Thursday, December 31, 2020

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Samsung Plans to Leapfrog Sony with New 20nm Process

JoongAng Ibo: Samsung VP  Yong-in Park has been recently promoted from HR to the System LSI Division Strategic Marketing Manager. One of his first decisions was to convert the remaining DRAM capacity on Line 11 to image sensor manufacturing.

The reason Samsung Electronics is converting its DRAM line to image sensor is that it is building a large-scale new DRAM production facility at the Pyeongtaek plant. The Pyeongtaek plant will mass-produce the 4th generation 10-nano class (1a) DRAM using the EUV process from next year. Due to the massive increase in DRAM production capacity, Hwaseong Line 11, which made 20-nano or higher-class DRAM, will be converted into an image sensor for line efficiency.

The newspaper says that (in Microsoft translation) "Sony is still more of ahead in its optical ability to convert light into images. Apple and Huawei have been using Sony products instead of using Samsung image sensors."

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Acquisitions & IPOs

As 2020 nears its end, there was a number of image sensor companies acquisitions:

  1. Smartsens acquired Allchip (automotive image sensors)
  2. Nordson acquired vivaMOS (X-Ray sensors)
  3. GE Health acquired Prismatic Sensors (X-Ray sensors)
  4. Goodix acquired Dreamchip (digital design services team)
  5. TE Connectivity acquired First Sensor (SPADs, APDs, InGaAs, and p-i-n photodiodes)
  6. LeddarTech acquired VayaVision (sensor fusion and perception software for LiDARs)
  7. Allegro acquired Voxtel (LiDARs)
  8. Seegrid acquired Box Robotics (LiDARs)
  9. ams acquires Osram (adds laser and LED products to complete 3D sensing portfolio)
  10. Nuvoton acquired Panasonic semiconductor business (including image sensor and stake in TPSCo fab)
  11. Jenoptik acquired Trioptics (camera module test and measurement equipment)
  12. Sony acquired Insightness (event-driven sensors)
  13. Celepixel was acquired by Will Semiconductor (event-driven sensors)
There was a number of IPO announcements, although not all of the deals are closed till the end of the year:
  1. Galaxycore (mobile sensors)
  2. Velodyne (LiDAR, merger with SPAC)
  3. Luminar (LiDAR, merger with SPAC)
  4. Aeva (LiDAR, merger with SPAC)
  5. Innoviz (LiDAR, merger with SPAC)
  6. Ouster (LiDAR, merger with SPAC)

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Richest Man in China's Semiconductor Industry is "Image Sensor Man"

Halo Finance, DayDayNews: Will Semiconductor chairman and Omnivision CEO Renrong Yu is the richest man in China semiconductor industry. Will Semi is a mother company of Omnivision, Superpix, and Celepixel.

This year, Renrong Yu is ranked 65th on the Forbes China Rich List with a wealth of 51.38 billion yuan ($7.86 billion), an increase of 21.12 billion yuan over the last year. Compared with 2017, the value has increased by nearly 15 times.

On May 4, 2017, at IPO time, the stock price of Will Semi shares was 7 yuan. On December 25 this year, the stock price of Weir shares was 220 yuan, with a total market value of 190.872 billion. The stock price has increased by more than 30 times in 3.5 years.

Will Semi shares have become a "dark horse" with a market value of 100 billion, thanks to the "snake swallowing elephant" acquisition of Beijing Omnivision. It is worth mentioning that in 2018, when Will Semi decided to acquire Omnivision  at a price of 13 billion yuan, Omnivision's total assets were almost 5 times that of Will's and its net assets were nearly 8 times.

Renrong Yu has graduated from Radio Department of Tsinghua University in 1990. He belongs to the group of alumni of this University that many Chinese semiconductor executives originating from. The incomplete list includes Zhao Lixin, founder of Galaxycore Microelectronics, Zhao Weiguo, founder of Tsinghua Unigroup, Shu Qingming, one of the founders of GigaDevice, Feng Chenhui, co-founder of Maxscend Microelectronics, and Zhao Lidong, founder of Enflame Technology, all studied at Tsinghua University Radio Department in 1985-1990.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Silicon Integrated Raises $25M in Round B

I missed this announcement in June 2020. Chinese ToF sensor company Silicon Integrated raised a RMB180M ($25.28M) series B round of financing led by CTC Capital.

Silicon Integrated develops ToF sensor chips and 3D vision solutions, and has already launched mature products. In March 2020, the company has released a BSI ToF sensor chip with independent intellectual property rights. The chip can be widely used in smartphones, face recognition, machine vision and other scenes which require high-performance 3D sensing and imaging effects.

Zhang Xingchen, partner at Source Code Capital, said: "3D sensor chips and modules represented by ToF are becoming a new generation of technological infrastructure. Unlike traditional chip design companies, Silicon Integrated has the ability to define and differentiate hardware through software algorithms, which will promote them to stand out in this field."

Proceeds of the round will be used to expand mass production of BSI ToF products, and the development of lidar, optical sensing and multi-sensing fusion technologies.


The company's first ToF product family SIF2X10 features:
  • HVGA (480 x 360) resolution for SIF2310 and VGA (640 x 480) resolution for SIF2610
  • Back-side illumination
  • Ambient light immunity
  • Compatible with 850nm/940nm LED/VCSEL light source
  • QE>30% at 940nm
  • Up to 100MHz modulation frequency
  • 240fps raw data frame rate
  • Region of interest (ROI) function
  • Absolute accuracy < 1% up to 5m
  • Global shutter
  • Opto-package
Silicon Integrated presents a set of pictures (raw data without correction and processing) taken by SIF2310 with a 940nm light source, an average light source power of 140mw, and a target distance of 2m:


According to South China Morning Post, Silicon Integrated's co-founders Rui Quan and CEO Liu Deheng studied engineering at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands and both landed jobs at Dutch semiconductor companies after graduating.

Liu worked as a research engineer for Philips in Eindhoven for two years while Quan was a senior analogue design engineer at NXP Semiconductors for four years.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Global TCAD Solutions for CIS

Global TCAD Solutions GmbH, a spin-off from Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien), Austria, presents its tools for CIS pixel simulations:

One common type of APS cell consists of a Pinned Photodiode (PPD) with four NMOS transistors. Such structure can be Backside Illuminated (BSI) or use a transfer gate (TG) transistor with vertical channel for more compact pixels. This produces a 3D cell structure, with:
  1. A pinned photodiode (PPD),
  2. adjacent Transfer Gate (TG) transistor and Floating Diffusion (FD) region,
  3. a readout circuit, usually consisting of
    Source Follower Attenuator (SFA)
    Reset (RST)
    Row Select (RS) transistors

Friday, December 25, 2020

2-stage LOFIC Sensor with 120dB DR

IEEE TED publishes an open access paper "An Over 120 dB Single Exposure Wide Dynamic Range CMOS Image Sensor With Two-Stage Lateral Overflow Integration Capacitor" by Yasuyuki Fujihara, Maasa Murata, Shota Nakayama, Rihito Kuroda, and Shigetoshi Sugawa from Tohoku University. It appears to be a version of an earlier EI 2020 paper.

"This article presents a prototype linear response single exposure CMOS image sensor with two-stage lateral overflow integration capacitors (LOFIC) exhibiting over the 120-dB dynamic range (DR) with 11.4 Me − full well capacity (FWC) and maximum signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 70 dB. The measured SNR at all switching points were over 35 dB thanks to the proposed two-stage LOFIC."

Sony Article about Awards for Stacked Sensors

Sony publishes an article about Taku Umebayashi who has been awarded by Medal with Purple Ribbon, one of the medals of honor granted by the Japanese government in April 2020. He also received a number of other awards:

"The Medal with Purple Ribbon is awarded in recognition of outstanding inventions and discoveries in science and technology and excellent achievements in the academic, sports and arts fields. It is conferred twice a year in the spring and autumn. Umebayashi received this medal of honor for his accomplishments in the development of the stacked CMOS image sensor structure.

For this development, he received the Prime Minister’s Award of the National Commendation for Invention for fiscal 2016 (awarded by Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation).

On the recommendation of the institute, he was given the Awards for Science and Technology (Development Category) of the Commendation for Science and Technology by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in fiscal 2018.

The institute also endorsed Umebayashi for the Medal with Purple Ribbon awarded this time."

Taku Umebayashi says:

"First of all, I would like to say that I am very delighted to have received such a renowned medal. I would not have been able to receive it without the cooperation of many fellow workers, so I would like to once again extend my appreciation to them here. I believe I was granted the medal on behalf of Sony.

The technology for which I received the medal is the stacked CMOS image sensor. This structure came to my mind when I was first assigned to the image sensor section in 2008. Loaded with various functions, the sensor has a structure that is compact and suitable for mass production. I presented the idea directly to the boss and received a green light to proceed with the development.

The development of the sensor thus started on impulse. It was put on the market and ended up being well received, but I remember having a very hard time for the first two years because I was always asked whether it would really sell. It took long to establish evidence and the development project had not progressed so well. However, I think it was very good that I took on a challenge that nobody had attempted before and eventually made a product that had not existed in the world. I believe Sony’s corporate culture, which allowed me to take on such a challenge provides a good organizational climate, and served as a driving force behind my reception of the medal.

