Friday, September 30, 2011

i-Micronews Reviews Sony CIS News

i-Micronews published recent Sony CIS business announcements and plans overview. The article presents a nice summary of all Sony news for the last 2-3 years.

Thanks to EK for sending me the link!

Sony Effio AFE Production Still Recovering after the Earthquake

Sony posted an update on CCD analog front-end (AFE) Effio production recovery after the earthquake in March 2011. As of Sept. 9 the production of older generation Effio AFE CXD4813GG/CXD4816GG has not resumed yet, but expected to start "within September". The mass production of new generation Effio AFE, the CXD5148GG has started from August 26.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Samsung Expands its BSI Line on High and Low Ends

Business Wire: Samsung announced 1.2MP 1/8.2-inch CMOS image sensor SoC, the S5K8AA. The new sensor is based on 1.4um BSI pixels and aimed to camera modules shorter than 3mm for the slim mobile devices. The S5K8AA supports 30fps HD (720p) video and 60fps at VGA resolution. It fitts into a 5.5 x 5.5mm camera module with an extreme 2.8mm low profile.

Samsung’s S5K8AA image sensor is currently sampling to qualified customers.

Business Wire: Samsung also announced 1/2.3-inch 16MP image sensor, the S5K2P1, based on 1.34um BSI pixel and designed for high-performance, advanced smartphones as well as digital still cameras and camcorders. The S5K2P1 is fast - it supports a native 16:9 format video at up to 8.3MP resolution at 60 fps and full 16MP resolution for point-and-shoot images at 30 fps without shutter lag effect.

According to TSR, the DSC market is expected to reach 154M units in 2012 where a substantial portion of up to 48.2 percent is forecast to be adoption of CMOS image sensors as the main sensor device.

Samsung’s S5K2P1 image sensor is currently sampling to select customers. Its mass production is scheduled for November 2011.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

UCL Evaluates Kinect Performance

University College of London published poster on Kinect depth accuracy evaluation:

"Performance Evaluation of the PrimeSense IR Projected Pattern Depth Sensor"
MSc Surveying
Daniel Binney
Jan Boehm (Supervisor)

This is the first systematic study of Primesense accuracy that I've seen in open sources. The depth resolution degrades with distance. It's 1.8mm at 0.5m, while at 3m it degrades to about 25mm. Note that Microsoft Kinect spec calls for 1.2m-3.5m range.

There is a circular hole observed in the PrimeSense point cloud where no depth data has been returned:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Assorted News

TI introduced the DRV201 - industry's first auto focus voice coil driver with both pulse width modulation (PWM) and linear current regulation support. The 0.15mm-slim packaged chip features advanced ringing compensation resulting in fast lens settling time for faster focus – 10-mS settling time compared to 150 mS without ringing compensation.

Marketwire: Cadence announced new MIPI verification suits:
  • MIPI CSI-3: Providing an advanced processor-to-camera sensor interface.
  • MIPI Low Latency Interface (LLI): This interface cuts mobile device production cost by allowing DRAM memory sharing between multiple chips.

Marketwire: While we are at MIPI, Tektronix announced M-PHY testing solution based on the newly-ratified M-PHY v1.0 specification. Building on the industry's first M-PHY test offering introduced last September, Tektronix now offers mobile device hardware engineers a simple, integrated solution for M-PHY Transmitter and Receiver debug, validation and conformance testing needs. Developed in close cooperation with Synopsys and ST-Ericsson, the Tektronix "2-box" solution provides scope-integrated error detection for receiver tolerance testing and re-usability with a single set-up for both the M-PHY and lower-speed D-PHY(SM) specifications.

Toronto, Canada-based ISee3D announced the next step in its single-lens 3D imaging technology that cuts its 3D lens down to size and increases frame rates, for the first time making practical a range of applications and bringing 3D to more markets, such as consumer, automotive, industrial, and medical devices.

The advanced new technology dramatically reduces the thickness of the elements to fractions of a millimeter, making it possible to use the technology with a wider variety of lenses and reducing the space required. Now ISee3D technology fits for equipping webcams, microscopes, endoscopes, 4 and 5K cameras and consumer camcorders with 3D capabilities. In the field of endoscopy, the ability to capture 3D images through a smaller device enables less invasive surgeries, and a new ISee3D innovation in this field allows a 3D endoscope to produce as much or more light as a 2D device of the same size.

