Hamamatsu Photonics announced on the 12th that it has developed a component that leads to cost reduction and miniaturization of the high-performance sensor “LiDAR”. Target riders for applications such as automatic guided vehicles (AGV) running in warehouses and factories. By applying our unique optical semiconductor device manufacturing technology, we have simplified the mechanism and reduced the labor involved in the production process. Trial samples to manufacturers will begin at the end of October, and mass production is scheduled to begin in April 2023.

What we have developed is an optical sensor for riders, a part that incorporates a photodiode (light receiving element) and a signal processing circuit in the same package. Avalanche photodiodes (APDs), which can measure the distance to distant objects used for lidar, have established technology that eliminates the need for microcomputers and temperature sensors that are normally attached.

Microcomputers and temperature sensors are attached to adjust the conversion of light into electrical signals according to temperature changes and to stabilize distance measurement by APD. In place of these, an element “self-bias generator (SBG)” that can fix the “multiplication factor” when converting to an electric signal was formed on the semiconductor substrate and integrated with the APD.

By eliminating the microcomputer and temperature sensor, the size of the optical sensor is reduced to about one-tenth of the conventional size, and the process of mounting the microcomputer on the board can be omitted. The price will be about 30% lower than before. At the same time, the signal processing circuit “transimpedance amplifier (TIA)” built into the same package was designed to maximize the performance of the APD, improving the distance and accuracy that can be measured.

The unit price for mass production after April 2011 is about 6,000 yen excluding tax. The goal is to sell 10,000 units per month in the first year and 50,000 units in three years. Demand for lidar is increasing for self-driving vehicles that carry people, but the high cost is a problem. Hamamatsu Photonics will first promote the adoption of the new optical sensor in general-purpose lidars such as AGVs, and hopes to expand it to higher-performance lidars for self-driving cars. The company aims to acquire a 60% to 70% market share for optical sensors for riders.

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