EETimes, Venture Beat, WSJ, NY Times, CNET, Invisage PR: A venture-backed start-up Invisage announced QuantumFilm, promising to deliver 4x higher performance, 2x higher dynamic range and professional camera features not yet found in mobile image sensors:
QuantumFilm covers 100% of each pixel. The material is applied in liquid form to the top of a spinning disk, then it is annealed, or baked. It is a lot like adding a layer of photoresist to a chip wafer, and it uses the same equipment. The wafers are standard 110nm wafers produced by TSMC.
The first samples of QuantumFilm camera chips will be available in the fourth quarter, and products using them will likely launch next year. The QuantumFilm is based on the research of Invisage CTO and professor of electrical and computer engineering and the University of Toronto, Ted Sargent. He worked on the technology for several years at the University of Toronto. Then he secured the rights to the technology and founded InVisage Technologies in October, 2006.
Tetsuo Omori, a TSR analyst, estimates that the image sensor companies spend about $1 billion for each new generation of sensor technology, and each time they get a single-digit percentage increase in performance. A four-fold improvement is unheard of, and so Omori thinks QuantumFilm will change the competitive landscape in the image sensor market, which had $5 billion in revenue in 2009.
Ken Salsman, the director of new technologies at Aptina, conceded that silicon-based sensors had proved tough to advance. But he said that Aptina had managed to improve its technology through some novel techniques, and that InVisage might be “in for a very rude surprise.”
InVisage has 30 employees and has raised more than $30M from RockPort Capital, Charles River Ventures, InterWest Partners and OnPoint Technologies. Its technology is protected by 21 patents and patents pending. Invisage CEO, Jess Lee, used to be Omnivision's VP of the Mainstream Business Unit for four years.