Sunday, September 30, 2007

Micron CIS Spinout News Soon

EETimes: Lazard Capital Markets analyst Daniel Amir expects Micron to give an update on its progress in separating its image sensor business during Oct. 2 fiscal Q4 earnings call. He added that he expects that business unit will be spun out in the first half of next year.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tower in Talks with Semindia, HSMC

EETimes: Tower Semiconductor is currently in talks with SemIndia and Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (HSMC), two leading proponents of Indian chip manufacturing. Rafi Nave, Tower's chief technology officer, told that "Tower brings to the cooperation with the Indian companies an offering which includes special areas such as CMOS sensors."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Omnivision FQ108 Earnings Call

Seeking Alpha published Omnivision quarterly call transcript from August 31. Some interesting citations:

Shaw Hong - President, CEO:

"We have already secured design wins with TrueFocus and anticipate meaningful revenue in calendar 2008. What we have learned from the handset maker, who continues to be very excited by these technologies, is that having the sensor and DSP functionality on a single chip is a critical requirement. We are already being announced on multiple projects to develop single-chip wafer encoding products."

"We are seeing a dramatic increase in image sensor attach rates in the PC notebook market. We believe that the total market will be about 20 million to 25 million units in 2007 out of a total of 100 million laptops. This is a much faster attach rate than we originally anticipated. With design wins at four of the five leading manufacturers, we have a dominant market share."

"We are currently working on 1.4-micron pixel size and beyond."

"We are making progress with PFC in developing new processes and new products using their 300mm DRAM capacity. We expect to begin production on the larger wafers in the second half of calendar 2008. VisEra made further progress in their program to expand their capacity and to prepare their facilities to handle 300mm wafers."

Peter Leigh - CFO:

"Gross margin for the first quarter was 23.4% compared to 22.3% last quarter. Excluding stock-based compensation expense of $953,000 gross margin was 24%."

"The question of whether or not you could really get margins back to the mid-30s I think is much more complicated. My short answer is that you really are going to have to develop some truly innovative products that provide you with a significant advantage over the competition."

"The 3-megapixel sensor that we introduced in June on OmniPixel3 technology has a 1.75-micron pixel. We believe that that 1.75-micron pixel is at least as good as and possibly even better than any of the competitors' products. We are very comfortable showing that pixel off to any and all of our customers against any and all of the competitive products. So we think that we are right up there as a market leader in that particular important product characteristic."

"There are no immediate plans for migrating to 300mm at TSMC."

"We have a long relationship with PFC, but this is a new initiative for us and for them, and it is going to take a little bit of time to develop processes on the DRAM manufacturing process. Remember, our existing sensors are made on a logic process, so there is a lot of work to be done and we think that it is realistic to expect that we will get production in the second half of 2008, and that the economics of this [300mm DRAM process] will be very favorable."

"It is very clear now that what we have to do is to integrate wafer encoding into the single-chip solution in order to make this a mass-market product."

Ray Cisneros - VP Sales:

"We have already introduced the OmniPixel3 in our 3-megapixel product line, and we expect that to be contributing to revenues sometime by mid-2008."

"Our [product] mix was roughly slightly above 70% for VGA, 15% for megapixel and above 10% for 2-megapixel."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fujifilm Axes CCD Production Facility

Reuters: Fujifilm said it intends outsource production of CCDs to Toshiba, dissolve its subsidiary Fujifilm Photonix and sell land and buildings to Murata. It plans to continue development and back-end processing of CCDs after front-end production goes out to Toshiba.

About 200 Fujifilm Photonix employees will be transferred to a new unit that will handle after-sales services and back-end production, such as assembly and testing, of CCDs.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Strategies Unlimited Market Research published some market data by Strategies Unlimited. Some interesting key points are below:
  • The image sensor market is continuing to show strong growth with sales expected to increase by 14% to nearly $7 bn (€73.5 bn) by the end of 2007.
  • European companies have regained some worldwide market share. In 2006, European-based companies were responsible for about 10% of the worldwide production of image sensors. The market share gain is mostly due to STMicro with its main customer Nokia. On the other hand, Micron with its main customer Motorola lost some market share.
  • Fabless manufacturers are losing share to competitors that fabricate their chips internally.
  • There is no convincing reason why an integrated strategy is fundamentally better than a fabless strategy – it all depends on communication and co-operation between the design team and the fab engineers. Even for integrated suppliers, politics and short-term priorities can overrule good engineering. Other important factors include the wafer sizes used in the fab, the skill of the design team and the strength of the patent portfolio. Either strategy can work well or poorly.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Eric Fossum Left Siimpel

Eric Fossum writes in dpreview forums: "I am hoping to get back to R&D soon. I finished my CEO assignment at Siimpel..." So CEO leaves Siimpel at the very moment when its first product reaches the market. It seems there is an interesting story behind this.

Image Sensors Are Strategic For Sony

Reuters: Sony is to focus on the production of strategic products such as image sensor chips. As a part of this new focus, it may sell Playstation 3 chip facility to Toshiba. Also, Sony cuts back on future chip spending and may not produce next-generation chips using 45nm circuitry in-house.

