Low cost, small size, low power uncooled thermal imaging sensors have completely changed the way the world views commercial law enforcement and military applications. Key applications include security, medical, automotive, power generation monitoring, manufacturing and process control, aerospace application, defense, environmental and resource monitoring, maintenance monitoring and night vision. Commercial applications also include law enforcement and military special operations. Each application drives a unique set of requirements that include similar fundamental infrared technologies.
Recently, in the uncooled infrared camera and microbolometer detector areas, major strides have been made in the design and manufacture of personal military and law enforcement sensors. L-3 Communications Infrared Products (L-3 IP) is producing a family of new products based on the amorphous silicon microbolometer with low cost, low power, high volume, wafer-level vacuum packaged silicon focal plane array technologies. These bolometer systems contain no choppers or thermoelectric coolers, require no manual calibration, and use readily available commercial off-the-shelf components. One such successful product is the Thermal-Eye X100xp. Extensive market needs analysis for these small hand held sensors has been validated by the quick acceptability into the Law Enforcement and Military Segments. As well as this product has already been received, L-3 IP has developed a strategic roadmap to improve and enhance the features and function of this product to include upgrades such as the new 30-Hz, 30-μm pitch detector.
This paper describes advances in bolometric focal plane arrays, optical and circuit card technologies while providing a glimpse into the future of micro hand held sensor growth. Also, technical barriers are addressed in light of constraints, lessons learned and boundary conditions. One conclusion is that the Thermal Eye Silicon Bolometer technology simultaneously drives weight, cost, size, power, performance, producibility and design flexibility, each individually and all together - a must for the portable commercial law enforcement and military markets.