The time of flight sensor market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.3% during the forecast period 2021-2026. In the coming years, the demand for 3D scanning technology would increase due to the ease of usage. Time-of-flight is an active type of 3D imaging and scanning technology, and with biometric authentication, it is expected to form a new trend in the demand of the TOF sensor. The secured authentication or payment by facial recognition integrating the time of flight sensors is a necessity in today’s world for security purposes. A player such as Infineon is showcasing at CES 2020 its 3D depth sensors for biometric facial authentication and enhanced photo capabilities on smart devices, in partnership with software and 3D Time of Flight system specialist PMD Technologies AG.
- Growing adoption of Machine Vision Systems across various industries drives the market. More general machine vision applications require highly stable and reliable sensory systems. ToF cameras provide a reliable set of depth data, increasing the robustness and flexibility of many surveillance, inspection, and logistics systems. Applications such as automated materials handling (AMH) systems operate at moderate distances of one to three meters and require more accurate measurements of about one to five millimeters. The preference towards single-pixel ToF imagers is highly being adopted for full-field imagers, which are cascaded through modulating elements and are incorporated into the correlation ToF architecture. Sony’s DepthSense sensor provided in machine vision cameras presents a new set of opportunities and is expected to drive the market. - Increasing demand for smartphones enabled with 3D cameras drives the market. ToF cameras are becoming an increasingly common feature on smartphones. According to Huawei, the 3D camera market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 45.6 percent from 2017 to 2026. The cameras are comprised of a sensor that uses a tiny laser to fire out infrared light. This light bounces off anything or anyone in front of the camera and back into the sensor. Further, there are various different potential applications for accurate depth mapping in smartphones. For instance, LG has paired the time-of-flight sensor with its 8-megapixel front-facing camera, which enables facial unlock to provide secure biometric, which reads the vein patterns in hand and creates a Bokeh effect. With the increasing demand for 3D cameras, the growth of the TOF sensor rises significantly. - However, the impact of COVID-19 continues to create instability within the supply chain industry currently. TOF camera is the main part of the sensor. It is expected that the market for the TOF camera shall probably show a negative growth rate of approx -6.4% in 2020 with the slow down of sensor demand in the major market such as industrial, smartphone, and the automotive sector. For various players, primary customers in this segment are smartphone makers and automotive segment who rely on supply chains in China, and although the recovery in these supply chains has led to sales gradually returning to normal levels, there is a risk that is going forward sales could be impacted by a slowdown in the market. - Further, in April 2020, Samsung announced to drop the Time-of-Flight sensor from the Galaxy Note 20. The TOF could be a bit costly to add, and since the COVID-19 pandemic is not making production any easier this year, Samsung could just drop the feature entirely. Hence overall, the pandemic situation significantly affecting the TOF sensor market. However, the players providing solutions for healthcare applications are not highly affected due to the demand for the Time-of-Flight sensor for patient monitoring in the imaging applications.
