary intends to work with several prospects in the automotive field, mainly major equipment manufacturers, to demonstrate their credentials and also to certify future production processes. The operation, which began last September at the AutoSens exhibition in Brussels by presenting a prototype of its work for the first time, is still going strong.

“We now have to convince the early adopters among equipment manufacturers and manufacturers, and that’s what’s happening because we’re making the right arguments about industry maturity,” says David Billon-Lanfrey. Answer within a few months It is planned to start production at this stage for 2024-2025.