Scantinel, a startup working on photonic chip-driven LiDAR technology from its offices in Germany, has announced an extended series A raise of €10 million.
The series A participants comprised PhotonDelta, a photonics hub spurring photonic chip innovation from the Netherlands, as well as investments from existing Scantinel investors Scania Growth Capital and ZEISS Ventures.
So what is the point of photonic chips? The clue's in the name, photonic refers to the transfer of light rays within small microchip form factors that usually use electrons, enabling bandwidth that literally travels at the speed of light and executes compute that, until now, has been unheard of.
In a Lidar context (Lidar sensors also use light - in their case lasers which supersede good old fashioned radar), the rise of photonic chips should mean Lidar detection of physical objects gets more precise, can handle more objects, and from smaller form factors that make it easier to commercialise, Scantinel says.
While self-driving cars have spearheaded innovation activity for LiDAR (proponents say the lasers help cars see the road at night) the truth is there's countless processes that are currently mechanical which could at least be partly automated, but only so long as the LiDAR is proven to be accurate, reliable and with sufficient range.
Scantinel claims its photonic chip-driven LiDAR sensor — which uses frequency modulated continuous waves (FMCW) — has a detection range reaching beyond 300 metres and with better sensor resolution (meaning LiDAR can pick up more granular details) as well as "solid-state" scanning, a technique that involves a single laser beam being used like phased radar arrays, illuminating surroundings and capturing 3D data.
That 3D data opens up the possibility of using LiDAR as a 3D scanner for additive manufacturing, taking literal 3D snaps of objects to create replicas for design purposes.
More standard uses of LiDAR cited by Scantinel include automating conveyor belts in factories or warehouses, or automating some of the navigation skills of construction cranes.
The extended series A raise is being earmarked for distributing Scantinel's FMCW product, building on its existing partnerships with big-name automotive, mobility and industrial players.
Ewit Roos, CEO of PhotonDelta, said: "Photonic chips are a next generation chip technology which will bring new innovations like FMCW LiDAR on CHIP to life and we are excited to ride along this journey with Scantinel.
"We see the investment in Scantinel as a perfect fit to grow and strengthen our photonics ecosystem.”