Small and mid-sized manufacturing companies face specific challenges when it comes to innovating and diversifying their product lines. And yet, to remain competitive, this is exactly what these companies must do.
The thermal imaging market is particularly innovative. Change is constant, as is growth. The market has been expanding rapidly for several years now.
Today, small and mid-sized manufacturing companies—and, especially, systems manufacturers—seeking new growth drivers are turning to thermal imaging to enhance their new products.
Integrating infrared capabilities into an existing system or developing new systems leveraging the technology can effectively boost sales.
In practice, however, the first question manufacturers must answer when developing a new product integrating thermal imaging technology is whether to opt for a ready-to-use module or an imager.
Here we compare components and modules, giving you the primary technical differences so that you can understand the advantages and disadvantages of each—and choose the best solution for your development strategy.
- Easy to integrate: Modules are fast and easy to integrate because they are pre-built and require no calibration or electronics. Modules are a plug-and-play solution that provides a corrected, usable image for the system right out of the box. In terms of manufacturing, modules are easier to integrate into production processes than components.
- Compatible with small production runs: Modules do not require specific manufacturing equipment, making them suitable for small production runs. For companies with no in-house thermal imager calibration equipment or know-how, modules are a particularly attractive solution.
- Lower product development costs: Making products from modules helps manufacturers save on development costs as compared to developing products integrating individual components. Developing the custom electronics and calibration algorithms required by components represent a substantial investment. The return on investment is attractive only for medium to large production runs.
- Shorter development cycles: Developing a thermal camera from a module takes much less time than developing a camera from individual components for faster time to market.
- A limited number of configurations: Modules are pre-built assemblies that cannot be taken apart or modified. Therefore, the number of possible product configurations is limited. Parameters like image format cannot be changed, for example. The number of optical configurations is also generally limited. The number of fields of vision is usually limited to around six to eight configurations.
- Versatility: Starting from the imager allows product designers and developers to adapt the thermal camera to the demands of the target application. Manufacturers can select the optics they want and tailor parameters like sensitivity and image frequency to the needs of the end product.
- Design and development freedom: Modules are designed and packaged for specific uses. Components allow for far more possibilities in terms of product design and can be configured to provide optimal performance for the target application.
- Cost control: Starting from the sensor gives manufacturers control over final camera costs. Each component is purchased separately, so manufacturers are free to choose the best value for each part. The cost of the camera can thus be optimized for the level of performance delivered.
- Longer development cycles: Components are integrated earlier in the development process than complete modules. Therefore, product development cycles are longer with components than with modules. Components require additional development work on aspects like electronics and image calibration algorithms.
- The need for in-house capabilities: Integrating a component into a product requires specific know-how and resources, especially in electronics, mechanical engineering, and signal processing. A component is much more technically sophisticated than a module—which is also why a component is so much more adaptable.
The decision to develop products based on components or modules depends heavily on your new product development and business needs and objectives. It is important to remember that modules are the right choice to speed up development. Components, however, offer far more possibilities in terms of adapting the system to the needs of the final product and controlling costs.
Learn how MGL group diversified its product lineup using thermal imaging technology.