Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tessera Licenses MVP Technology to Nemotek

Tessera generates a lot of news these days. Today it announced that Nemotek, Morocco has licensed its SHELLCASE MVP technology. To remind, MVP is Tessera's wafer-level chip-scale packaging, the newer, thinner version of it, based on Through Silicon Via (TSV).
So now Nemotek can offer this package to its prospective camera module customers.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tessera Adds Pseudo-Optical Zoom in OptiML Package

Yahoo: Tessera announced its OptiML Zoom solution, an image enhancement solution combining special lens design with algorithms to replace traditional mechanical zoom capabilities. It enables 3X "optical" zoom capabilities in a compact camera module without moving parts.

The technology incorporates a new lens design that increases the resolution in the center of the image without narrowing the field of view. The result is claimed to be "true optical magnification without loss of detail".

Sunday, April 27, 2008

MIPI Interface IP from Arasan

It was brought to my attention that Arasan offers a broad range of MIPI IP blocks for licensing. The offering cover both receive and transmit side, logic and PHY portions. It's not clear whether the IP is silicon proven and for what process it's targeted.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tessera Predicts Image Sensor Market Growth

Digitimes: Tessera estimates global CIS shipments reached 1.2 billion in 2007, according to company COO Mike Bereziuk. The amount is expected to grow to 1.4 billion in 2008 and further to hit 1.8 billion in 2010. Cameraphones are the major growth driver. Tessera believes that handsets with two cameras will be a future trend. In addition to handsets, notebook, surveillance and automobile applications are also some of the major drivers of demand.

Bereziuk identified wafer-level packaging (WLP) as a future technology trend for CMOS image sensor production. As of 2006, about 31% of CMOS image sensors were produced under WLP, and the ratio is set to expand to 50% in 2010.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Intertech-Pira Conference Presentations On-Line

Intertech-Pira put all presentations from its March 19-20 Image Sensor Conference on-line. It has lots and lots of interesting material, both technical and marketing. Many thanks to T. B. for the link.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pixelplus Unveils NTSC/PAL Image Sensor

Yahoo: Pixelplus PC1030 is PAL/NTSC sensor integrates on a single chip a 0.3MP array, ISP, a television encoder for both NTSC and PAL systems which converts the digital video generated from the sensors to a 10-bit digital signal, and a video discretionary access control mechanism which converts the 10-bit signal to a composite analog signal for television viewing. The PC1030 incorporates smart features to generate digital output and analog output simultaneously.

The sensor is intended for security and surveillance applications, such as CCTVs, door cameras, and IPTV.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yet Another Article on Keith Fife's 3D Imager

Photonics Spectra published yet another article with popular explanation of how Keith Fife's 3D imaging idea works. The idea gets a lot of coverage in the press. It looks like Stanford group is going to spin it off as a separate company, as it did with DPS sensor a few years back (Pixim).
The whole paper collection on the 3D idea published by Keith so far can be found on Stanford University site.

Update: In case of spin-off, I'm wondering how they would deal with prior art, such as mentioned here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

BNL Presentation on CMOS and CCD in Astronomy

I was pointed to the interesting paper and presentation by BNL's Veljiko Radeka on CCD and CMOS sensors in astronlmy applications. Even though they are 2 years old, most of the material remains quite interesting today.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Rohm and AIST Developed New Image Sensor

Tech-On: Rohm and the Research Center for Photovoltaics of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) announced successful prototyping of CIGS (Cu-In-Ga-Se) image sensor which is claimed to have approximately 100 times the sensitivity of CCD, CMOS and other Si-based image sensors.

The 100x claim apparently comes from IR sensitivity of the sensor, which allows it to operate in eye-invisible range, that is 0 lux.

EETAsia has a bit more technical article on the same technology. CIGS photodiodes used in solar cells have long been a candidate for image sensors, as they show superior QE and close to 100% FF. The main obstacle was high dark current. Rohm and AIST have developed a novel process technology to overcome this issue.

The 352 x 288 pixel prototype is sensitive in 400-1,300nm spectral range. Its pixel pitch is 10um.