I was given the medal for this idea, as I was the first to protect it with a patent. Thinking of this, I believe every engineer has a chance to receive such an honor if they write a good patent and attempt to put it into practice. I hope they will take on new challenges and keep creating new things."

Thursday, December 24, 2020

ADI Unveils 1MP 3.5um Pixel BSI ToF Sensor

Analog Devices unveils what appears to be the first fruit of cooperation with Microsoft ToF group (former Canesta). The ADSD3100 sensor targets smartphones, AR/VR systems, and machine vision applications in logistics, inventory, industrial, and consumer fields.

The new sensor features:

  • 1024 (horizonal) × 1024 (vertical) pixel array
  • 3.5 μm × 3.5 μm square pixels
  • 1/3.6 inch optical format
  • BSI
  • Depth and intensity imaging
  • 4-wire SPI or 2-wire I2C serial interface
  • Die size: 5.364 mm × 9.799 mm
  • MIPI CSI-2 Tx interface with support for 1, 2, or 4 data lanes, programmable up to 1.5 Gbps per lane
  • Dual, 3.3 V and 1.27 V external supplies, 1.8 V I/O section


For comparison, below are the figures from Microsoft ISSCC 2018 presentation:

BrightWay Presents is Automotive Gated Imaging Camera

BrightWay Imaging publishes its presentation at Autosens Brussels this year:


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Credit Suisse on Smartphone Camera Market

IFNews quotes Credit Suisse market report saying that "nearly all 5G smartphones hitting the market continue to feature at least 3 cameras. However, the ratio of quad-camera models has declined (from 62% in Apr–Jun 2020 to 45% in Jul–Sep 2020), while the ratio of triple-camera models has risen (from 38% to 50%). This is because shipments of mid-market smartphones increased. Quad-cam products continue to account for a high proportion of sales in the premium segment (USD800 models and above). In addition, the quad-cam ratio is still rising for 4G and earlier generation smartphones."


Credit Suisse estimates that CIS production capacity increased by about 14.5% YoY in 2020 and expects it to rise by another 12% in 2021.


According to Pingan Securities, smartphones in 2019 had 3.1 cameras on average, and this number is forecasted to increase to 4.3 in 2021. The market size of mobile phone CIS in 2019 was $13.6B, and is expected to reach $21.8B in 2022 at YoY growth rate of 17%.

Huawei Unveils its First Automotive LiDAR and Begins Pilot Production

CnTechPost, GizChina, InfNews, Huawei: Huawei announces its first automotive LiDAR product. Few key points from the announcement:

  • 120 x 25 deg FOV
  • 0.25 x 0.26 deg resolution
  • 96 lines
  • 150m range at 10% target reflectivity
  • 200m range at 50% target reflectivity
  • BAIC (Beijing Automotive) is the first customer
  • Huawei has built a pilot production line with capacity of 100K units per year
  • The development has started in 2016 and took 4 years
Now, an interesting question is whether Huawei succeeds to capture a major LiDAR player position, like it did in smartphones?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Hot, Cold, Warm, and Cool Pixels in Event-Driven Cameras

Australian National University paper "Event Camera Calibration of Per-pixel Biased Contrast Threshold" by Ziwei Wang, Yonhon Ng, Pieter van Goor, and Robert Mahony discusses pixel mismatch issues in event-driven cameras:

  • Hot Pixels are pixels that have lower threshold values than the assumed value. This means that both positive and negative events are generated more often than expected.
  • Cold Pixels are pixels that have higher threshold values than the assumed value. This means that both positive and negative events are generated less often than expected.
  • Warm Pixels are pixels that have negative bias values. This means positive events are triggered more often, and negative events are triggered less often than expected.
  • Cool Pixels are pixels that have positive bias values. This means negative events are triggered more often, and positive events are triggered less often than expected.

BMW In-cabin Monitoring with Melexis ToF Camera

Melexis publishes a video on its Autosens-Detroit presentation ofToF in-cabin monitoring camera in BMW cars:

Ouster Goes Public via Merger with SPAC

BusinessWire: San Francisco-based LiDAR startup Ouster is said to close a deal to go public at a about $1.9B valuation through a merger with SPAC Colonnade Acquisition Corp. Up to now, Ouster has raised $142M in the previous investment rounds.

The new transaction is expected to provide up to $300M in gross proceeds, comprised of Colonnade Acquisition Corp.’s $200M of cash held in trust and a $100M fully committed common stock PIPE.

The company's Investor Presentation talks about its LiDAR sales and forecasts: