Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pixelplus Reports Q2'08 Results

Yahoo: Pixelplus sold approximately 7.1M sensors in Q2 2008, which represents an increase of about 2.8 million units from its sale of around 4.3M units in Q1 2008. Separately, Pixelplus provided approximately 1.1M image sensors arising from its supply of services to a leading Japanese module maker in Q2 2008, which is almost the same as its supply of around 1.1 million units in Q1 2008.

Gross margin for the second quarter of fiscal 2008 was 4.9%, compared to 11.5% in the first quarter of fiscal 2008. The Company's lower-than-expected gross margin was due to its greater-than-anticipated decrease in the total number of VGA image sensors sold in the second quarter of 2008, and also was due to its greater-than-expected decrease in the average selling price of its image sensors sold in the second quarter of 2008. To improve gross margin in the second half of 2008, the Company expects to enhance production yields for its PlusPixel2 products with its foundry partner in Taiwan , and also fortify its revenues arising from the steadily increasing supply of its PO4010 CIF SoC, PO6030 VGA SoC, and PC1030 NTSC/PAL image sensors.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

DALSA Supplies 56MP Medium Format CCD

Leaf announces it uses 56MP 56x36mm CCD from DALSA in its new medium format camera back. The sensor is based on 6um pixels, has 1fps speed and supports ISO 50-800 sensitivity.

Just two weeks ago DALSA delivered another huge 60MP CCD to Phase One. Both DALSA sensors are bigger than the biggest medium format Kodak CCD announced 3 weeks ago.

Kodak On Mars

Yahoo: Kodak image sensors are on board of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)launched almost 3 years ago on August 12, 2005.

Daily weather data for Mars is collected by the orbiter using the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) based on 1MP KAI-1001 sensor. The orbiter’s Context Camera (CTX) is based on KLI-5001, a 5,000-pixel linear CCD device that scans the surface of the planet as the orbiter passes overhead.

Omnivision is Said to Cut Down Production

Market Watch: J.P.Morgan analyst said he believes OmniVision has cut back production and added he anticipates pressure on margins.

Update: Barron's presents a more detailed overview of J.P. Morgan’s Paul Coster sayings on Omnivision's business. He says that competition has increased, and that Omnivision has cut back production. He anticipates “incremental pressure on margins.”

Coster says the China-based handset market has “slowed significant” since the beginning of the July quarter due to the recent earthquake and some government restrictions on domestic handset sales ahead of the Olympics.

Hynix Starts Image Sensors Production

Yahoo: Teradyne reports that Hynix has launched the production of their first CMOS image sensor using the new Teradyne IP750Ex wafer tester. Now we can see what Hynix was able to develop in the short time it had.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dblur Layoffs

Globes: EDOF solutions vendor Dblur layed off part of its workforce. Dblur VP sales & marketing Guy Michrowski said, "We have shed nine jobs from our workforce of 30. This is part of the recently completed process of transition from development to engineering and support for mass production."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Samsung Undercuts Omnivision's Price

Digitimes sources indicated that Samsung quotes Taiwan notebook makers for its 1.3MP image sensor US$0.50 cheaper than that offered by OmniVision. The notebook segment is used to be dominated by OmniVision, but some notebook vendors have started to consider introducing Samsung solutions, the sources said. ASP for a 1.3MP CMOS image sensor is about US$2 currently, they noted.

Samsung Taiwan says that CMOS image sensors are one of the five major focuses of its system LSI division and the segment has a strategic importance to the company's semiconductor business.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yole Predicts 3D-TSV Revolution

Research and Markets published interesting predictions about 3D-TSV packaging future, probably originated from Yole Developpement:

"WL-CSP CMOS image sensors are on the point to leave their traditional edge interconnects configuration for going to "real" 3D-TSV architectures as soon as this year. Vias will be partially or completely filled, depending on via filling approach being developed (Copper for partial filling, Poly-Silicon or Tungsten for completely filled vias). Additionally, we clearly see the number of I/Os expanding to several hundreds of interconnects per chip with a trend to stack the DSP chips under the image sensor chip itself."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Magnachip Q2 2008 Earnings Call

Seeking Alpha: In its quarterly earnings call Magnachip shed some light on its image sensors plans and progress.

Sang Park, Chairman and CEO says:

Our Imaging Solution business achieved a significant number of design wins in the second quarter. We have five mega pixel products currently under development and we recently launched a 2.2 micron on 10 inch VGA sensor. We have several new solutions now available for the Security and PC market including two new products currently designing in four growing PC and notebook camera market. Development of our 1.75 micron solution is on track. We have broken into several first tier mobile manufacturers for our new family of sensors.

Robert J. Krakauer, President and CFO adds:

Yes, the R&D intensity in our CMOS Image Sensor business over the last year is higher than our other businesses as we have been repairing that business and as I mentioned earlier, we are now starting to bear the fruit of that across until the end of the year.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Trioptics Proposes Fast Test of WLCs Trioptics comes with a high-volume production test solution for wafer level camera (WLC) lens quality. The test is based on Shack-Hartmann measurement system analyzing the reflected light wavefront. It compares this waveform with a good reference one and marks bad lens across the wafer. Potentially this technique can be used also for wafer-scale lens positioning and focusing.

Friday, July 18, 2008

ST Publishes BSI Sensor Paper

i-Micronews reports that ST published an article on 3MP BSI sensor with 1.45um pixel pitch. The original article is published in Advanced Substrate News.

The senor process is SOI based. The article has B&W image of resolution chart and also B&W QE graph showing about 65-70% QE in blue going down to 30-40% in red. ST reports dark current of 1e/s at 25C. Conversion gain, image lag and temporal noise are said to be comparable with regular frontside sensors. The work was helped by Tracit (wafer bonding and thinning) and CEA-LETI-MINATEC.

Unfortunately, neither color images nor color QE graphs are presented. Without this it's quite hard to estimate the real performance of ST's BSI sensor.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Micron Supplies 2MP Sensor for iPhone 3G

Business Week: iSuppli teardown of Apple iPhone 3G reveals that Micron is the supplier of its 2MP sensor chip.

Omnivsion Reduces Sensor Production

Digitimes: Omnivision overestimated the market demand for its mobile image sensors. The company had initially planned to increase its order volumes by 10% to TSMC in Q3, but now plans on reducing orders by about 10%, leading to a swing in its planned orders by about 20%. A weakening handset market is said to affect the demand for image sensors.

Monday, July 14, 2008

DALSA Delivers 60MP Medium Format CCD

Yahoo: Not to be outdone by Kodak, DALSA delivers 60.5MP medium format CCD to Phase One. The sensor provides the live capture area of 53.9mm x 40.4mm (bigger than Kodak's 48mm x 36mm), enabling full viewfinder coverage, thus no need for lens magnification. The sensor's speed is 1fps at full resolution of 8984 x 6732 active pixels.

Friday, July 11, 2008

CMOSIS Company Presentation

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven placed CMOSIS company presentation on-line. It gives quite a good company background and briefly talks about its plans on the business side.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Aptina Turns a Profit

According to the latest 10-Q form, Micron's imaging division has a quarterly profit of $3M on sales $171M, as compared with a loss of $17M on sales $138M a year ago.
After more than a year of losses this is a very nice improvement on the verge of becoming independent company.

ST Installed 300mm TSV Pilot Line

Yahoo: EV Group (EVG), a supplier of wafer-bonding and lithography equipment for the advanced semiconductor and packaging, MEMS, SOI and emerging nanotechnology markets, announced it has received a major multi-million-euro order from STMicroelectronics for its 300-mm bonding, alignment and photoresist processing tools. EVG's fully automated tools are successfully installed at ST's 300-mm through-silicon-via (TSV) pilot line in Crolles, France and used in the manufacture of CMOS image sensors.

Industry experts have anticipated that the first products that feature TSV technology are expected to hit the market in 2008 and will include image sensors, similar to what ST is developing with the help of EVG's 300-mm solutions. According to Gareth Bignell, Program Manager, 300mm Equipment Selection, STMicroelectronics, "ST is committed to accelerating the manufacturing of 3D TSV-based devices into high volume."

Update: EETimes also published a brief article on this.

Siimpel and Vistapoint Launch MEMS-based AF Module

Yahoo: Siimpel and VistaPoint, a business unit of Flextronics, announced the first silicon MEMS-based autofocus camera for the handset market. Based on the SiimpelFocus SF9x design, VistaPoint has begun production of its Model FCM-3ADF1S 3MP camera as part of its efforts to integrate high-performance features into mobile handset cameras similar to those found in digital still cameras. The FCM-3ADF1S camera is now shipping to a leading handset customer.

Siimpel and VistaPoint will continue to collaborate on future camera designs that include integrating additional features such as shutter, image stabilization and zoom.

Tower Manufactures Linear Sensors for Panavision

Yahoo: Tower and Panavision announced the DLIS-2K and the DLIS-4K re-configurable line scan CMOS image sensors. The sensors were developed by Panavision using Tower's Advanced Photo Diode (APD) pixel process and pixel IP, and are to be manufactured in Tower's 200mm Fab2 in Migdal Ha'emek, Israel. The pixel size is 4 X 32 micron with sensitivity exceeding 100 V/Lux.Sec.

The sensors are made in 0.18um process and allow for flexibility in image collection and readout, including: ambient light subtraction, oversampling, non-destructive read mode, binning of different integrations, and a high resolution mode.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Samsung Presents WLP Image Sensor

I-Micronews reports that Samsung Electro-Mechanics presented a low cost through the wafer via interconnect technology for WL-CSP CMOS image sensors on recent DTIP conference on MEMS & MOEMS in Nice (France). A nice article explains the manufacturing process of the new Samsung package:

Another I-Micronews article analyses Sony and Omnivision BSI technology and its problems.

Thanks to J.B. for the links.

Sarnoff Offers BSI Process Services

Sarnoff offers backside illumination (BSI) wafer process services. Called Ultra-Sense, the process is based on customized ultra-thin silicon-on-insulator (UTSOI) wafers and claimed to be low-cost, scalable solution to produce BSI CCD and CMOS image sensors enabling higher resolution, smaller pixel size, higher QE and improved system performance. The scope of possible application covers industrial, medical, camera-phones, DSCs, webcams and more.

The work flow starts with help and consulting in pixel design. Then Sarnoff provides its own application-optimized SOI wafers which could be processed by any 8" fab. Then the backend processing stage follows, including backside thinning, color filters, microlens and AR coating formation. It's not clear who performs this stage. However, Sarnoff is known to provide custom foundry process and back-thinning services.

Sarnoff presents its BSI solution on SEMICON West 2008, July 15 - 17, as Yahoo reports.

Kodak Introduces 50MP Medium Format CCD

Yahoo: Kodak introduces KAF-50100 50MP CCD sensor with 6um pixels. With an 8176 x 6132 pixel array, the 50MP sensor provides the highest resolution available in the popular 48 mm x 36 mm optical format used in medium format photography.

Engineering grade devices of the KAF-50100 are currently available, with volume production planned for Q4, 2008.

Update: The new Kodak sensor is used in just announced Hasselblad H3DII-50 medium format camera.

Samsung Works on "Digital Jot" Idea?

These days Eric Fossum is consulting Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, Nanodevices Laboratory, as in Eric's CV. Eric writes about his current work in dpreview forum:

Roland Karlsson:

"In a future sensor(when it is a pure photon counter- and that will
happen - mark my words) - then higher density will always mean higher
image quality. All photons are collected - and the better you know
the position - the better the image quality."

Eric Fossum:

"I don't see how anyone could possibly argue with this. If you can count every photon that hits the sensor and record its position (and wavelength!) it would be hard to imagine a better sample of the photon field.

Anyway, I am working on this sort of thing. I think the real question is what do you do to post process your picture. One approach is a "digital film sensor" as I have mentioned in past posts. See slides 68-89 more or less of the presentation on my website if you are interested:

Image Sensors Past Present and Future Presentation


As far as where we stand, I should not say as I work as a consultant for Company X these days and it will be up to Company X to say when and where any news is released. On the other hand, it is a multi year research project and not part of any product development plan. I certainly am grateful for the support and long range vision of Company X and I hope this turns into a useful technology for them."

If Eric means Samsung, I certaily agree that it has a long range vision and resources to implement it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Tower To Manufacture Image Sensors for Cypress

Reuters: Tower will collaborate with Cypress in manufacturing CMOS image sensors using 0.18um process on Tower's Fab2. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Reuters source said it would be worth about $10 million a year to Tower.

: In a separate PR Cypress and Tower announced the successful completion of Cypress’s first 0.18um stitched large-format CIS device. Tower’s stitching technology overcomes photolithography tool limitations to seamlessly tile 5.5um pixel sections into a large pixel array. This technology enables manufacturing of die sizes up to a single die per 200-mm wafer.

Cypress and Tower have collaborated on CIS products for more than five years, primarily using Tower’s Fab 1 technology. Cypress is now also using Fab 2’s advanced 0.18um process.

Friday, July 04, 2008

HP Image Processing Technology Available for Licensing

EETimes: HP has quit the camera business and the image processing algorithms originally developed for HP's digital cameras are now available to be incorporated into cell phones, enabling users to create high-quality prints from pictures taken with camera phones.

In November 2006 HP provided a license of its image processing algorithms to Flextronics. The algorithms include, for example, red-eye processing, subtle lighting adjustment, and color correction. Flextronics' modules incorporate HP's algorithms, and in return, HP receives royalties.

It must be a hard sale, as few other image processing powerhouses offer their algorithms for licensing as well. Historically, Flextronix camera module group used to be a part of HP/Agilent. So it's natural that Flextronix tends to use what it's already familiar with.

Wafer Level Packaging Analyzed

The recent Solid State Technology's Chip Forensics column is devoted to wafer level packaging in image sensors. Dick James shows Chipworks' reverse engineering pictures of Omnivision 2MP sensors in Shellcase package.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Smart Optics for Small Pixels

Electronic Design published an article on computational optics helping to solve small pixel challenges. It allows to implement new lens features such as full optical zoom with no moving parts, continuous depth of field (sometimes described as extended depth of field) and small F-number optics for low-light environments.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Aptina Becomes Indie In August

Barron's refers to Betsy Van Hees, chip analyst at Caris & Co., saying that Micron is to separate its image sensor business in August.