Post by Joe Finegold, COO & VP of Manufacturing for Seek Thermal
Our mission is to disrupt the traditional thermal imaging industry by offering a dramatic improvement in price-performance. Our strategy to achieve this is to create clever designs, then manufacture them with modern methods in very high volumes in a lean domestic factory.
The heart of a thermal camera is the imaging chip. Ours is manufactured for us in Freescale foundries (in Texas and Arizona) using equipment owned by Seek Thermal, Freescale, and Raytheon. It uses the smallest bolometers in production by anyone: 12 micron pixels. The smaller the bolometers, the less expensive they can be (because we can get more per wafer). Our competitors’ products use bolometers that are 2-4 times as large (and expensive).
Components for rest of the optical path (lens, lens mount and shutter) are manufactured in New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Arizona respectively by partners with unique high-volume processes that optimize the optical performance of infrared components. Feature sizes are measured in microns and very tight control of tolerances is maintained.
For components that are not in the optical path, we are leveraging the worldwide cell phone supply chain by engaging partners with capabilities and experience of delivering millions of high quality inexpensive components every year with short lead time.
Camera assembly is done in Idaho in a lean factory that does:
- Printed circuit board assembly and die attach in a clean room with state-of-the art surface mount and microelectronics automation,
- Higher level assembly into the finished camera using custom-designed automation equipment to perform the critical-to-quality assembly operations, such as
- Attachment of lens to lens mount
- Six-axis focusing of the optical path
- Adhesive dispensing to hold together the magnesium enclosure
- Laser inscribing of camera serial number
- Packaging the camera and shipping to each customer
“Lean Manufacturing” is all about the identification and elimination of “waste”. Our lean manufacturing is done in U-shaped flow cells where the product moves in one-piece flow by highly trained and flexible American workers.