Friday, July 08, 2011

Wafter-Scale AF Developer Raises $18.5M in B-Round

Optics.org: Horten, Norway-based poLight AS, a developer of 0.5mm-thin reflowable autofocus actuated lenses for camera phones, announced raising of NOK100 million ($18.5M), in its series B round led by local Investinor fund with the participation of existing shareholders Viking Venture III AS, Alliance Venture Polaris AS and SINTEF Venture III AS. poLight’s round B of financing could be extended to NOK130M ($24.5M) in the second part of the year with additional investors joining the consortium.

poLight has been spun-off from Ignis ASA (acquired by Finisar) in 2009. poLight’s CEO Christian Dupont used to be Varioptic CEO before that.

poLight's TLens is said to be the first reflowable autofocus actuated lense with no moving parts and has "extremely small size (4.2mm x 4.2mm x 0.5mm), while achieving high optical quality (megapixel independent and HD compatible)". TLens allows "close-up macro Autofocus (<10 cm) and fast video Autofocus (10 times faster than traditional VCM)". Also, poLight’s "technology makes it possible to manufacture small camera modules at the wafer level, drastically reducing the cost of the TLENS and, as a result, the cost of camera modules". The lens transmittance is said to be over 95%.


When compared with VCM, today's dominating AF technology, TLens advantages are said to be wafer scale processing, reflowability up to 260C, speed (less than 1ms response time), and energy efficiency (1mW of power consumption).

poLight says it has already begun sampling the TLens with a high level of interest. poLight will not be manufacturing the devices itself. Instead it will be co-operating with “leading MEMS semiconductor suppliers”. It expects to enter qualification with customers in late 2011, with volume production starting in early 2012.

How it works:

An embedded a piezo on a thin glass membrane works an actuator. Underneath is positioned some polymer on a glass support. At “zero” volt, the piezo is in standby mode and does not apply any force to the thin glass. The light going through the two elements of glass and through the polymer is not deviated.

Once a voltage is applied (up to 30V), the piezo actuator forces the thin glass membrane to bend. This generates an optical power variation allowing focusing (click on picture to see a nice animation):


Update: Somebody in comments uploaded poLight's demo picture showing infinite focus on the left, 10cm - on the right:

11 comments:

  1. Nice concept. But I wonder how "perfect" the lens is at 8 Mpix resolution.

    In American vernacular, "po" is a substitute for "poor", as in "you po boy" so the name of the company "polight" is pretty funny to me!

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  2. the optic quality should be "po" too. the advantage of VCM is that the optical quality is 100% assured by the lens.

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  3. Vendors are embracing their product. Wait for more information

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  4. Check out results here

    http://www.media.allerinternett.no/php/obj.phpi?o=3852845&w=765&h=&ee=1299504376

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  5. indefinate focus on left, 10cm focus on the right

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  6. Thank you for the picture! I added it to the post. Would you happen to have a high-resolution one?

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  7. Even in the low res image it looks like there is loss of MTF on the right side (see fine scale).

    A high res image showing resolution (MTF) at centers and at corners would demonstrate the efficacy of this technology.

    Changing the shape of a lens is conceptually good and of course it works alright for our eyes at the center of the FOV but for cameras which need uniform MTF across the image plane, the lens has to have the right optical prescription.

    So, let us initially request some proof before we become advocates. As I said, cool concept. So is the liquid lens and half a dozen other AF technologies. The proof is in the image.

    (BTW, it just has to be good enough for consumers to accept, not the professional photography community)

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  8. Interessting animations here;

    http://www.polight.com/tlins-vs-vcm-12.html
    http://www.polight.no/how-does-it-work-11.html

    From their site;
    Based on advanced semiconductor manufacturing techniques, poLight’s patented technology makes it possible to manufacture small camera modules at the wafer level, drastically reducing the cost of the TLENS and, as a result, the cost of camera modules.

    poLight is bringing close-up macro Autofocus (<10 cm) and fast video Autofocus (10 times faster than traditional VCM) which are key features for new mobile phones. It is important to supply this market efficiently knowing that this technology is leveraging existing MEMS foundries for mass volume production.

    The intrinsic properties of the TLens guarantee an optimum image quality thanks to high optical performance including low wavefront error and a transmittance over 95°.

    www.polight.com

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  9. You might even find some interessting information here
    (in norwegian, i have google translated it for you :-))

    http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=no&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gjengangeren.no%2Fnyheter%2Fet-oye-i-mobilen-1.6070617

    Tessera seems to have something related to poLight´ technology:
    http://www.tessera.com/abouttessera/upcomingevents/Documents/3_MEMS_Taiwan2010.pdf

    Exciting anyways.

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  10. Tessera has buyer's remorse

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  11. http://www.svtc.com/news-and-events/press-releases/polight-selects-svtc-technologies-as-their-next-generation-actuator-commercialization-partner

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