Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Chipworks Reverse Engineered Samsung Image Sensor

Chipworks published a reverse enginnering report on Samsung 2MP 0.13um image sensor. The S5K3BAF sensor has 2.8um pixel pitch - a bit larger than competition at the same process generation.
It uses copper process with 'De-Metallized Zone' (DMZ) structure in the pixel array to eliminate the reflective liner layers and boost the optical efficiency.
Use of copper allows reduction of the pixel optical thickness to just 3.7um, icluding color filter and (part of) microlens - quite an impressive achievement, see the picture below. Chipworks compares this with 5.6um of optical thickness for a previous generation Samsung Al-based 1.3MP sensor.

The older 1.3MP Samsung imager cross-section is below for comparison:

Sharp 3D Image Sensor

Tech-On: Sharp announced an image sensor which is able to create a map of distances to the objects using time of flight technique. With this sensor Sharp joins a number of smaller companies promoting similar methods: Canesta, 3DV and ZMD.
The resolution of the Sharp sensor is 320x240 pixels with frame rate 30fps.

Chartered Semi and Omnivision Cooperation

Digitimes: Chartered Semiconductor (Singapore) did not have image sensor process up to now. This situation is about to change. Omnivision's Raymond Wu say the companies are going to cooperate on image sensor design.

Now Omnivision is cooperating with 4 (!) foundries on image sensors: TSMC, PCS (both Taiwan), SMIC (China) and Chartered (Singapore). This is quite a broad foundry strategy. It might consume a lot of design resources, but the big reward is an enhanced production base and a strong hand in wafer price negotiations.

Wu also said that in 2005 Omnivision shipped a total of 130 million CMOS image sensors for camera phones, accounting for a 30% global market share. The company began volume production of its new OV7670 VGA and OV9655 1.3-megapixel image sensors early this year and is expected to capture a 75% share of Taiwan’s image sensor market in 2006. OmniVision will be able to begin volume production of its 3-megapixel CMOS image sensor with CDM omni-focus functionality by the end of this year.
Also, the company has moved the packaging of its CMOS image sensors from chip-scale packaging (CSP) to the more advanced CSP2, which is designed to handle packaging for image sensors of one-megapixels and greater.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Planet82 Sensor Doubts

NE Asia Online article casts some doubts about Planet82 single carrier modulation photo detector (SMPD) image sensor:
"there are some doubts about the SMPD in the industry, particularly concerning claims about its commercialization with mass production, pixel increase with higher density, and the color saturation properties of the color image sensor."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

X-Fab Merges with 1st Silicon

EETimes: X-Fab (Germany) used to be an image sensor provider for Kodak, Cypress-Fillfactory and others. It has good but old 0.35um and 0.5um image sensors processes. With 1st Silicon (Malaysia) X-Fab gets access to the newer 0.13um and 0.18um technologies. On its side, 1st Silicon had very limited success in image sensor development and it failed to attract any major image sensor customer.
Such a fusion between X-Fab extensive image sensor experience and 1st Silicon advanced technology has a potential to become much stronger image sensor player, than each of them was in the past.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Smallest Camera-Phone Module Ever.

Sharp announced 1/11" CIF (110K pixels) camera-phone module LZ0P396D. The module is claimed to have the industry's thinnest profile of only 2.43 mm thick and smallest volume of 0.07 cc.
Mass production is planned for April 2006.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cap-XX Announces BrightFlash for Camera Phones

Australian supercapacitor manufacturer Cap-XX announced its BriteFlash power architecture to provide LED flash camera phones.
BriteFlash architecture provides enough flash power to eliminate both dark and blurry photos using high-capacitance (0.4 to 1 farad), low equivalent-series-resistance (less than 100 milliohms), thin (1 to 3 millimeters) prismatic supercapacitors to support a battery and deliver the pulse power to drive an LED to full light intensity.
The CAP-XX BriteFlash power architecture is similar to a Xenon flash solution used in digital cameras today, where a low-current charge pump (boost converter) charges the supercapacitor to 5.5 volts then the supercapacitor drives the LED at very high current for the flash pulse.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

GTC to Establish Image Sensor Facility in Taiwan

Digitimes: Singapore-based Global Testing Corporation (GTC) announced plans to establish a CMOS image sensor testing center in Hsinchu, Taiwan with operations scheduled to commence in the second half of 2006.
In addition to performing testing for CMOS image sensors, GTC will also engage in CMOS image sensor technology development with Inter Action and its Taiwan distribution agent, Jetek.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Pixim DPS Article

Yet another generation of Pixim's digital pixel sensor DPS is described in Video/Imaging Design Line.
Article touts Pixim's greatly enhanced dynamic range and SNR, on-chip RAM for readout flexibility (comes at price, obviously), low power (does not say much) and speed. What it does not tell is how big is the pixel pitch and how many transistors per pixel. Last time I've heard, Pixim pixel contained 37 transistors, but they are probably doing much better than that these days.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Who's with Whom in Camera-Phone Industry

Okokok published report "The Development of Camera Phone Module Industry, 2005-2006".
It contains the data on manufacturing base of few image sensor companies:


Maximum pixel megapixel

Manufacturing plant






Has its own wafer plant



Has its own wafer plant



Has its own wafer plant



Has its own wafer plant









Dongbu Anam






Has its own wafer plant



Has its own wafer plant



Has its own wafer plant



Subsidiary of UMC










Interesting quotes:

"The [camera module] assembly processes of most manufacturers are centralized in Taiwan. For instance, Omnivision entrusts VisEra to assemble, Micron entrusts Kingpak, Samsung entrusts ASE, Pixart entrusts Sigurd, and IC Media entrusts King Yuan Electronics."

"Lens manufacturers are concentrated in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Due to its high technology content, Lens industry has a high entry threshold. And Taiwan-based enterprises are obviously advantageous in costs with a market share of 57% in 2005, which is expected to reach 65% by 2006.

There are 4 major camera phone lens manufacturers in Taiwan are Genius, Largan, Asia Optical, and Premier. The global market shares for those four are 23%, 25%, 5% and 4% respectively."

"With the pixel upgrade of camera phones, more and more lens manufacturers are engaged in glass lens manufacturing, but the manufacturers who only have plastic lens technologies are declining. Enplas, for instance, whose sales revenue reduced 6 billion yen with a profit decline from 8.45 billion yen to 3.7 billion yen. Especially in 2-megapixel camera phone lens market, glass lens manufacturers are taking obvious advantages; the optical giants like Fujinon, Konica Minolta, and Largan almost monopolize the market."

"As for assembly industry, Flextronics has become the largest camera phone module manufacturer in the world after it acquired the CMOS image sensor department of Agilent, and the image sensor testing plant of ASE; however, it does not have very efficient R&D. Altus, affiliated to Foxconn Group, developed fast, and its market share has risen from 4% in 2004 to 9% in the second half of 2005 with a shipment of 41 million sets. Meanwhile, [Chinese] domestic manufacturers are declining sharply. During the first half of 2005, the operation revenue of Macat’s major businesses was 157 million Yuan, a 40% decrease year-on-year; the profit of its major businesses was 3.55 million Yuan, a 82% decrease year-on-year; and its net losses were 14 million Yuan, a 286% increase year-on-year. This is mainly caused by the loss of its major client Agilent, which turned to Fextronics."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

LG Selects Omnivision as Strategic Supplier

Yahoo: Omnivision announced a strategic relationship with LG Electronics to be the preferred supplier for its camera phone business. OmniVision expects to supply camera chips for over 50 percent of LG's camera phone shipments this year.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Omnivision is Readying 1.8um Pixel Sensor

EETimes: Omnivision is readying a new 3.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor in a quarter-inch format that will incorporate “instant focus” capabilities for camera phones. The device, to be marketed under the “OmniFocus” brand name, enables an “instant focus” function for mobile camera phones in full resolution at 15 frames per second.
The product is a two-component solution, including a module and digital signal processor (DSP). The solution is in the early prototyping stage, with shipments slated for the second half.
The “instant focus” feature is based on wavefront coding technology from CDM Optics Inc. (Boulder, Colo.), a company that was acquired by OmniVision last year.