Sunday, January 15, 2017

Reportedly, Altasens Closed Down

As written in comments to Altasens news post, apparently, the company has been closed down on Friday, the 13th of January, 2017.

From Altasens web site, still active for now:

"AltaSens is a wholly owned subsidiary of JVC KENWOOD Corporation.

The company was originally founded in 2004 as a fabless global supplier of imaging sensors. Our earliest roots trace back to our original formation as the CMOS Imaging Sensors Group within the Rockwell Scientific Company in 2000.

AltaSens spun off from Rockwell in 2004, at the precise time to make its mark in the nascent HD broadcasting market, just as the FCC set its mandate for broadcast-industry HD transmission. Adding to the technology provided by AltaSens’ technical team and the associated intellectual property from Rockwell were the business acumen and initial funding that were provided by ITX Corporation of Tokyo, Japan. The new company introduced the world’s first 1080p60 CMOS sensors at the NAB show in April of 2004.

Subsequently, AltaSens became a wholly owned subsidiary of ITX Corporation. During this time, the company delivered several unique sensors meeting specialized requirements for prototype imaging cameras that were not made available for commercial sale.

AltaSens is currently a leading supplier of imaging sensors for HD videoconferencing and has supplied imaging sensors for many types of HDTV cameras, including the first Blu Ray camcorders offered in the global marketplace.

The leadership team at AltaSens has decades of international business and advanced technology development experience in the semiconductor industry. We have successfully created many innovative imaging sensor designs for leading-edge cameras and scientific instruments. Working closely with our customers as well as our talented sensor design, wafer production, sensor packaging, sensor production, logistics, and quality assurance teams, we bring together world-class expertise and creativity to supply the best possible CMOS imaging sensor for each specific application.

Lester Kozlowski and Gregory Chow
in an early AltaSens Lab


  1. I had the pleasure of visiting AltaSens in March 2016. It was a vibrant company with many excellent engineers, some of which came from the infrared focal plane activity at Rockwell Science Center in Thousand Oaks. My friend Les Kozlowski (who taught me how to test a CCD for the first time in the summer of 1981 at Hughes MSG) was a co-founder and led the company.

    SoCal image sensor companies like Forza or Samsung etc. ought to grab some of these engineers if they can!

    I can't figure out why JVC Kenwood did not try to sell the group intact to ON or Omnivision etc. Anyway, RIP AltaSens. Enjoy some rest and then onwards to the next thing!

  2. My understanding is that Altasens used to have a very unique technology in 3T pixel times. However, its lost its advantage when the whole industry switched over to 4T. True, they have proposed SoC integration, dual exposure HDR, and few other things, but they've lost a differentiation they used to have in 3T times. Without that, it's almost impossible to compete with Sony, Samsung and Omnivision.

    1. We had a few other things up our sleeve that we were developing. Competing against Sony with conventional imagers is indeed difficult, so we were working on things that promised a differentiation.

    2. Vlad, I think AltaSens switched to 4T around 2006 or so. I also heard they had a stacked BSI global shutter chip almost ready for sampling. So, I think the issue is more likely level of investment by the owners (JVC Kenwood) compared to the larger companies, and patience with the consequent longer development cycle. I agree though that I really don't think there is room for smaller companies to compete against the big giants except in niche markets and/or custom applications. Also, I would include ON-Semi as a (shorter) giant.

    3. Indeed I heard from a packaging house that they worked with TSMC on a pixel-level stacking sensor. That was so long time ago, maybe 5-6 years.

  3. As to what Lester and his team were developing you can refer to an older post on this blog

    and Lester recent talk at the local IEEE chapter

  4. The thing that killed Altasens was that during the Olympus-ownership days, most of the company's resources were channeled in to a project for them with unachievable goals (using the technology available at the time). Only a little attention was given to the products that were making money, so over time they went from industry-leading to behind the competition.

    By the time they were sold to JVC Kenwood, they were too far behind to catch up.

    Perhaps they needed Olympus' money to survive at some point, but it doomed them in the end.

  5. Albert Theuwissen - Harvest ImagingJanuary 18, 2017 at 11:56 AM

    "Things that make you laugh might kill you in the end" (by Neil Young in "From Henk to Hendrix")


    On the bright side, it is good to know that all the customers we helped and worked with will be taken care of.

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