Friday, June 30, 2006

WR Hambrecht on Pixelplus

WR Hambrecht published a new research on Pixelplus following its quarterly earnings report. It downgrades Pixelplus shares to sell with price target $1. The research report mentions dissapearing design wins in LG, loss and lack of visibility in China business, product yield and quality problems at its foundry partner DongbuAnam. The company pour forecast on 2MP sensors resulted in large accumulated inventory. Grim picture overall.

TSMC is Having Capacity Problems

Digitimes: TSMC is seeking additional capacity backup from memory maker Powerchip Semiconductor Corporation (PSC), amid tight capacity, according to industry sources.
TSMC mainly fabricates CMOS image sensors at its Hsinchu Fab 7, but the strong orders from Omnivision and Avago have already absorbed all available capacity at this fab, the sources indicated. TSMC now outsources some of its CMOS image-sensor orders to PSC's 8-inch fabs, to fulfill demand, the sources added.
A few days ago Avago announced it extends its agreement with TSMC to include the next two generations of its enhanced-performance (EP) image sensor products (Yahoo-Finance).

Omnivision Announces 1/18" NTSC Sensor

Yahoo-Finance: The OV6920 is the only 1/18-inch sensor available, offering low power operation for use in disposable cameras for medical applications such as intubation and diagnostic systems. The 2.1 mm by 2.3 mm CSP packaged chip will enable a 3.2 mm diameter microscopic camera module, making many medical procedures even less invasive for the patient.
"The closest thing in the market today is a 1/12-inch CCD," said Hasan Gadjali, OmniVision's Vice President for Advanced Products.

Pixelplus News

Pixelplus generated two press-releases over the last few days:
First, there is re-org in its Chinese subsidiary (Yahoo-Finance): "Given the Company's weaker-than-expected sales of our products to certain module assembly customers in the first half of 2006, I would like to highlight that strengthening our sales and marketing operations in China and improving the Company's performance in that region represents one of our top priorities," said Dr. S.K. Lee, Chief Executive Officer of Pixelplus.
In addition, it expects to hire a senior sales executive to lead its sales operations at Pixelplus Semiconductor, Inc., the company's subsidiary in Silicon Valley, California, responsible for developing and managing the new and existing CMOS image sensor business in the United States and also in Europe.
Second is the announcement of a new 1/11" CIF image sensor (Yahoo-Finance). PO3010K image sensor incorporates an image signal processing engine. Pixelplus estimates that it will initially supply approximately 200,000 to 300,000 units of the PO3010K image sensors to the Japanese module maker on a monthly basis, with such sales volume expected to increase gradually over the next six to twelve months. It also plans to supply its SXGA 1.3 megapixel CMOS image sensors to the Japanese module maker in the second half of 2006.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Analyst's Comments on Omnivision

Omnivision announced its fourth quarter earnings and future projections on June 15.
Here are some analysts comments on them:

Kiplinger Forecasts: Baird analyst Tristan Gerra: "Reading beyond the reported numbers, Omnivision's April-quarter performance suggests further market-share loss in mobile phones, significant inventory accumulation of sensors in China, and no meaningful second-half momentum expected for 1.3 megapixel sensors, removing hopes of a significant mix improvement."
Gerra also noted that "heavy insider selling continues and is in contrast with the positive outlook management is casting for the second half."

MarketWatch: Digging deeper into the fourth-quarter numbers, Piper Jaffray said VGA products represented more than 50% of OmniVision's product mix, driving a 16.7% sequential decline in average selling prices to $2.72 for the quarter.
"We expect increased competitive pressure to erode the margin benefit from 2-megapixel products fairly rapidly toward the end of the year," said Piper.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

SMIC CMOS Sensor Yields

Digitimes: Recently there had been speculation that Toppan intended to withdraw its investment at TSES since production yields did not meet its standards. Toppan and SMIC established this joint-venture pact in late 2004, with Toppan holding a 70% stake and SMIC holding the remainder. The 8-inch fab has a maximum capacity of 15,000 wafers per month.

In response to speculation that Toppan Printing intended to withdraw its investment in Toppan SMIC Electronics (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (TSES), a joint-venture with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), amid yield issues, SMIC stressed that TSES had already started volume production of on-chip color filters and micro lenses for image sensors.

Following volume production of 0.18-micron color-VGA CMOS image sensors in early December 2005, industry observers had commented that SMIC would not encounter any serious barriers to CMOS-image-sensor production since the foundry's 90-nanometer logic IC production process was already awaiting validation.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Eric Fossum Opinion on Liquid and Computational Lenses

Eric Fossum posted his opinion about liquid lens and computational lens technologies on dpreview forum:

"These lenses, liquid lenses (several companies) and other tunable lenses tend to work alright at VGA (0.3Mpixel) and maybe 1.3Mpixel resolutions.

However, prescriptions to achieve performance for 2 Mpixels etc. need to be very precisely controlled and this is difficult. My opinion is that the 1-part in a million (spatia) control for tunable lenses will be difficult to obtain.

Liquid lenses have already been totally rejected, for the most part, for even cell phone cameras, based on performance and environmental reliability (e.g. freezing temps, hot temps, etc.). Furthermore, tunable lenses tend to wind up thicker than conventional lenses, believe it or not, just because of the difficulty of mounting and attaching signal lines.

Last but not least, computational lenses - lenses where the focus is computed by a processor, will also be limited. Remember, we could not adequately restore the focus in the Hubble Space Telescope by computation even though we knew exactly the prescription of the errant optics. This is because numerical round off etc. limits computational accuracy, esp. in the presence of shot noise (low light photon noise).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Cypress 3T Low-Noise Pixel Information

ISSCC 2006 presentation on Cypress-SmalCamera 3T pixel architecture is placed here. According to the presentation, the sensor is able to achieve 11.5-13e noise in a special low-light mode. The dark current is 100e/s at 24C with 70% RMS variations.
Some references to other Cypress-SmalCamera patent applications are on Lane Brooks personal page here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Micron Expanding CIS Design Capability Micron is expanding its imaging technology design centre in Bracknell, UK following its success designing a 3-megapixel CMOS imager which has been included in a European mobile handset.
David Burrows, the head of the Bracknell centre: “The team scored a success with the development of the 3-megapixel, designed in partnership with our design team in Oslo. It has been designed into a leading brand handset.”
Micron has had a 50 engineers development team in the UK since the late 1990s, originally involved in memory and logic product development. In the past three years it has built up expertise in CMOS imager technology and timing circuits in addition to its previous work on I/O and timing Asic designs.