Barco Refocuses on Projection for Simulation Market

Simulation & Training – Barco was at I/ITSEC 2014 to show off simulation-related technology and equipment, but its pending divestiture of its simulation business was clearly on the minds of booth personnel.

For those who may have missed this announcement last September 29, Barco said it will sell its Defense & Aerospace Division to US-based Esterline Corporation (Bellevue, WA). This division includes training and simulation products, avionics displays and air traffic control solutions. The transaction is scheduled to close at the end of the year, so is obviously a topic of discussion at a major simulation trade show like I/ITSEC. The division has offices in the United States, Asia and Europe and employs 600 employees. In 2013 the division booked 157 million euro in orders, 150 million euro in sales and realized 20 million euro in EBITDA.

According to the booth personnel, the transaction is designed to reinforce Barco’s long-term strategy to streamline its business portfolio and to strengthen its core activities. Esterline is mainly a supplier of avionic systems and has been a good Barco customer in the past. But the company knows little about the simulation market, so will need a lot of advice from Barco to maintain its position here.

What does this mean for Barco? We were told it allows the company to not focus on complete simulation solutions, but return to its roots providing great visual displays. These are primarily the projectors designed by projectiondesign, a company that Barco absorbed a couple of years ago. At I/ITSEC 2014, there were about 70 Barco projectors in use on various booths at the show, indicating its strong market share in this segment.

Barco will also sell its warping and blending boxes and Esterline can license this later if it wants. To support the projection focus, Barco used I/ITSEC to introduce a new short throw lens, the EN-57, for the F50 series projectors. With its throw ratio of 0.3:1 and off axis projection, it significantly reduces the space requirements for any application.

The company also showed a new 0.62:1 short throw lens designed for helicopter simulators for the “chin” display. This is the display that provides the critical view below the cockpit and allows the pilot to see as he lands. This is an incredibly large lens that costs about $20K. That’s a lot of money for the simulation market and might be the most expensive lens in the Barco line, but it is far less than what cinematographers pay for their high quality lenses.

The F50 projector is the world’s brightest WQXGA, 120Hz active stereoscopic 3D projector. It is also the most compact on the market and is fully ruggedized, answering the needs of discerning customers in the training and simulation space.

Barco transportable dome

But what Barco won’t be doing going forward is what the company also showcased at the booth – a new portable dome solution. This is designed to be a turnkey solution that allows customers to pick the resolution they want (dictating a three channel F50 to 5-channel F22 solution) and the rest is supplied. It is designed to be set up in four hours and will now become an Esterline product. – Chris Chinnock