IMAPS Imaging and Display Packaging Workshop

IMAPS-Benelux chapter has held an Imaging and Display Packaging workshop in Leuven, Belgium on April 10. Most presentations were devoted to 3D packages with through-silicon-vias (TSV) (Philips Research Labs, IMEC, Nikhef). Another interesting presentation came from Melexis on low-cost plastic packages for automotive applications.

Thanks to Albert Theuwissen for sending me the workshop program.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

iSuppli Sees Video Conferencing as a Major Emerging Application

iSuppli Q1 2008 Image Sensor Market Tracker report predicts image sensor shipments for video conferencing applications will grow from $503 million and 113 million units in 2008 to $664 million and 236.7 million units in 2012.

At the same time camera penetration in notebook PCs is predicted to grow from 55% in 2008 to 80% in 2012.

Mosel Vitelic Supports ProMOS in CIS Development

Mosel Vitelic jobs listing reveals it's building pixel development group to work with ProMOS:

The would-be Director CMOS Image Sensor Technology Development is required to "Build and lead CMOS image sensor pixel development engineering team. Assume full ownership and responsibility for pixel development from process integration/device aspect in ProMos. <..> Lead pixel design reviews and process development experiments for pixel optimization."

Many development team member positions are also open.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

CMOSIS Itertech-Pira HDR Presentation

CMOSIS put on-line its nice HDR presentation from Intertech-Pira Image Sensor Conference. It reviews all known to universe ways to increase DR of image sensors (8 ways, to be accurate) and talks about their strong and weak sides. The presentation has a high educational value.

Magnachip Officially Opens Pasadena Image Sensor Research Center

Yahoo: The intention was announced a few weeks ago and today this has happened officially: Magnachip opens its new Image Signal Processing Advanced Research Center in Pasadena, California.

The new center is supposed to deliver next-generation image enhancement and processing technologies and architectures for CMOS image sensor customers, including mobile phones, PCs, notebook computers, and security. The new image processing techniques will be used in integrated, low-cost SoC solutions for next-generation small-pixel products.

I think the hidden agenda is to fish out ex-Micron employees who decided not to relocate to San Jose, where the main Aptina center is situated. Magnachip and especially Hynix can make a good use of these hard to get engineers.

Pixim Increases Its Revenues and Market Share

Centre Daily Times: Frost & Sullivan recognizes Pixim with the 2008 Global Growth Excellence of the Year Award for quadrupling its revenues over the past two years.

In 2006, Pixim had nearly 4.3% of the North American market for image sensors in the video surveillance camera market. Its market share has increased to 9% in 2007.

Canesta Starts Production at Tower

Yahoo: Canesta and Tower announced Canesta's 3D image sensors are starting production at Tower. The CanestaVision sensors are manufactured at Tower's Fab2 in 0.18um process.

The sensors are in final qualification stages for the automotive industry and can also be useful in gaming to improve gesture recognition.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Job Listing Sheds Light on Aptina Plans

Aptina is looking for Senior Flash Device Engineer responsible for flash "integration into baseline imager processes". The candidate with experience on 65nm and newer technologies is preferred. So what Aptina plans to store in an on-imager flash memory? Probably the area pixel correction table, varying from chip to chip due to alignment variations, column and row mistatch calibration, ADC calibration, etc. Also, a big number of bad pixels can be consealed from the external world.

Another interesting requirement comes to Imager Foundry Process Integration Engineer candidate: he should be able to work with Micron fabs and external foundries, evaluate and understand Fab conversions and their effect on existing and future part types. He'll be responsible for transferring existing processes to foundry and he's required to travel overseas.

Even though "overseas" might mean Micron's image sensor fab in Italy, it looks to me there are more foundries under evaluation now.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Caeleste Talks on HDR and AC Sensors

Caeleste published new nice presentations on HDR and AC-responsive image sensors on its web site. They were presented on the recent ISSCC HDR forum and Intertech-Pira conference.
In good Fillfactory tradition, the papers start from definitions and clarifications, all the way to possible trade-offs and solutions and comparison between different approaches.

Friday, April 11, 2008

IC Insights Optimistic about Image Sensor Market

EETimes: IC Insights forecasts 10% annual growth of image sensor market in 2008, to reach $7.6 billion. CIS sales are expected to rise 19% in 2008 to $4.4 billion after falling 12 percent in 2007; CCDs are forecasted to decline 1% in 2008 to $3.2 billion compared to zero growth in 2007, said Rob Lineback, an analyst with IC Insights (Scottsdale, Ariz.).

Solid State Technology gives 2007 supplier rankings table:

One can see that 2007 was quite a bad year for Micron and even worse for STMicro.

Update: IC-Insights says that despite losing some ground in 2007 CMOS sensors continue to take on CCDs. CIS will account for 58% of image sensor sales in 2008 compared to 53% in 2007 and 46% in 2004. In 2012, CMOS devices are expected to represent 73% of total image sensor sales and 83% of total imager unit shipments.

In the next five years, image sensor growth will hinge on new and emerging applications, such as embedded cameras in portable computers, next-generation "hybrid" video/still-picture cameras, automotive-imaging safety systems, medical uses, toys and video games, and wireless video-security networks. All of these potentially high-growth applications will require CMOS technology, which can integrate pixels cells with image-processing functions on a single chip while supporting lower power consumption compared to CCDs.

Between 2002 and 2007, overall image sensor sales rose by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35%, driven by the explosion of CMOS-based camera cell phones and CCD-dominated digital still cameras. For the 2007-2012 forecast period, IC Insights is projecting sales will rise by a CAGR of 14% per year, which will push total image sensor revenues to $13.2 billion in 2012.

Update 2: One strange omission in the rankings is Samsung. I don't believe that Samsung does not belong to the leading five.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

STMicro and NXP form Wireless JV

Yahoo: STMicro and NXP combine key wireless operations to form a joint-venture company. STMicroelectronics will take an 80% stake in the joint venture, while NXP will receive $1.55 billion from ST. The parents have also agreed on a possible future exit mechanism for NXP's ongoing 20% stake. The new company will be incorporated in the Netherlands and headquartered in Switzerland with approximately 9,000 employees worldwide, almost equally contributed by ST and NXP. The new joint venture does not have fabs and it will rely on its parent companies and foundries for wafer fabrication services.

Once the dust settles, we'll see whether ST image sensor business changed hands. So far it sounds like it is included in the deal, as PR specifically talks about wireless multimedia operations to which image sensors belong.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Aptina Reveals Quarterly Loss Again

Micron published its quarterly report for FY08 Q2 ended Feb. 28. Its imaging business lost $21M on sales $135M in the quarter. Same quarter a year ago it lost $10M on sales $156M, for comparison.

Regarding the possible use of other CIS foundries, the report says:

"To improve its focus on the semiconductor memory market, the Company is exploring business model alternatives for its Imaging business including partnering arrangements. Under any of the alternatives being considered, the Company expects that it will continue to manufacture CMOS image sensors."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cypress Goes for Niche CIS Markets

Digitimes: Competition among leading vendors weakened ASPs and gross margins in the major image sensor markets of digital cameras and handsets, motivating Cypress to focus on niche segments.

The two key categories in Cypress' CMOS image sensor lineup are customized image sensors and fast sensors. Cypress indicated that customers pay an average of US$1 million for the first phase of placing custom CMOS image sensor orders and additional payment has to be made when products are available for sale.

Under the two main categories, Cypress has also introduced CMOS image sensors with high resolutions. This type of CMOS image sensor focuses on resolution but not product size. The company currently has a CMOS image sensor that supports 14MP resolution.

XinTec and Omnivision Ties Remain Strong

Digitimes: OmniVision, which holds a total of 9.4 million shares in XinTec, recently announced that it will transfer 2.5 million shares of XinTec to a holding company in Taiwan, an amount representing a 1.2% stake in XinTec. Both XinTec and OmniVision stressed that the transaction is purely a transfer of shares and their strong ties would not be affected.

XinTec completed its first fab (Fab 3) specializing in wafer-level packaging (WLP) for 12-inch wafers in late 2007 with volume production slated to begin in the second or third quarter of 2008. Pilot run has been already started. After adding the new 8-inch wafer capacity from its Chungli, Taiwan plant, XinTec houses a combined monthly capacity of 40,000 wafers (both 8- and 12-inch).

Saturday, April 05, 2008

ADCs for Modern Image Sensors

Chipworks blog has an post on ADC architectures for modern image sensors. They see a trend of adopting comumn-parallel single-slope ADC and complexity increase in staircase generating DACs for these ADCs.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Security Solutions from Mobilygen, TI, Omnivision and Aptina

Yahoo: Omnivision teams up with Mobilygen to offer an H.264-based ready-to-build standard definition (SD) IP camera reference design for light sensitive applications in the security and surveillance markets. It combines OmniVision's OV7720 SOC sensor and Mobilygen's MG2500 H.264 codec SOC.

The Earth Times: Mobiligen also provides a HD IP camera reference design with Aptina's MT9D131 2MP SoC sensor. It captures full 1280x720 resolution video and claimed to provide excellent low light capability.

CNNMoney: Aptina also has a HD IP camera reference design with TI based on TI's DaVinci TMS320DM355 digital media processor and Aptina's 5MP HD security image sensor. DaVinci processor provides HD MPEG-4 encoding.

All the reference designs are exhibited at ISC West, April 2 - 4, 2008. EETasia publishes a review of security camera market trends.

Toshiba CSCM Package

I-Micronews published an nice article showing picture of Toshiba CSCM (chip scale camera module) package based on Through-Chip-Vias (TCV).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Toshiba Introduces 3 Image Sensors and 2 Camera Modules

VirtualPressOffice: Toshiba introduces 3 new 1.75um pixel-based image sensors and 2 new chip scale camera modules (CSCM) for handset market. To my knowledge this is the first time Toshiba public presents 1.75um pixel products. It's quite late, considering that most of its rivals annouced 1.75um pixels a year or two ago.

The new sensors are a 2MP 1/5" SoC sensor, a 3 MP 1/4" SoC sensor and a 5 MP 1/3" sensor.

The modules are based on Toshiba’s through chip via technology to allow mounting and assembly of camera components in the chip wafer during manufacturing. It reduces the overall module size, resulting in a smaller design footprint. The two CSCMs are a 2MP 1/5" SoC and 3MP 1/4" SoC.

The 2 MP SoC sensor is priced at $10 per unit, the 3 MP SoC sensor at $15 per unit and the 5 MP CIS senso $20 per unit, all 10K quantities. All sensors and CSCMs are sampling now.

Magnachip 1.3MP Sensor for Toys

Yahoo: Magnachip begun shipping its MC511DB, 1.3MP 1/4" SoC sensor for toys. The sensor fits in 8x8x5 mm modules and works out of single 2.8V supply. Its ISP performs on-the-fly bad pixel correction, positional lens vignetting correction, noise cancellation filters, and auto white balance with flash support. Its ADC has 11 bit resolution.

Aptina Announces HDR Sensor

Yahoo: Aptina announces MT9V033 Wide-VGA (720 x 480) sensor for security and surveillance market. The 1/3" sensor features 6um pixel pitch, HDR, 60fps speed, TrueSNAP shutter (global?) and NIR capability. It also has a context switching feature, allowing two applications with separate imaging needs to run effectively from a single source.

Aptina site also mentions that the sensor's DR is 110db and power consumption is less than 160mW with LVDS I/O disabled.

1000fps 4MP Sensor from Photron

VirtualPressOffice: Photron announced Fastcam SA2 2K x 2K pixel camera operating at 1,000fps speed at full resolution. The camera can also deliver HD video 1080p at 2,000fps, 720p video at 4,000 fps, and 512 x 416 pixel resolution up to 10,000 fps. It is based on CMOS sensor with 12b output. Quite impressive spec! I guess the sensor has been designed by Alexima, as it has long standing relationships with Photron.

The camera is targeted to broadcast applications in sports and entertainment, automotive crash testing, ballistic and missile testing, biomedical imaging and industrial motion analysis.