December 30, 2021
Voyant Photonics, which fabricates optical systems optimized for FMCW lidar using low-cost semiconductor chips, has announced it raised $15.4 million in a Series A funding round, led by UP.Partners with participation of earlier investors LDV Capital and Contour Ventures.
The company’s lidar system, which contains thousands of optical components fabricated on a single semiconductor chip. Lets customers integrate an effective and exponentially more scalable lidar system than possible to date. Lidar is enabling 3D vision across many industries, including transportation, robotics, industrial automation, and consumer electronics. Voyant said developer kits are now available for select customers on its waiting list.
Previously, lidar systems were fabricated using discrete mechanical and optical components, resulting in large and expensive solutions. Voyant said its solution radically reduces the size and manufacturing complexity of lidar, which can pave the way for large-scale adoption of 3D sensing, “in the same way that CMOS image sensors enabled the accelerated growth of digital photography.”
The company added that it leverages commercially available and scalable semiconductor fabrication processes that combine thousands of optical and electrical components onto a single chip. This enables Voyant to mass-produce a lidar system similar to how computer chips are made. Co-founders Chris Phare and Steven Miller worked on lidar chips for years at Columbia University’s Lipson Nanophotonics Group, when they decided to commercialize the technology and launch the company.
“When you fabricate a lidar system on a chip, the fabrication costs stays the same regardless of how many components you use,” said Phare. “We will soon be selling lidar systems for a few hundred dollars and longer-term will sell them for less than a hundred dollars at scale.”
The company’s devices demonstrate a complete lidar system in a field-deployable package, using patented techniques for on-chip digital beam steering, optical signal processing, and laser control.
“When we started on our mission to make lidar a ubiquitous technology for machine perception, a lot of people said silicon photonics was not ready to leave the lab,” said Miller. “Our successful first milestones prove that we can build a complete lidar solution that meets industrial needs, using silicon photonics, and deploy it anywhere.”
“I am so excited with the progress we have made,” said Peter Stern, an advisor to the company who recently became CEO. “Our team has accomplished so much, and now we are delivering the first lidar systems of their type powered by an integrated photonic chip. Our diverse customers in robotics, AGVs, mobility, industrial automation, and security all have one thing in common – they are building solutions that need to understand the world around them. That is what our lidar systems provide.”
For more details on the company and its technology, visit the Voyant Photonics website here.