Click on picture to see the animated explanation of how it works:

“NikkoIA voit tout.” (NikkoIA sees everything)

NikkoIA is selected among the “20 Top Start-ups” by the french national magazine l’Usine Nouvelle in its “Special Innovation” edition, following the results of the 2011 National Contest for the Creation of Innovative Companies organized by the French Ministry of Research in cooperation with OSEO.

Digitimes: Kinect Sales Weaken

Digitimes reports that Newmax has dropped its Kinect camera module shipments in the second half of the year, according to the newspaper sources. Weak US and European economy is said to be the reason. With market demand for Kinect weaker than expected, Newmax's revenues in August dropped by 14.29%.

Monday, September 26, 2011

poLight Article

Yole's i-Micronews magazine has artricle on poLight's TLens written by Fran├žois Vieillard, the company's VP Marketing & Sales. The TLens benefits quoted are:

  • fast focusing allowing taking succession of pictures with different focus in few tens of ms.
  • low power. VCM requires in the range of 150 to 200 mW of power to focus, while TLens requires 5 mW.
  • small size. Able to fit AF into 6.5mm x 6.5mm camera module

Oppenheimer: Next iPhone Camera to be Dual Sourced from Sony and Omnivision

Oppenheimer Equity Research believes that Apple is going to dual source 8MP image sensor for next generation iPhone from Omnivision and Sony. Oppenheimer estimates that Sony share would be 30% at max. The iPhone VGA front-looking camera business is said to belong to Omnivision.

Ambarella Announces DSC Processor with 1080p60 Video, 16MP/30fps Stills and HDR Support

Ambarella announced availability of the A7L SoC for HD video enabled DSCs. The A7L supports full 1080p HD H.264 video at 60fps and can capture up to thirty 16MP still images per second. A7L features multi-frame high ISO image capture, HDR processing, lens distortion correction, hardware support for real-time panorama sweep photography, and 3D Motion Compensated Temporal Filtering (MCTF). The A7L is fabricated in 32nm process, and requires only a single 16-bit DDR3 DRAM.

The A7L offers a unique combination of outstanding still image quality and full 1080p60 HD video for the next generation of hybrid digital still cameras,” said Fermi Wang, Ambarella CEO. “We believe the chip’s incredibly low power consumption will not only extend battery life but inspire innovation in new camera form factors.

"The Digital Still Camera market is forecasted to grow to over 150 million units in 2012, as new models offer both high still image quality and full HD video,” said Chris Chute, Research Manager, Worldwide Digital Imaging Solutions and Services of IDC.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nikon Reveals Details of its V1/J1 Sensor

Imaging Resource published an interview with Masahiro Suzuki, General Manager R&D, Nikon Imaging devoted to the announcement of the new interchangeable lens Nikon 1 camera system. A significant part of this interview is devoted to its 1-inch 10.1MP image sensor based on 3.4um pixels. The sensor has 24 digital outputs, while it's not clear what is the full resolution frame rate.

Few interesting quotes:

On the 10MP resolution in relatively high-end product: "Our message will be that image resolution is not everything. We offer you additional value. The image quality from 10 megapixel sensor is excellent, good enough for the kind of use that consumers make of their pictures, even for quite big enlargements."

"We [Nikon] developed it; we engineered and developed this sensor inside Nikon. But for the production side, that is done by our partner."

"The major difference from the others is that this camera's image sensor has embedded phase detection AF, so that achieves very fast focusing."

Imaging Resource clarifies: "Nikon V1 and J1 both have a hybrid autofocus system that combines both phase-detection and contrast-detection modes. The operating mode is chosen automatically as appropriate to the shooting conditions, and a generous array of 73 phase detection AF points are available. Since there's no way to hook a separate autofocus sensor into the optical path in a mirrorless camera, Nikon has adopted a similar strategy to that used by Fujifilm in certain of its compact camera models last year. The phase detection autofocus points are placed on the image sensor itself, although it isn't currently clear how the focus points are spaced with regards to the surrounding photodiodes."

Friday, September 23, 2011

ST Improves on Toshiba HDR Patent

ST patent application US20110221944 proposes linearity improvement on Toshiba double-exposure HDR idea based on 4T pixel with skimming and described in the patent US7586523 and in white paper here. ST says that Toshiba's idea suffers from a significant non-linearity around the long and short exposures connection point:

Toshiba patent calculates the final signal using the equation:


where LS and SS are samplings of the signals LPS and SPS, GA is a coefficient that may be equal to 1, and R=TL/TS is the ratio between the long integration TL and short integration TS times.

ST proposes not to reset floating diffusion node between the long and the short exposures. Together with the new signal calculation equation, this reduces the connection area non-linearity:

The proposed signal calculation equation is:


where A is an optimization coefficient that may be equal to 0. The resulting improvement in linearity is shown on the graph:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

DSNU Explained

Albert Theuwissen published a new post in the "How to Measure..." series. The post is devoted to Dark Signal Non Uniformity (DSNU) measurements. I really enjoyed the clear and detailed explanations of the measurement procedures and possible caveats. I think once the new series would be completed, it certainly worth to publish in a handbook form.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Column-Level ADCs Overview

Delft University repository published Jia Guo's MS thesis having a nice overview of column-level ADC architectures. While the thesis concentrates on DLL design, the overview is of general interest and covers many recent advances:

"DLL Based Single Slope ADC For CMOS Image Sensor Column Readout"
Jia Guo MS Thesis

Image Sensors at Electronic Imaging 2012

As AT mentioned in the other post comments, the program of Electronic Imaging 2012 conference has already been published. As always, there is a lot of image sensor stuff there, too much to publish it in full.

Some interesting tidbits from the papers:

  • CMOSIS presents VGA 600fps sensor with global shutter (8298-1)
  • Anafocus presents 5.2MP 250fps with HDR and "embedded intelligence" (Paper 8298-2)
  • NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corp. and Kinki Univ. present 300K-pixel 2Mfps camera. (Paper 8298-22)
  • MIT and Simon Fraser Univ. experimental measurements of various CCDs and CMOS sensors defect density revealed that at 7um pixels the CCD defect rate is ~2.5 greater than for CMOS, but for 2um pixels the rates are equal. (Paper 8298-12)
  • Portland State Univ. explained why some CCD's dark current behave nonlinearly with respect to exposure time and additionally the dark current is affected by the presence of illumination [ISW - some CMOS sensors have similar dark current behavior for similar reasons]. (Paper 8298-13)
  • Tohoku Univ. presents how to use atomically flat Si surface to create PD with nearly 100% internal QE in UV light. (Paper 8298-18)
  • Fraunhofer Institute and Ulm Univ. present multi-aperture camera approach allowing digital focusing and refocusing from 4mm to infinity after the image was taken. (Paper 8299-6)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Image Sensors at IEDM 2011

IEDM 2011 promises to be quite rich on image sensor content. Session 8 program includes 7 image sensors presentation vs the last year's five. All the leaders - Sony, TSMC, Omnivision, Panasonic, Samsung, and others, are there and presenting.

Some notable achievements:

TSMC and Ominivision are going to demo their 0.9um pixel quality
Panasonic is reporting 72% QE in its 1.4um FSI pixel - better than BSI

The presentation list:

8.1 A Novel “FLAT” Device Structure for High Quality CMOS Image Sensors
K. Itonaga, K. Mizuta, T. Kataoka, M. Yanagita, H. Ikeda, H. Ishiwata, Y. Tanaka, T. Wakano, Y. Matoba, T. Oishi, R. Yamamoto, S. Arakawa, J. Komachi, M. Katsumata, S. Watanabe, S. Saito, T. Haruta, S. Matsumoto, K. Ohno, T. Ezaki, T. Nagano and T. Hirayama, Sony

We have developed the flat device structure with no isolation grooves / ridges and no Si substrate etching in the imaging area of the CMOS Image Sensor. We successfully fabricated a high quality 1.12um pixel pitch CIS, achieving both high Qs under low dark current and low random noise.

8.2 High Performance 300mm Backside Illumination Technology for Continuous Pixel Shrinkage
D.N. Yaung, B.C. Hsieh, C.C.Wang, J.C. Liu, T.J. Wang, W.D. Wang, C.C. Chuang, C. Chao, Y.L. Tu, C.S.Tsai, T.L. Hsu, F. Ramberg, W.P. Mo, H. Rhodes*, D. Tai*, V.C. Venezia*, S.G. Wuu, TSMC, OmniVision*

In order to reap the full advantages of BSI structures, it is very crucial to well control BSI process, particularly for small pixel size (<0.9um). In addition, as pixel transistors shrink with pixel scaling, an undesirable RTS could dominate noise and degrade CMOS sensor quality, which can be improved by BSI process. In this paper, we exhibit the progress of 300mm BSI process and a methodology to reduce RTS noise. Finally, a high quality 0.9um BSI pixel is demonstrated.

8.3 A 1.4╬╝m Front-side Illuminated Image Sensor with Novel Light Guiding Structure Consisting of Stacked Lightpipes
H. Watanabe, J. Hirai, M. Katsuno, K. Tachikawa, S. Tsuji, M. Kataoka, S. Kawagishi, H. Kubo, H. Yano, S. Suzuki, G. Okazaki, K. Yamamoto, H. Fujinaka, T. Fujioka, M. Suzuki, Panasonic

A frontside illuminated image sensor with novel light guiding structures consisting of stacked lightpipes has been developed using 45nm Cu processing on 300 mm wafers. We demonstrated a high quantum efficiency of 72% and maximum incident angle of 40°, which exceeds the performance of backside illuminated image sensors

8.4 Investigation of Dark Current Random Telegraph Signal in Pinned Photodiode CMOS Image Sensors
V. Goiffon, C. Virmontois, P. Magnan, ISAE

The characteristics of Dark Current Random Telegraph Signal (DC-RTS) in pinned photodiode are investigated thanks to a dedicated analysis tool. Our results demonstrate, for the first time in pinned photodiode CIS, that this DC-RTS is due to meta-stable oxide interface SRH generation centers located in the transfer gate depletion region.

8.5 A CMOS Compatible Ge-on-Si APD Operating in Proportional and Geiger Modes at Infrared Wavelengths
A. Sammak, M. Aminian*, L. Qi, W.D. de Boer, E. Charbon, L.K. Nanver, University of Delft, *EPFL

A family of CMOS compatible Ge-on-Si APDs operating both in Geiger and proportional mode is proposed. The APDs exhibit the lowest reported dark current and amongst the smallest geometries. Low defect density n-Ge is grown on Si using a special CVD technique and a nm-thin Ga+B layer deposited for ultrashallow p+doping. The APDs have a good sensitivity in near infrared wavelengths and moderate DCR.

8.6 Enhanced Angle Sensitive Pixels for Light Field Imaging
S. Sivaramakrishnan, A. Wang, P.R. Gill, A. Molnar, Cornell University

Previously demonstrated Angle Sensitive Pixels (ASPs) for integrated digital light-field imaging suffer from poor pixel quantum efficiency and large sensor size. This work demonstrates an ASP device that uses phase gratings and a pair of interleaved diodes to double pixel density and improve quantum efficiency by a factor of 4.

8.7 A 192X108 Pixel ToF-3D Image Sensor with Single-tap Concentric-gate Demodulation Pixels in 0.13 um Technology
T.-Y. Lee, Y. Lee, D.-K. Min, S. Lee, W. Kim, S. Kim, J.-K. Jung, I. Ovsiannikov, Y.-G. Jin, Y. Park, E. R. Fossum, C. Chung, Samsung

A single-tap concentric photogate pixel of 28 um pitch is developed for application in ToF-3D image sensor. Image sensor formed with the 198X108 pixel array exhibits demodulation contrast higher than 50% and distance error less than 1%, over 1 to 7 m range, with 20MHz modulation of 850 nm LED.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Brigates Published Datasheet of Smallest Pixel Sensor with Global Shutter

Kunshan, China-based company Brigates (Rui Xin in Chinese) published datasheet of what appears to be the world's smallest pixel sensor having global shutter, the BG0316. The 3.2um pixel VGA sensor has 120fps speed and offers 40dB SNR and 65dB DR.

The company information form its web site in automatic Google translation:

"Sharp Microelectronics Co., Ltd. Kunshan core returned by the three PhD students in February 2008, Overseas Students Pioneer Park, Kunshan Development Zone set up. In just three years history, nine have been successfully developed CMOS image sensor chip, including the world's first high-speed infrared three-dimensional image sensor chip; China's first five-pixel image sensor chip high-speed parallel; the first 2008 models with 130-nanometer manufacturing process designed image sensor chip. As of the end of 2010, has been successfully industrialized 5 chip, the cumulative sales of more than 10 million pieces, CMOS image sensors in consumer chip market to establish a place to develop a stable customer base.

Kunshan sharp core of the nation's largest online supplier of sporting goods online i-Dong Taishan somatosensory ordered a man-machine interactive gaming chips in 2010, the product has been assigned to the National Olympic Park and the Shanghai World Expo Park, the major domestic and international media including Reuters Agency, CCTV 1 set, 2 sets of this program are a wide range of product coverage and improved business visibility and market reputation. 2011, recently introduced a new generation of consumer image sensor chip on a global scale the highest price.

The company has applied for 44 patents (14 authorized), five utility model patents (authorized 4), 12 integrated circuit layout protection, and two software copyrights.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Samsung Alters Buffer Pixels to Improve Dark Rows/Columns Performance

Samsung patent application US20110205405 proposes an improvement of dark columns and rows ability to withstand a bright local spots in active area close to them. The dark columns/rows themselves can be effectively shielded from the light by metals. However, if there is a very bright spot in the active array next to the dark rows or columns, the charge can bloom into the dark area and distort the dark signal. To somewhat alleviate this, Samsung proposes to connect TG and RST gates of the few buffer pixels on the border between active and dark pixel area to VDD:

The idea is quite simple and straightforward and can be effective, to a degree. However, I did not see it patented anywhere. As an improvement of it I would couple FD directly to VDD too, in addition to TG.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

MIPI Dominance Growing

As Synopsys posts, IPNest predicts MIPI sales growing on all markets:

In application processors category the dominance of MIPI is quite evident:

Via Eric Esteve's post in LinkedIn group.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Intellectual Ventures LLC Sues Canon over Imaging Patents Intellectual Ventures LLC. (IV for short) sues Canon over infringement of imaging patents it has acquired from different companies. 4 out of 9 patents mentioned in the lawsuit are directly related to image sensors. Two of them were originally granted to Motorola, one - to Hynix and one CCD patent - to LG Semi (Hynix acquired LG Semiconductor in 1999, so it was bought from Hynix probably). The patents are:

6,023,081: “Semiconductor image sensor” by Drowley et. al. and assigned to Motorola, Inc. Filed 11/14/1997 & Granted 2/8/2000.

6,221,686: “Method of making a semiconductor image sensor” by Drowley et. al. and assigned to Motorola, Inc.. Filed 1/28/2000 & Granted 4/24/2001.

6,979,587: “Image sensor and method for fabricating the same” by Lee and assigned to Hynix Semiconductor Inc. Filed 12/30/2002 & Granted 12/27/2005.

5,844,264: “Charge-coupled device image sensor” by Shinji and assigned to LG Semicon Co., Ltd. Filed 9/19/1995 & Granted 12/1/1998.

IV founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold used to be Microsoft's CTO and chief strategist. In the lawsuit docs IV says it has purchased more that 35,000 intellectual assets and paid more than $400M to individual inventors. IV, in its turn, has earned more than $2B by licensing these patents to other companies. IV also claims to develop its own inventions, has a staff of scientists and engineers and collaborates with research institutions around the world.

An opposite view on IV and its business is presented in This American Life podcast. "NPR reporter Laura Sydell and This American Life producer/Planet Money co-host Alex Blumberg tell the story of Intellectual Ventures, which is accused of being the largest of the patent trolls. The investigation takes them to a small town in Texas, where they find a hallway full of empty companies with no employees."

Thanks to EF for sending me the link!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Open Access Books

Croatian open access publishing house InTechOpen made few interesting books available for download:

"Photodiodes - World Activities in 2011" edited by Jeong-Woo Park and has few chapters on CMOS imaging:

Another book "Photodiodes - Communications, Bio-Sensings, Measurements and High-Energy Physics", edited by Jin-Wei Shi, mostly talks about applications and has few chapters on imaging too.

Canon Huge CMOS Sensor Installed in Telescope

Canon announced that a large high-sensitivity CMOS sensor developed by the company last year has enabled the 60fps video recording across a wide 3.3deg x 3.3deg field of view of meteors with an equivalent apparent magnitude of 10 (The brighter the celestial body appears, the lower the value of its apparent magnitude. The darkest star visible to the naked eye has an apparent magnitude of approximately 6). The sensor's chip size measuring 202 x 205 mm is said to be the world's largest surface area for a CMOS sensor and among the largest that can be produced from 300-mm wafer. The device is approximately 40 times the size of Canon's 35mm commercial CMOS sensor and makes possible video recording in dark conditions with as little as 0.3 lux of illumination.

In January this year, the CMOS sensor was installed on the focal plane of 105 cm Schmidt telescope at the University of Tokyo's Kiso Observatory, Institute of Astronomy, School of Science (Kiso-gun, Nagano prefecture).

The large high-sensitivity CMOS sensor (left)
alongside a 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor

The Kiso Observatory observation dome photographed with
 the large CMOS sensor amid illumination of 0.1-0.3 lux

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

e-Vision Develops Liquid Crystal AF for Camera Phones

e-Vision is seeking for companies interested in evaluating its new liquid crystal-based auto-focus technology. The company has published in Linked-In groups that it's seeking a suitable partner who would be interested in cooperating on a Joint Development project together to produce a final production-ready auto-focus lens design within 6 months, and would be based on reasonable engineering milestone payments. An Auto-Focus demo.already currently exists. In addition, the basic technology can also be applied to many other areas including Zoom, Image Stablization, Beam Steering, etc. as next generation products.

e-Vision site has animated demo of how its proposed lens works in comparison with a regular AF lens (click on picture to see the animation):

PMD Bundles its ToF Camera with Omek Interactive Software

PMD Technologies announced that as part of a its CamCube Bundle purchase, users are entitled to a complimentary copy of the Omek Beckon Development Suite, especially optimized for the CamCube 3.0. The bundle enables developers to incorporate applications and solutions with gesture-based interfaces across a wide variety of target platforms, including interactive digital signage, multimedia, robotics, security & surveillance, medical devices and more.

The CamCube 3.0 is said to be the highest resolution all-solid-state 3D TOF camera available. The PMD technology has been used in mass production since 2005. The high sensitivity and improved pixel performance of the new PhotonICs PMD 41k-S2 lead to precise depth accuracy even at high distances and high 3D frame rates.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Micron and Others to Sell and Support Kodak Sensors on Local Markets

I got this Kodak PR by email. No regular PR sources seem to publish that as of yet. The PR itself is quite long, here are few quotes:

"ROCHESTER, N.Y., September 13, 2011 – Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE:EK) has expanded the sales and support options available to customers of its image sensor products by providing additional in-country, in-language support in key markets around the globe.

Kodak’s existing sales and application support team for image sensors has been enhanced with a network of distribution partners and representatives authorized to work directly with customers on the evaluation, purchase, and integration of KODAK Image Sensor products. Each of these partners has received training on Kodak’s full image sensor portfolio, and can work directly with camera manufacturers to help identify and source the most appropriate device for their application."

"Kodak provides direct customer support for this portfolio through Sales and Application Engineering teams located in North America, Europe, China, Korea, and Japan. This direct support has now been enhanced through the addition of a team of authorized distribution partners around the globe:

  • BalaJi MicroTechnologies ( in India
  • Micron, Inc. ( in Japan
  • Neva Electronica JSC ( in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan
  • Pangaea (HK) Ltd. ( in China
  • Regulus Technologies Co., Ltd. ( in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia.

The range of services offered by these partners vary from region to region and are designed to enhance the existing Kodak support present in each local market. Many of these distribution partners, for example, maintain a local inventory of KODAK Image Sensor products to reduce local lead times and allow camera manufacturers to purchase devices using local currency. Technical support options range from assistance with sensor selection and evaluation through full camera design services and support. And many of these partners provide “one stop shopping” for a number of different camera components (including lenses specifically matched for use with Kodak sensors), simplifying the development of a full camera system."

Update: MA sent me a clarification on Micron Inc. mentioned in the PR:

"I just wanted to point out what may be a misunderstanding in the blog posting entitled “Micron and Others to Sell and Support Kodak Sensors on Local Markets” from today. The Micron listed in the blog is not in fact the same Micron from which Aptina was spawned. If one clicks the link you posted for Micron, Inc. in the blog this becomes clear. Apparently they are a distributor with a similar name. I thought this may be confusing and wanted to clarify with you. I suspect that this PR would be a more newsworthy if it was in fact the Micron we know and love that had betrayed us and started distributing Kodak sensors! Just want to make sure no one gets the wrong impression."

Meanwhile, the full text of Kodak PR has been published by Electronic Products.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Melexis Uses Softkinetic ToF Camera for Collision Avoidance System

Melexis introduces its range-sensing technology licensed from SoftKinetic and optimized for automotive collision avoidance system. The solution will be demonstrated at the International Motor Show on Sept. 15-25, 2011 in Frankfurt, Germany. The ToF technology adaptation and development have been the result of a previously announced close cooperation between SoftKinetic-Optrima and Melexis.

The cost-effective and robust solution detects and avoids collisions with obstacles around the vehicle. The ToF sensor is made by SoftKinetic and uses DepthSense technology described as a Current Assisted Photonic Demodulator (CAPD). The principal advantage of DepthSense compared to other range sensor technologies is said to be the combination of high sensitivity and low noise.

Wired published a little bit outdated interview with Softkinetic's CEO Michel Tombroff accompanied with a nice Youtube video:

Friday, September 09, 2011

Swiss Image and Vision Sensors Review

Albert Theuwissen published a review of Swiss Image and Vision Sensors Workshop, held on Sept 8, 2011 in ETH, Zurich, Switzerland. Albert's conclusion: the workshop was a good overview of the imaging state-of-the-art in Switzerland, no groundbreaking technologies or ideas were disclosed, good atmosphere!

Update: As Christian Lotto wrote in comments, the workshop's presentations are available on-line.


New Imaging Technologies starts sampling its NSC1101, the HDR Read Out IC (ROIC). The NSC1101 is designed to interface with photodiode array through flip chip bonding. NSC1101 is of VGA format (640x512 pixels), it has a pitch of 15um and can accept any PDA with p-on-n or n-on-p. Due to its Native Wide Dynamic Range of more than 120 dB the sensor does not require any setting or exposure time control. NSC1101 can be used with all infrared sensing materials such as InSb, InGaAs or HgCdTe and can operate at cryogenic temperature of 80K. Other photo sensing materials such as AsGa for THz or XRay detection have been already sucessfully used.

NSC1101 is a sampling stage and can be ordered from NIT in a 8" wafer form.

Image from NSC1101 coupled to an InGaAs photodiode array
Shown without uniformity corrections.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Sony 4K Digital Cinema Sensor Better Than Film

Sony F65 camera brochure (or web version of it) mainly talks about its sensor innovations: "The F65 exceeds the resolution of any previous digital motion picture camera (as of August 2011), the result of a remarkable Sony Super 35 image sensor".

Sony states: "Through all the decades, our design goal has always been to match the photographic quality of 35mm film. But now we’re setting our sights even higher: to surpass the limits of human vision. The F65 image sensor is the first of this new breed".

"The 20 million photosites of the F65 deliver a powerful imaging advantage. The difference is “supersampling”:

Regarding the extended 14-stops DR: "Thanks to Sony CMOS advances, the F65 empowers the cinematographer with prodigious exposure latitude, high sensitivity and extremely low noise":

About color gamut: "Many HD cameras are limited to the Rec.709 color space. While this produces broadcast-legal color for television productions, it still falls short of motion picture film. The Sony F65 transcends this limitation. The camera features a new Color Filter Array on the sensor, along with a 3D lookup table (LUT) and proprietary color management systems. In this way, the F65 can shoot in either Rec.709 or F65 Gamut, which actually exceeds the SMPTE specification for color negative film in every direction":

And the last: "the F65 provides over- and undercranking at frame rates of 1 to 60 frames per second (4Kx2K resolution), and up to 120 frames per second (4Kx1K resolution)".

poLight Partners with SVTC on Commercialization of its Lens

poLight has entered a partnership agreement with SVTC Technologies on optimized production process in order to meet large volume customer demand. Access to SVTC’s 95,000 square feet of IP-secure, 24/7 cleanroom and multi-disciplined engineering team will enable poLight to accelerate the commercialization of its next generation TLens technology. SVTC’s Technology Development Process and commercialization expertise will enable poLight to demonstrate a production ready process and successfully transfer to a larger volume MEMS manufacturer.

Wafer Bonding News

PR Newswire: EV Group (EVG) announced that it is launching a new flagship model in its field-proven GEMINI FB fusion wafer bonding family that increases system throughput to up to 20 wafers per hour (up to 14 wafers per hour as stated on EVG site). The upgrade includes enhanced automation capabilities to enable customers to achieve higher levels of manufacturing efficiency for such applications as BSI image sensors and 3D integration of CMOS image sensors.

EVG's GEMINI FB system is designed for integrated and automated wafer loading, alignment, bonding and unloading of bonded wafers up to 300 mm in diameter. "We continually focus on innovating our product lines with enhancements such as this latest extension to our flagship GEMINI FB platform—the industry's first field-proven 300-mm fusion wafer bonding system readily available," says Paul Lindner, executive technology director for EVG. The company reports that it has already received orders from major integrated device manufacturers for the upgraded platform, with deliveries slated for the end of this calendar year.

EVG Gemini FB

ElectoIQ: Phil Garrou posted a short review of Sony licensing Ziptronix wafer bonding technology together with the history of Ziptronix' lawsuits.