Key Market Trends Lidar in Automotive to Witness Significant Growth
- LIDAR systems and ToF techniques are vital in providing self-driving cars with a detailed picture of the surrounding. The LIDAR system undertakes with a laser diode or LED directed to emit infrared light. Direct ToF uses short pulses of light measuring the time until each pulse returns to the sensor for measuring the distance to an object. Further, indirect ToF sensors emit a continuous wave of modulated light. - Various scientists are working in their innovation to provide high-resolution 3Dview through a camera integrated through lidar. For instance, in April 2020, a team of physicists in Switzerland has built what they describe as the world’s first-megapixel photon-counting camera and a first-of-its-kind image sensor technology, which could make lidar systems faster and more accurate. - The speed and precision of this new camera make it possible to measure the amount of time it takes for a photon to travel from its source to the camera’s sensor, as well as produce a high-speed reconstruction of 3D images. Scientists confirmed the accuracy of the camera’s time-of-flight measurements using laser pulses where this new camera could help achieve unprecedented levels of autonomy and safety by enabling multiple low-power lidar devices to be used on a vehicle, providing fast, high-resolution 3D view of the surroundings. - Further, in January 2020, Sense Photonics introduced Osprey, the first modular FLASH LiDAR for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving. This further aims to help its partners, for instance, Infineon is the partner of Sense Photonics, and their near-field LiDAR solutions further assist the Infineon’s REAL3 Time-of-Flight imager, which overall supports the growth of the market. - Further, as LiDAR uses high power lasers to achieve the long-range required, so moving to III-V material-based sensor overcomes various issues such as interference and performance, due to its higher QE compared to silicon. Attempts have been made such as using state-of-the-art Si sensors, to extend the light spectrum of ToF sensing to wavelengths beyond 1.1µm Artilux’s GeSi sensor technology is the only silicon-based solution that can operate at wavelengths above 1.1 ?m, and thus combines the best features of both silicon-based CMOS sensor and III-V material-based sensor. - The new Artilux GeSi sensor technology is now ready for mass production, with the first generation of products to be announced in Q1 2020. The ability to sense wide spectrum light with GeSi sensors will minimize sunlight interference, and deliver noticeably more accurate performance. It is the solution to unlocking the full potential of 3D sensing for autonomous vehicles.
Asia-Pacific Accounts to Hold Significant Growth
- Asia-Pacific is anticipated to grow at significant growth due to the rapid industrialization. The easy availability of low-cost labor has led to increased manufacturing of different electronic components and devices in this region, which in turn is anticipated to increase demand for ToF sensors for monitoring and inspection applications in the manufacturing sector. - More and more vision applications are implementing 3D sensing using embedded platforms to take advantage of their processing power available in a compact size at a low cost. Current embedded ToF solutions on the market provide lower resolution and accuracy. To address such issues, in March 2020, LUCID Vision Labs, Inc. announced the series production of its new Helios Flex 3D Time-of-Flight module sensor, which can simply be integrated into embedded platforms in industrial and robotics sectors. - The module features Sony’s DepthSense IMX556PLR back-illuminated ToF image sensor and has four 850nm VCSEL laser diodes, and its GUI can show the intensity and depth of a scene in either a 2D view or a 3D point cloud view, which can be manipulated and oriented in real-time. - Further, following last year’s introduction of CH-101, the first commercially available MEMS-based ultrasonic ToF sensor for consumer electronics, AR/VR, robotics, drones, IoT, automotive, and industrial market segments, TDK is expanding the SmartSonic MEMS ultrasonic platform. In January 2020, TDK announces the availability of new MEMS-based sonar on a silicon chip ultrasonic time-of-flight sensor CH-201 with an extended sensing range of 5 meters. - With the CH-201 sensor’s extended sensing range, product designers have a new ToF sensor option available to enable new capabilities and create unique user experiences in a broad range of consumer products. Both the CH-101 and CH-201 sensors are being used by leading consumer brands in robotic vacuum cleaners, (smart) speakers, PCs, and many more products This further caters to the market growth. - Furthermore, in December 2019, AMS AG has been recognized through major industry awards around the globe during 2019. In addition, AMS AG won several technology awards in different regions, including China, recognizing AMS outstanding portfolio. These include Innovation Product and Technology from Elecfans China for the AMS TMF8801 true direct time-of-flight (ToF) sensor system in a single modular package. With this new innovation in the TOF sensor portfolio, it supports the market in the forecast period.
Competitive Landscape The time of flight sensor market is fragmented as a number of companies operating in the market increases. Leading players are currently focusing on virtual reality experience through drones providing cost-competitive products to the customers. Further players are investing heavily in the R&D activities, partnership, and various start-ups are proliferating in the market, especially in the growing economies. Key players are Texas Instruments Incorporated, STMicroelectronics N.V., etc. Recent developments in the market are - - April 2020 - The researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne (EPFL) developed a megapixel camera that is based on time-gated, single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) image sensors. By combining time-of-flight information with the ability to capture a million pixels simultaneously, the camera enables 3D images to be reconstructed at extremely high speeds.
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