Tuesday, December 25, 2007

e-Phocus Starts Up

e-Phocus develops Photoconductor on Active Pixel (POAP) technology. The technology is based on coating of a CMOS chip with a photoconductive layer.

e-Phocus’ image sensors are claimed to deliver an unprecedented price/performance ratio. It can provide the lowest cost for the required performance. I dont know why the cost would be lower if it still uses CMOS processing, but it's an interesting claim. Up to now I havn't seen an image sensor startup claiming to become the cost leader.

The initial products are targeted to cell phone cameras and high resolution digital cameras (up to 40MP). So far the company is hosted by Trex Enterprises technology incubator.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Samsung Talks about Embedding Image Sensor into LCD Screen

The Korea Times: Kim Sang-Soo, EVP of Samsung LCD Technology Center, talks about large LCD-based e-boards as a big market opportunity:

"E-boards can replace the white boards and beam projectors currently in use, with 100-inch or larger displays.

To jumpstart the e-board market, the industry must secure technology for multi-touch screens and develop an image sensor that can be built into these displays to allow users to write on the displays in a way that is easy to read. We think this market holds great promise as a virtual 'cash cow' if we can provide e-boards with an interactive communications function that allows meetings and conferences to be more widely shared in real-time.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Himax Imaging Startup

The latest image sensor start-up company Himax Imaging is seed-funded by a large LCD driver vendor Himax, Taiwan. Himax Imaging is headquartered in Irvine, CA. Its technical lead, Dr. Sergi Lin, used to work for ESS and Biomorphic, both out of imaging business now. At least he had a chance to learn from their mistakes. Before that he worked for TSMC as a process integration engineer - an ideal experience for modern pixel designer.

Himax Imaging's "pixel-centric design philosophy" is claimed to provide 4x sensitivity over "conventional pixels" (what is conventional? Nobody uses "conventional pixels" these days, listening to the marketing departments). Its first product seems to be based on 1.75um pixel.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sony Integrates Image Sensor with LCD Panel

Tech-On: Sony developed a 3.5" VGA LCD panel with integrated image sensor for touch screen functionality. Based on the system on glass (SOG) technology using low-temperature poly Si, the photodetector is formed in the TFT array process.

Some time ago Sharp and Toshiba-Matsushita reported about similar developments.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Micron Quarterly Conference Call

Yahoo: Micron reports that sales of CMOS image sensors in the Q1 of fiscal 2008 increased approximately 15 percent compared to the previous quarter as a result of a higher level of unit sales.

Seeking Alpha
: Micron managed to keep ASP relatively flat as it migrates the business towards higher pixel densities.

Regarding the imaging business spin-off Steve Appletone says:

"With respect to imaging, as I said the last time, we don’t have any plans to change manufacturing the product. We’ve been looking at ways -- really, is there some other partnership that’s a better way to take that product to market after it’s been produced, so to speak, and we’re just still in the middle of trying to work through that and figure out what the best path is."

In terms of product mix, just over half of the unit shipments were 2-megapixel and above, and by definition just under half were at 1-megapixel and below.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tower and CMT Medical Partner

Tower and CMT Medical form a partnership to develop and market X-ray detectors for medical applications.

The detectors intended use is for Radiography/Fluoroscopy, Cardiology, Angiography, Mammography and similar large-size X-ray modalities. Large size detectors require the manufacturing of up to one die per eight-inch wafer. Delivery of the first Flat Panel Detectors is expected to begin in 2009.

According to TriMark publications, a global leader in the biotechnology, healthcare and life sciences market research and intelligence, regarding the medical imaging market and according to FDA data, the number of new electronic X-ray detectors installed world wide exceeds 5,000 annually with a similar number of replacement and upgrade systems being delivered each year. At a price range of $35,000 to $80,000 per detector (based on dimensions), this represents an annual market opportunity of over $500 million per year. Potential future customers for the partnership’s products include the market leaders in medical X-ray systems, such as Toshiba, GE, Philips, Siemens and detectors market leaders.

Itocuh Invests in Holochip

Tech-On: Itocuh Corp invested in Holochip Corp and agreed to a tie-up in the product development and sales.

Holochip's liquid lens technology forms a lens by sealing liquid in a case made of transparent polymer membrane. The focal distance of the liquid lens may be varied by changing the shape of the lens with a horizontal forces applied from the circumference of the lens.

Holochip's lens han have larger diameter than Varioptics and can endure wide temperature ranges. A lens installed in digital cameras, etc should withstand the storage temperature ranging from -40 to +85°C and the operation temperature from -20 to +60°C.

CPIQ Enters Phase Two

EETimes: The International Imaging Industry Association Camera Phone Image Quality (CPIQ) Initiative enters Phase Two with objective to produce a complete set of standardized image quality testing metrics and methodologies, enabling a consumer-oriented image quality rating system.

The group will focus on developing and validating test methods that have direct impact on image quality performance, along with a preliminary consumer-oriented rating system that will enable clear communication about image quality from vendors to consumers.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Toshiba CIS Business Grows

Internetnews.com: Toshiba image sensor sales grew 45% this year, being one the the main sources for Toshiba's 27.8 percent sales increase in 2007, according to Gartner's "Worldwide Chip Sales" report.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

EDOF Adoption Growing

Digitimes: There has been growing adoption of extended depth of field (EDoF) solutions by image sensor makers to boost the acceptability of 3MP sensors in cameraphones, according to industry sources.

Many CMOS image sensor makers are now trying to secure partnerships with the world's only two developers of EDoF software, DxO and Dblur, the sources claimed. The Digitimes sources forgot to add Tessera and CDM Optics-Omnivision to the list.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Teradyne Acquires Nextest

Yahoo: Teradyne is to acquire Nextest for $325M in cash. Nextest Magnum iCP testers used to be the testers of choice for many image sensor companies. Now they become a part of Teradyne lineup.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Planet82 Pixel Patent Application

Planet82 pixel patent application has been published, so everybody can see what is its "Single Carrier Modulation Photo Detector (SMPD)" idea.

Trying to avoid kicking the dead, I say nothing about it, but I wonder how they managed to convince IBM to spend its foundry time and effort to work on such a pixel.

Almost simultanously a few other Planet82 applications published:






Monday, December 10, 2007

New Sony CIS Facility

Vol. 50 of CX-News has an article about the Kumamoto Technology Center, Sony’s production site for image sensors. Sony intends to start mass production of CMOS sensors using 300mm wafers in a 5000 sq.m clean room in May 2008.

One of the products to be produced on this line is IMX021 DSLR sensor. The 12.47MP sensor is based on 5.49um pixels. The sensor is able to operate at 10.39fps through its 12-channel LVDS output. Sony touts its column-level ADC as the biggest innovation in DSLR sensors.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pixelplus Reveals the Name of its Mysterious Japanese Partner

Yahoo: Finally Pixelplus disclosed that Sharp of Japan is its development partner for image sensors. Its PlusPixel2 technology seems to be based on Sharp's CCD pixel design.

In Q1 2007 Pixelplus completed a co-development agreement with Sharp to jointly develop the enhanced PO5030 VGA SoC sensor (PO5030) and, in July 2007 it unveiled samples of its PO5030, which incorporates Sharp's 2.2um pixel design and architecture based on Sharp's CCD technology.

Based on its co-development with Sharp, Pixelplus believes it will be in a position to furnish the PO5030 to module makers and mobile phone manufacturers beginning in the Q1 2008.

"In moving forward, Pixelplus will expand its co-development with Sharp to include the 1.3, 2.0, and 3.2 megapixel SoC image sensors, as well as higher and more advanced megapixel SoC image sensors, featuring PlusPixel2(TM) technology and incorporating Sharp's pixel design and architecture based on Sharp's CCD technology."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

DALSA "High Quanta" CCDs

Yahoo: DALSA reported improvement in nose and QE of its CCDs due to "advanced fabrication techniques to realize smaller CCD transistor structures". The new "High Quanta" CCDs acheved QE peaking at more than 75%.

The High Quanta family currently includes three sensors with resolutions of 2084 x 2084, 1044 x 1044 and 524 x 524 and feature a 24 um size pixel. For those applications demanding ultra violet (UV) sensitivity and > 90% QE, back side thinned (BST) devices will be available on a custom basis.

Sumsung Denies It Buys Micron Imaging

Reuters: The Maeil Business Newspaper reported that Samsung was considering acquiring Micron's imaging business. A Samsung spokeswoman said the report was "groundless." Samsung also issued an official report denying the newspaper article. Officials at Micron could not be immediately reached.

Associated Press via Yahoo details on the story origins: The Maeil Business Newspaper head earlier in the day cited an unidentified Samsung official as saying that the company may be interested in Micron's CMOS business to strengthen its non-memory business.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

VGA Sensors Shortage Eases

Digitimes: Short supply of power amplifiers (PAs) hit the handset industry dampening the handset chip market.

A weaker handset chip market has helped ease the shortage of VGA sensors, but that may not last long, the Digitimes sources said. The shortage of PAs is expected to ease by the end of the year and will rally demand for China's white-box handsets, the sources remarked.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Toshiba Focuses on Tessera OptiML

Tessera licensed its Eyesquad-OptiML focus enhancement technology to Toshiba.
So by now almost all leading sensor makers adopted some form of computational focus technology:

- ST Micro and Magnachip go with DxO Labs
- Omnivision acquired CDM Optics
- Toshiba endorsed Eyesquad-Tessera solution
- Samsung reportedly works with DBlur

Micron seems to be the only large vendor with unknown plans (unknown to me, that is).

TSMC Announces 90nm CIS Process

Yahoo: TSMC celebrates one-millionth 12" 90nm wafer shipped in 4.5 years since the process has been introduced. The company PR says that "90nm process covers a rich set of technology options including ... CMOS image sensors... The technology platform supports broad range of market segment demand such as... CMOS image sensors". Now the question is when Omnivision and Kodak would demo 90nm sensors.