Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fabless CMOS Sensor Companies Efficiency Compared

Polish journal "Przegląd Elektrotechniczny" (Electrotechnical Review) published paper:

"Performance Evaluation of Fabless CMOS Image Sensor Design Houses by Using an Multiple Objective Programming Based Data Envelopment Analysis" by Prof. Hueiling Chen and Prof. Chi-Yo Huang, both from National Taiwan Normal University.

The paper evaluates the efficiency and productivity of fabless CMOS image sensor companies based on their annual earning reports. The authors used different models to evaluate the efficiency: CCR (model proposed by Charnes, Cooper, and Rhodes), BCC (model by Banker, Charnes, and Cooper), and authors own Multiple Objective Programming (MOP) model. The results are given in the table:

One can see that Pixelplus' and e2v's ranks are improving over years, while Omnivision's and Pixart's ones are heading down. Here are some explanations:

"OmniVision and E2V, two CMOS image sensor firms with higher revenue, do not always achieve optimal efficiencies in all three DEA models. In particular, OmniVision are ranked the least efficient firm in all of three years based on results derived from the MOP based DEA model. There are two possible reasons for the inefficiency. First, because competition of the CMOS image sensors continues to intensify, average selling price of OmniVision’s products will be lower. Due to a reduction in gross margin, the company may invest less R&D expenditure than what it should do. We find that the ratio of R&D expenditure to total revenues declined from 16.73 percent in year 2008 to 9.25 percent in year 2010. Insufficient R&D investment may be unable to timely introduce new products or develop more cost-effective technology. Second, the mobile phone market accounted for more than 60 percent of OmniVision’s revenue in year 2010 [19]. However, it is expected an increased demand for CMOS image sensors in other applications such as entertainment, security, medical, and automobile industries. OmniVision seems not to take aggressive strategies for these emerging markets."

"PixArt is the most efficient fabless CMOS image sensor design house from year 2008 to year 2010. One possible reason is that PixArt expands R&D in developing new products. Although PixArt achieved the optimal efficiency in year 2008, the efficiency gradually declined. The possible reason is that compared to other competitors, the ratio of cost of goods sold to total revenues increases. Higher manufacturing costs may lead to lower gross margin. The company should work with its outsourcing partners to implement advance manufacturing process in order to reduce the manufacturing costs."


  1. BY copying the products and concepts of others, PixArt improves effectively their efficiency. Investing in R&D is not efficient at all, :(

  2. It's difficult to compare a technology leading company like OV that is always setting the markets standards with companies that are 5 years behind using existing technologies to make some revenues.

  3. Does anyone know if Samsung has CIS foundry business or not?

  4. Chipworks said in its web site that its teardown of Omnivision sensor helped another sensor company saving millions of dollars in developing costs. Please check it out.


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