Barco is a brand that is known as a leader in its field. Boasting in-house competence, state-of-the-art equipment and testing facilities, customersrecognise its products as visualisation solutions that they can count on
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Dave Alexander
Barco Fredrikstad is at the forefront of technological advancements in high resolution, compact visualisation projectors. Designed to perform in a wide variety of fields including control rooms, training and simulation, visitor attractions and scientific visualisation to name but a few, the company is one of the small number remaining in Europe that still designs and manufactures in-house.
Part of the one billion euro Barco Group headquartered in Kortrijk, Belgium, the Norwegian arm of the business is located in Fredrikstad and is regularly recognised as a Centre of Excellence in the visualisation industry worldwide.
Previously known as projectiondesign, the company name was changed to Barco following an acquisition in 2013, which CEO John Paulissen says was designed to merge competencies and blend synergies of the two reputable visualisation companies: “The Group wanted to extend its focus into areas that it could build further strength in; namely simulation, visitor attractions, and the venues and hospitality industry. These were areas that projectiondesign held its strengths.”
“The former projectiondesign brand and accompanying image is to be retained going forward as it has always focussed on the people behind the company. It remains invested in human development with an emphasis on our reputation as trustworthy and investable among partners,” says Paulissen.
With the pace of development in the technology industry ever-increasing, Barco Fredrikstad invariably invests in the latest innovations via a comprehensive R&D department, boasting state-of-the-art tech at the Norwegian site. “Technology never stands still and we believe that developing a strong set of products in line with this mantra will allow a smooth transition into new sectors to keep our hand in a broader range of markets,” says Paulissen.
Projectors from Barco provide ultra-high resolution, ruggedness and a seamless integration into a variety of applications. Each projector is designed to be mounted on a motion platform, and their small size is a key enabler for many installations, saving on space and is made possible through the most advanced systems imaginable.
Barco Fredrikstad conducts most of its business primarily across the simulator and visitor attractions industry or anywhere that requires a multiple-projector setup.
“The simulator market is crucial to areas such as civil and military training as it is a much cheaper alternative to facilitate training for multiple people at a faster rate in a simulator than in a real plane for example, thus also reducing the costs incurred. As a global organisation, our F-series of projectors have an excellent reputation among key industry players,” comments Paulissen.
In terms of the visitor attractions market, projectors are one of the key AV technologies used as a facilitator to delivering interactive experiences, along with sound, motion, smell and animatronics. “Ultimately, it is all about the experience. Theme parks work with external bureaus in order to make these public attractions more than just a place to go, but a place of immersion and experience. By bringing movement and life to attractions, projectors help convey a message, concept or idea and are the only way to make truly enveloping curved screen displays for truly immersive environments.
“The challenge is in finding and using the correct technology that really enhances the storytelling and the experience for the visitor. We find that with our flexible, compact and high resolution projectors the technology becomes non-intrusive and really enhances the story,” details Paulissen.
As technology paces forward and delves into the probability of not necessarily bigger but brighter and higher resolution screens, Paulissen is confident that projection will remain the primary market for Barco Fredrikstad. “Using a projector in a simulator means you are able to create a seamless, curved immersive environment with the perception of depth. In pilot training for example, you wouldn’t want to see the horizon fragmented across multiple LCD screens. Of course, projectors will remain a key device in other industry practices too,” adds Paulissen.
At present, a projector lamp has a limited lifetime, which means that changing the bulb after 2,000 hours is considered part of total cost of ownership. To keep up with demand for low maintenance costs, image stability and projectors that are able to run 24-seven, Barco Fredrikstad is shifting towards solid state illumination technologies such as LED, laser and hybrid solutions.
“We strive to create a projector without lamps and without excessive noise from the current fan-based cooling systems. Our thermal engineers test only the best cooling solutions for projection and by working to replace the lamp totally, we hope to reduce cost and inconvenience for customers but also reduce heat output in general.
“The F50 projector is our latest innovation which encompasses new cooling techniques via separate enclosures designed to make it quieter,” says Paulissen.
As with many other projector manufacturers, Barco Fredrikstad is also working on and adapting to the merging 4K and higher resolution movement. “However, currently, the uptake of 4K content providers across any industry is low, which means the benefit of utilising such a high resolution projector is still low”,” adds Paulissen.
Moving into new waters, Barco Fredrikstad has created its C-series of projectors to instil a more exciting environment in conference rooms. “We are working on a proposal to make meeting rooms more participative and easier to connect people in a more reliable and efficient way. By putting the Barco spin on ways to communicate in a virtual conference call environment, we provide the tools to simplify visual collaboration – wirelessly,” comments Paulissen.
Going forward, a vital aspect of all Barco products will be their ability to operate 24-seven and the company has one of the lowest failure rates in the industry. “Simulators run multiple projectors at a time continuously. If just one of these were to fail you would not be able to use the facility, and the cost of shutting down such an attraction or a simulator can be extremely high.
“Uptime needs to be as high as possible and consequently, we have developed a system that can detect early failures. It is not just about new technologies, it is as much about ensuring that the product you make is cleverly designed and optimised to work within a designated environment,” Paulissen highlights.
Investing in R&D
To remain ahead in the industry, Barco Fredrikstad has strategically placed its R&D team close to its manufacturing operations. This, accompanied by higher degrees of automation on the manufacturing line, means the company is able to test and bring its innovations to market as fast as possible. “We are certified to conduct our own environmental testing on our products in-house, thus there is no need for months of waiting for an external party to test and re-test items,” confirms Paulissen.
Consequently, Paulissen says that Barco’s biggest asset is its people: “My personal mission is to ensure there are processes in place that shape the staff at Barco Fredrikstad. Our short decision lines mean there is close collaboration on all levels between engineers, designers, quality control, production and so on. We pride ourselves on being a down to earth company that reaches out to the global world.
“Moreover, our approach to our professional product range and our customers mirrors this close-knit style of operation. Our projectors offer best performance for its intended application at a good price-to-performance ratio and customers are invited to visit the site in Norway and speak directly with the people behind the products.”
“Our customer centricity makes us stand out from the crowd as an innovative company. Ultimately, it is the difference in our people, their passion and our dedication that makes us stand out from the crowd,” concludes Paulissen.