Thursday, October 18, 2018

GF Securities on Smartphone Camera Trends, Apple ToF Solution

Hong Kong-based GF Securities publishes "Greater China Smartphone Supply Chain" report dated by Sept. 26, 2018. The analysts say about the forthcoming Apple ToF solution:

"Due to Apple’s AR focus (Apple launched its ARkit in June-2017), we expect ToF to be installed in Apple's 2019 iPhone models. However, due to VSCEL-based ToF not being ready due to issues in power consumption, sensor form factor, etc., our supply chain checks suggest a microwave RF solution is more likely. The solution uses an RF wavelength to detect depth and combines 2D/3D images captured by a dual-cam to deliver AR functions. Compared to VSCEL-based ToF, the RF solution has a lower cost but a lower resolution and shorter distance. We expect the microwave RF chip to be provided by either Apple or Broadcom."

There are few major trends with respect to the smartphone cameras:

"We forecast global tri-cam penetration in smartphones of 15% in 2019 (>200m units) and 25% in 2020... Concerns about low-spec “three individual” design make little sense to us, as tri-cam models mostly use optical zooms which require alignment. We also do not think algorithms will be able to replace tri-cams, as optical zooms cannot be achieved only using software.

Besides, we expect the trend of large sensors to continue, driven by Sony’s quadra sensor and Apple’s move to 1/2.6”/2.25” sensors in 2H18/2H19, from 1/2.8” in 2H17, lifting lens and module spec requirements. As such, we expect highend sensors and lenses to be in tight supply in 2019. For Largan, we expect its “new weapon”, pure black lenses, to help it gain traction in front cameras given its better full screen design.

For lens makers, we believe rising shipments driven by the robust tri-cam adoption should help alleviate competition and strengthen leading players’ pricing power. Spec-wise, due to tri-cam’s requirement for lens uniformity, we expect a duopoly in lenses – Largan to take the lion’s share while Sunny will benefit from order overflow. We believe it will be difficult for other second-tier lens makers to catch up.

For module makers, we believe the tri-cam trend should help to lift CCM ASPs, as a tri-cam module can carry a US$40+ ASP, compared to dual-cam modules at US$20+ for the current high-end Chinese OEM models. Regarding market concerns of the potential lower spec of the “three individual” design, we believe the design does not make sense for mid/high end models, which accounts for the majority of current tri-cam demand, as adding one additional camera mostly addresses the zoom function. We note that zoom functions require active alignment to calibrate optical performance; thus, we believe “two + one” makes more sense.

While the optical industry may not see a meaningful 7P upgrade in 2018-19, the previous yield issue on the P20 Pro suggests a high-end 6P design is still difficult for both lenses and modules due to the large CMOS sensor size. Theoretically, the large CMOS sensor size will challenge the z-height of modules and lenses. Based on our survey of CMOS roadmaps, we expect the trend of large sizes to continue, driven by Sony’s introduction of a quadra sensor and Apple’s move to larger sensors, both requiring high lens specs (i.e., thinner, higher frequency, etc.) and thinner module structures. P20 Pro’s 40MP lens is the first for quadra this year, and we expect OPPO, Xiaomi and Vivo to follow suit.

"Driven by the trend towards multi-cams and large CMOS sensors, our supply chain survey suggests leading CMOS sensor and lens makers will continue to expand capacity. However, we note that Sony, which hasn’t come out with official expansion guidance, looks slow in its expansion, and our supply chain survey suggests it may only have a 10-15% expansion plan for 2019. As such, we expect supply of high-end CMOS sensors and lenses (which mostly pair with Sony’s sensors) to be tight in 2019. We therefore expect a favorable pricing environment in 2019 for leading CMOS sensor and lens players."

Digitimes: CIS Demand to Boom in 2019

Digitimes expects the CMOS sensor demand to boom in 2019, thanks to triple-camera phones adoption and ADAS applications in 2019. After Huawei triple-camera in its P20 and Mate 20 series models, other China vendors are expected to follow, and even Apple is said to likely adopt thriple camera in its future iPhones.

Sony enjoys most of this mobile market growth. In addition, Sony is tapping into the supply chains of first-tier automotive suppliers such as Denso and Bosch, and is also zeroing in on the demand for rearview mirror CIS devices from Japan automakers such as Nissan, Honda and Toyota. Taiwan's backend service provider Kingpak is actively striving for packaging orders from Sony, the newspaper sources said.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Artilux Ge-on-Si ToF Pixel

IEDM publishes a teaser for Artilux paper "Ge-on-Si Lock-In Pixels for Distance Ranging" by N. Na et al.

"Range-imaging is key to many electronics applications such as hand tracking, facial recognition, localization/mapping for navigation, object detection/ranging for autonomous driving, and many others. However, new technologies are needed to enable accurate range-imaging at wavelengths beyond the visible range, in order to ensure eye safety and for better performance. One approach is to develop better “lock-in” pixels for use in image sensor arrays. Lock-in pixels provide distance information indirectly, using the time-of-flight (TOF) principle. TOF systems determine the distance of an object by shining light on it, reflecting that light to the pixel and noting when it arrives, and calculating the distance light would have traveled in that time. Artilux, Inc. researchers will report the first Ge-on-Si lock-in pixels for indirect TOF measurements for such uses. These Ge-on-Si pixels demonstrated both high sensitivity (quantum efficiency >85% and >46% at 940nm/1550nm wavelengths, respectively) and high resolution (demodulation contrast >0.81 at 300MHz), a significant improvement from their pure Si pixel counterparts. The technology may open new routes to high-performance indirect TOF sensors and imagers, as well as the potential adoption of eye-safe lasers for consumer electronics. The researchers say the lock-in pixels were fabricated using a commercially available foundry technology and hence may be ready for mass production in the near future."

Sony Maps its CIS Products

Sony publishes the maps explaining its image sensor lineups for consumer cameras and industrial applications:

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Omnivision Explains LED Flicker Mitigation

Omnivision's video explains LED flicker and the ways to reduce it:

Samsung Expands ISOCELL Brand to Automotive Products

BusinessWire: Samsung announces its new automotive solution brand Samsung ISOCELL Auto. “Samsung's new automotive brand solutions, Exynos Auto and ISOCELL Auto, bring Samsung's market-proven technologies to automotive applications with enhanced features and durability required by the market,” said Kenny Han, VP of Samsung’s Device Solutions Division.

Samsung’s ISOCELL Auto are built on the company’s pixel isolation technology, ISOCELL, the sensors are said to provide greater visibility of the road and surroundings even in low-light environments, while enabling more precise identification of objects. This allows, for example, vehicles to perceive road conditions or potential hazards even when driving through tunnels or other high-contrast environments.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Correction to Omnivision's Interview

Omnivision asked me to correct a part of Yole Developpement interview that talks about its relationship with Will Semiconductor:

"PC: Since the change in shareholders two years ago, can you explain to our readers what has changed for the company?

MW: Our IPO on the Nasdaq Exchange was in 2000. In 2016, we went private. Since September 2017, Mr. Renrong Yu has been OmniVision CEO and he also serves as Chairman of the Board of Will Semiconductor. While the companies have had a close working relationship, the Will Semiconductor company presently owns a small minority share in OmniVision. A proposed transaction is currently in the due diligence phase, and would still require regulatory approvals. Upon consummation of the proposed transaction, the combined company would then be publicly traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

That said, our focus and mission at OmniVision have not changed. That mission is to enable the sensing possibilities with intelligent and reliable imaging solutions. We will continue to develop image sensors for the markets mentioned earlier with more resources and a larger sensor portfolio to capture more worldwide market share.

Omnivision Combines ULL with Nyxel in 2MP Sensor, Introduces NIR SNR1 Metric

PRNewswire: OmniVision announces the OS02C10, a 2.9um, 2MP sensor with ultra-low-light (ULL) technology. Combining ULL with Nyxel NIR technology, the OS02C10 can detect incident light in both visible and NIR wavelengths and produce color and monochrome images for security applications.

Nxyel NIR technology in OS02C10 gives it a QE of 60% at 850nm and 40% at 940nm, which is 2x to 4x better than competing devices. Such high QE enables the use of lower-power IR illumination in total darkness.

The amount of NIR light that a sensor requires to capture high-quality images can be quantified with a new metric called NIR SNR1, which takes into account the QE, pixel size and read noise. The OS02C10 achieves an SNR1 at 850nm of 23nw/cm2 and an SNR1 at 940nm of 31nw/cm2, which are 2x to 4x smaller numbers compared with the leading competitors' sensors. For the designers of security cameras that operate in total darkness, this means they can reduce IR illumination to consume 2x to 4x less power compared to the competitors' sensors, for the same environment and over the same image-detection range.

"Surveillance cameras with AI functionality need the highest possible resolution in all lighting conditions for accurate facial recognition," said Brian Fang, business development director at OmniVision. "These next-generation, intelligent-sensing surveillance systems are being enabled by our new sensor's top imaging performance, with industry-best detection capabilities under both extremely low visible light and infrared light in complete darkness."

The OS02C10 achieves an SNR1 of 0.16 lux. OmniVision's dual-conversion-gain technology allows this sensor to achieve the industry's best ULL performance, while the 3-frame staggered shutter minimizes motion artifacts and enables a HDR of 120 dB. The OS02C10 image sensor is available now.

TowerJazz Adds 65nm to its ITAR Compliant Process Family, 45nm to Follow

GlobeNewswire: TowerJazz announces ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) compliant processes now include 65nm technology access for next-generation ROICs, enabling essential military and space applications critical to national defense. ROICs are used for reading IR and UV detectors in military surveillance and other applications ranging from x-ray astronomy to security and industrial inspection.

Initial products serving the US aerospace and defense community have taped-out in this new 65nm offering and additional products are in design. “We are excited to announce this new advanced capability to our customers. Adding 65nm, and soon, 45nm technology for ITAR products enables our aerospace and defense customers additional avenues to continue to create advanced products to serve this very critical market,” said Mike Scott, Director, TowerJazz USA Aerospace & Defense.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Kingpak Compares Automotive CIS Packages

Kingpak presentation on automotive image sensor packaging compares the company's BGA offerings with competition: