FAREHAM, ENGLAND — On the first full day of Raymarine's global press event in the United Kingdom, the electronics company gave journalists a chance to look under the hood of its operations as they toured the company's research-and-development facility on the south coast of England.
The company set up several stations in the two-story building in Fareham to show the marine media its latest products and allow them to pick the brains of the electronics company's engineers and product developers. The five stations showcased Raymarine's multifunction displays and its Lighthouse user interface software; its sonar capabilities and its Dragonfly sonar units; its thermal imaging cameras; its Evolution Autopilot; and its electromagnetic and environmental testing chambers.
The electromagnetic testing makes sure the products are not absorbing or emitting too much radiated transmissions, according to Raj Patel, hardware development manager. "We test to meet standards, but our testing goes far beyond that," he said.
The environmental testing involves subjecting the products to heat, cold, water ingress, salt, fog, near lightning strikes and other real-world factors that affect product use and longevity.
Raymarine maritime marketing director Jim Hands summed it up nicely: "This is where they shake and bake things."
Indeed. I watched engineers put an a9 display through a vibration test; fire a high-pressure water stream at a large display screen; cook an antenna in a heating chamber; and smash the screen of small display by dropping a weight on it.
But there was plenty of tech talk, too.
Raymarine has concentrated on developing multiple ways to allow users to control the multifunction displays, which include its Hybrid touch technology and Glass Bridge displays. But each display always has keypad control.
"People like to have that button functionality, the security of that tactile feedback," said Chris Jones, director of product management. “When bouncing around on a RIB it is difficult to press the screen. We recognize that."
In the sonar display room, the company's entry-level product — Dragonfly — was the centerpiece of the discussion.
"We designed the transducers in conjuncture with the electronics so we have the best match to get the performance we want to achieve," said Paul Stokes, sonar systems architect.
With its Dragonfly sonar machines, Raymarine is working to make a name for itself in the freshwater fishing market.
"It just shows the capabilities our engineers and product management have in addressing market trends," global product manager Adam Murphy said. "There is not as much money floating around for 50-foot sportfishing vessels as there was in 2006 or 2007. So understanding that, there's a lot of customers that have a thousand bucks for a kayak and a fishfinder solution. It is going to open up a world of opportunities for our company. Being able to address all of the markets brings huge potential."
Earlier in the day, Raymarine general manager Gregoire Outters told journalists that Raymarine has come on strong in the market during the past few years.
"Most of you know that at the time FLIR acquired Raymarine in 2010 Raymarine was not in that great of shape," Outters said. "The company was highly impacted by the [economic] crisis. But FLIR realized the potential the company had. Raymarine knows its business. FLIR invested a lot in Raymarine to renew the products and to apply the FLIR business model. The result is not only are we growing revenue, we are investing that revenue back into Raymarine."