Luminar buys InGaAs chip supplier for lidar sensor scale-up

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Luminar's Iris sensor (Image: Luminar)

Luminar Technologies is acquiring its InGaAs chip design partner and manufacturer, OptoGration, for its core IP and supply chain capacity as Luminar scales latest lidar sensor into series production.

The acquisition secures a key part of Luminar’s supply chain - the sale secures supply with one million units per year - and enables deeper integration with its existing chip design subsidiary Black Forest Engineering (BFE), which Luminar acquired in 2017.

Luminar is combining the latest technology from Optogration and BFE to power its new fifth-generation lidar chip in Iris as the company prepares for series production of its product and technology.

For the past five years, Luminar has been closely collaborating with OptoGration, developing, iterating, and perfecting the specialized InGaAs photodetector technology that is required for 1,550nm lidar. 

OptoGration exploits the non-local behavior of impact ionisation to provide low noise APDs sensitive to wavelengths ranging from less than 900 nm to 1,700 nm. These APDs are available as discrete die with active apertures from 20 to 350 microns, as well as, highly uniform custom arrays with pixel pitches of as low as 10 microns. 

The company has capacity to produce approximately one million InGaAs chips with Luminar’s design each year at their specialised fabrication facility in Massachussetts, with the opportunity to expand to up to 10 million units per year capacity.

Jason Eichenholz, co-founder and chief technology officer at Luminar, said: 'The OptoGration team is unique in their ability to deliver photodetectors with the performance and quality that achieve our increasingly demanding requirements. Chip-level innovation and integration has been key to unlocking our performance and driving the substantial cost reductions we’ve achieved.'

Luminar combines its InGaAs photodetector chips from Optogration with silicon ASICs, produced by BFE, to create its lidar receiver and processing chip, which is able to acquire and process gigabits of precise data per second to produce optimal lidar data. 

OptoGration’s founders are joining Luminar as part of this transaction and will continue to lead the business with support from Luminar.

The OptoGration acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter. The transaction price was not disclosed.

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