EETimes adds that 3 strategic focus areas for Sony are imagers, game LSIs and system-on-chip LSIs for audio/video devices.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

NoblePeak Announces CMOS SWIR Sensor

Yahoo: NoblePeak Vision announced that it has successfully developed a single chip SWIR (short wave infrared) image sensor technology, TriWave, utilizing a standard wafer foundry CMOS process. TriWave is the first commercially viable technology that provides high resolution, zero blooming and high sensitivity over the visible to SWIR bands of the electromagnetic spectrum (450nm to 1650nm).

Users will now be able to capture the atmospheric "Night glow" to provide visual images in zero light at an affordable price. TriWave uses two basic components readily supplied by Mother Nature: the atmospheric "Night Glow" and Germanium.

The atmospheric "Night Glow" coming from bands of radiation 90km high in the earth's atmosphere which light up the earth at night and Germanium, a semiconductor element that is able to sense this short wave infrared (SWIR) night glow light source. TriWave is the world's first germanium enhanced CMOS image sensor that "sees" visible, near infrared and short wave infrared light to deliver the day/night camera solution.

NoblePeak says the sensor has 720x576 array of 10µm X 10µm pixels and claimed to be scalable to higher resolutions.

NoblePeak has been added to the image sensor companies list.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

VisEra Opens 12 Inch Fab

Digitimes: VisEra, the joint venture between OmniVision and TSMC on CMOS image-sensor production, on September 11 announced the official operation of its 12-inch fab.

Production of color filters will initially use 0.13- and 0.11-micron, and will later migrate to 90nm. The 1.8-hectare production hub includes facilities for the production of 8- and 12-inch CFs, as well as corresponding backend production facilities. Pilot runs are slated to complete in November with volume production to follow soon after.

Dongbu Offers 0.11um CIS Process

Yahoo: Joon Hwang, EVP in charge of the CIS Development for Dongbu HiTek said that only final reliability testing remains to be performed before qualifying the foundry's 110nm CIS process technology for volume production, and this will be completed over the next few months.

Also, Dongbu HiTek announced the availability of a new design library to support the CIS processing at the 110nm node. The launch of the new 110nm CIS library follows Dongbu HiTek's April 2007 introduction of a 130nm CIS library. Both libraries are offered at no charge to Dongbu HiTek's foundry customers.

Friday, September 07, 2007

DALSA Announced Job Cuts

DALSA announced 8-9% job cuts mostly affecting Colorado Springs facility. It looks like it were the last remains of DALSA-acquired Silicon Mountain Design. In 1999 DALSA paid $17.8M for SMD.

Anobody knowledgable can comment on this?

Orthogonal Transfer CCD in Pan-STARRS Camera

The dangerous asteroids search project Pan-STARRS uses 1.4 Giga-pixel camera. It's sensor is 64 x 64 array of CCD devices, each containing approximately 600 x 600 pixels. The individual CCD cells are grouped in 8 x 8 arrays on a single silicon chip called an orthogonal transfer array (OTA), which measures about 5 cm square. There are a total of 64 OTAs in the focal plane of each telescope.

An Orthogonal Transfer Charge Coupled Device (OTCCD) is a device that allows for image motion compensation in the focal plane itself. During an exposure, selected bright stars have their positions rapidly monitored in order to calculate the immediate effects of atmospheric phase fluctuations. In a traditional "tip-tilt" adaptive optics system, these position errors are fed back to a small mirror whose angle is rapidly adjusted to compensate for the atmospheric disturbance. An OTCCD achieves the same goal by electronically shifting the image within the CCD itself rather than by moving a mirror.

The read noise in the orthogonal transfer CCDs will be about 5 electrons and the sky background will be about 7 electrons per pixel with the broadband filter. Thus, sky noise will dominate read noise in exposures of 15 seconds or more.

The immediate goal of Pan-STARRS is to discover and characterize Earth-approaching objects, both asteroids & comets, that might pose a danger to our planet. Pan-STARRS stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System. It is being developed at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

In-Stat Report on Image Sensors Market

In-Stat reports that in 2006, image sensors for camera phones comprised over three-quarters of all image sensors shipped. CMOS sensors dominated CCDs in units shipped in 2006.

CMOS also made inroads into digital still cameras and camcorders in 2006, two markets that traditionally have been dominated by CCDs. CMOS sensors held nearly 80% share of image sensor shipments in 2006. CCDs continued to dominate the point-and-shoot sweet spot of the camera market. CCDs also remain strong in security cameras and camcorders.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Sharp Releases LCD-Sensor Screen

Sharp is approaching mass production of 3.5" half-VGA LCD display with a photodetector inside each LCD pixel. The resolution is stated to be 320xRGBx480.

Due to the in-built image sensor the display can be used as touch panel and scanner. Sample shipments for this new touch screen display starts in September with mass production next spring.