And relatively recent Ziptronix' Youtube video:

Update Jan 17, 2012: Another Ziptronix video has been posted emphasizing Sony design win in iPhone 4S.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Single-Photon Imaging Book

Albert Theuwissen announced the new book “Single-Photon Imaging” published by Springer (ISBN 978-3-642-18442-0). The book talks about a broad range of technologies minimizing sensors noise level to the single electrons level. The editors Albert Theuwissen and Peter Seitz managed to assemble a team of world's experts to write the chapters for the book:
  1. Fundamentals of Noise in Optoelectronics
    Peter Seitz
  2. Image Sensor Technology
    R. Daniel McGrath
  3. Hybrid Avalanche Photodiode Array Imaging
    Hiroaki Aihara
  4. Electron Bombarded Semiconductor Image Sensors
    Verle Aebi and Kenneth Costello
  5. Single-Photon Imaging Using ElectronMultiplication in Vacuum
    Gert Nutzel
  6. Electron-Multiplying Charge Coupled Devices – EMCCDs
    Mark Stanford Robbins
  7. Monolithic Single-Photon Avalanche Diodes: SPADs
    Edoardo Charbon and Matthew W. Fishburn
  8. Single Photon CMOS Imaging Through Noise Minimization
    Boyd Fowler
  9. Architectures for Low-noise CMOS Electronic Imaging
    Shoji Kawahito
  10. Low-Noise Electronic Imaging with Double-Gate FETs and Charge-Modulation Devices
    Yoshiyuki Matsunaga
  11. Energy-Sensitive Single-Photon X-ray and Particle Imaging
    Christian Lotto
  12. Single-Photon Detectors for Time-of-Flight Range Imaging
    David Stoppa and Andrea Simoni
  13. Single-Photon Imaging for Astronomy and Aerospace Applications
    Pierre Magnan
  14. Exploiting Molecular Biology by Time-Resolved Fluorescence Imaging
    Francis Muller and Christof Fattinger
Springer allows to read the book on-line (with some limitations, I guess).

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Sony Image Sensor Business Presentation

Sony published a set of Image Sensor Business presentations from Semiconductor Business Meeting on Aug 30, 2011:

Part 1 by President of Semiconductor Business Group, Deputy President of Professional, EVP, Corporate Executive Tadashi Saito

Part 2 by Senior GM of Image Sensor Business Division, Semiconductor Business Group, SVP, Corporate Executive Yasuhiro Ueda

A total 32 slides cover a lot of material. Below is a subset reflecting the company views, priorities and aims on the image sensor market:

The presentations start with a bold statement:

Sony view on image sensor market, both by units and by value:

Sony market share on various markets, according to the company:

And now about Sony key competitive technologies:

"Super Reality" becomes a keyword:

More slides talk about "Super Reality" extended DR and blurring the background (ommited). Sony RGB-W color filter provides better video and stills quality than competitors:

Sony defends resolution advance due to smaller pixel size:

Sony production base gets stronger (end of FY2011 is March 30, 2012). Interesting side note is that a good part of Sony sensors is in fact manufactured by third parties:

And the market forecast: Sony predicts that 12MP+ sensors will take the center stage in camera phones in 2015:

Friday, September 02, 2011

Samsung vs ST Color Filter Ideas

Samsung patent application US20110205410 proposes to etch holes in dielectric above each photodiode and place color filters inside the holes to reduce optical stack height. "The interlayer insulating layers defines an opening located on an upper portion of the photoelectric conversion device. A color filter is disposed in the opening, and a planarization layer fills the opening on the color filter. The planarization layer has a refractive index which is greater than an average refractive index of the interlayer insulating layers:"

This sounds to me quite similar to what ST is doing in its image sensors, as revealed by Chipworks:

Samsung application claims priority from Feb. 19, 2010. Given Chipworks found ST sensor in the product on the market already, I'd guess ST work has started well before Samsung's filing date.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Sony Licenses Ziptronix Patents for BSI Wafer Bonding

Ziptronix has signed a licensing agreement with Sony for the use of Ziptronix’s patents regarding oxide bonding technology for BSI sensors. “We believe that Ziptronix’s patented oxide bonding technology, called ZiBond, enables the industry’s lowest distortion for imaging systems utilizing backside illumination” said Dan Donabedian, CEO of Ziptronix, Inc. “The result is that pixels can be scaled smaller, resulting in more die per wafer. Users of ZiBond technology benefit because yields are dramatically improved and production costs reduced.

Our patented bonding technology revolutionizes how light is received in imaging sensors. This is critically important for backside illumination applications,” said Donabedian. “The market for image sensing products is expected to exceed $16 billion cumulative over the next four years. Because ours is an innovative, enabling technology, I expect Ziptronix to play a leadership role in the backside illumination space as well as several other developing markets.

No Sony comment is quoted in the PR.

Update: EETimes publishes an article on Ziptronix licensing deals.

The proprietary ZiBond process was a breakthrough in that using a very thin layer of dielectric facilitated direct bonding of multiple materials in previously impossible combinations, according to Ziptronix. Ziptronix has received approximately $45 million in investments from three sources: Intersouth, Grotech; and RTI International, a independent-nonprofit R&D organization.