Thursday, April 17, 2014

Imec's Image Sensor Services

Imec published a brochure about its image sensor services offerings: "Imec offers services ranging from development-on-demand,
over prototyping, to low-volume production." Imec has 200mm and 300mm image sensor fabs with 65nm, 90nm and 130nm processes, including an extensive image sensor toolbox:

  • Specific substrate (HR-Silicon, thick or graded dopant epi)
  • Pixels (3T, 4T, trench isolation, embedded CCD pixels in CMOS)
  • BSI processing
  • Hyperspectral filters
  • Special ARCs (CMOS compatible)
  • Stitching / Butting capabilities for large area imagers
  • Micro-bumping, 3D integration with TSVs
  • Capability to develop dedicated pixel technologies (e.g. for SPADs).
  • Organic imagers (polymer photo diodes & full imagers)

20 comments:

  1. I'm still confused why they are competing with the other companies around the corner like Caeleste, ON Semi and CMOSIS.

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    1. BTW, the companies you are mentioning, are direct or indirect spin-offs of IMEC.

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    2. These companies were founded by mostly ex-employees of Imec, but Imec does not have any stocks/investment/shares in these companies as far as I know.

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  2. Well, I have worked with one of these processes... I can say that they are nowhere close to production yield... forget an array, just a single cell can give you nightmares in these processes.. and on top of that, the image sensor flavors they hype about are of academic quality.. It is logical that if you offer everything, then you do not have a industrial fab. What you have is a set of tools with lots of students experimenting on them the different flavors.

    I find it a disturbing trend that institutes like Imec are moving to low volume production and manufacturing with age old process tools just for some quick money.. they should ideally be focusing more on basic research and technology transfers to industrial fabs who are apt at handling yield and production issues.

    2 cents

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    1. Albert TheuwissenApril 17, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      One of the issues the imaging community is facing is exactly the lack of an organization that is willing/able to run low volumes in an exotic process. Maybe imec can help to fill this gap ?

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    2. While I do agree that IMEC should be involved in exotic processes, the fact that they are designing image sensors for commercial applications will not be viewed favourably by their spin-offs. Do you compete with your own spin-offs?

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    3. Money is the king mate! No moral or legal obligations! :)

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    4. @Anon.. why do you keep saying "their spin-offs"? As far as I know, Imec has no financial commitment to/involvement in these start-ups... Moreover, why would Imec care if you view its activities favorably or not?.. it can compete as it like as long as there are no conflicting interests. Anyways, ON (after acquisition of Truesense) and CMOSIS are already established giants now in Imaging.. so they do not have to worry, they are far ahead. Only the small ones have direct competition. Now, its a different story that even there Imec cannot compete with its hyper costly programs and age old tools.

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    5. Anon 11:15.....Imec is working in partnership with at least one of these CMOS companies you mentioned, that's a fact. Imec is also working with Intel on cmos compatible III-V FinFET , another fact. To say they are not involved in advanced processes is incorrect.

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    6. IMEC is a gov't subsidized educational institution. The point is - they are supposed to be an EDUCATIONAL institution.

      Now that they have the subsidies, the manufacturing facilities and the vast contacts, they go out and "compete" with the smaller companies "AS IF" they are just another commercial entity that must bear all its costs and expenses, which is NOT the case.

      So... the fact that they ARE allowed to compete commercially is not exactly true and fair competition.

      It would be as if the NSA in the US was all of a sudden allowed to compete commercially, while all the salaries, equipment, facilities and maintenance was paid for by the US taxpayer. I bet even the NSA would be able to underbid and still show dramatic profitability.

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    7. Yes. You have a point. This seems like an unfair business practice. Are there possible legal or other steps possible in Belgium against this? I am just thinking what can be done.

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    8. I believe there are certain mutual agreements made between a mother and spin-off companies that prohibit the mother from undertaking any project that may interfere or be parallel with its siblings. In this case, imec may only do technology and technology development and not indulge in any image sensor design activity for a client. Such activities can be referred to the spin offs.

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    9. I don't actually know what the Belgian laws are against unfair business practices...

      However, since the world is so globalized these days, IMEC is not competing ONLY with its own Belgian spinoffs / brethren... it is competing on the world stage and has a much larger world presence than the small independent suppliers. (I do not think it is really competing with the Aptinas or Samsungs)

      So... even if there were laws against this type of practice in Belgium, IMEC could easily make the case they are only taking business away from foreign companies. I doubt very much Belgium would care one way or the other in that case.

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    10. According to your logic, not just design companies but even small fabs like ESPROS (CCD-in-cmos if I am not mistaken) and others providing special combinations could also be target of this unfair competition. Imec can always bid lower than others in EU or space projects with the help of govt. funding/Belgian tax money..

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  3. in my experince, IMEC seems to have extremely knowledgeable people who can do excellent work for you. I am not very sure of small scale production & yield, plus the cost involved may be too high. These are of course beyond the control of the engineers/scientists in the imager team. I wish IMEC all success!

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    1. From your comment, I can see that you are involved in or part of Imaging team. Even, he/she has doubts about low volume manufacturing, yield and costing at Imec. There you go ! Shows that the teams are not working in sync ;)

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  4. Nobody can beat the marketing unit of imec. They are the best in the world in making power point slides

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  5. So all it takes is a rich investor to buy imagers from IMEC and sell it to a 3rd party. So they're basically looking for middlemen/traders. This is a "sale with no after-sales support" business model, a symptom of academic over-confidence!

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  6. What do you mean? Is it outsourcing wafer production to other fabs and claiming to partners that it is done in its fabs?

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  7. From my experience with IMEC imaging team, they only propose prototyping to low-volume production in their 200/300mm fabs in Belgium. For ramping-up CMOS imaging processes into volume production, they do transfer the developed process to one of their imaging foundry partner ----> read comment on first page of their brochure "We do prototyping and low-volume production in house on 200 & 300mm wafers, and can transfer the requisite manufacturing process to a high-volume foundry if necessary"

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