Saturday, October 08, 2011

What Does it Take to Build an Image Sensor Company: CMOSIS Story

Imaging and Machine Vision Europe published article on CMOSIS history "Superb in CMOS". Here are the milestones:

  • Cmosis was created in November 2007 by five former employees of FillFactory, which had been sold to Cypress. The funding came from the founders, with assistance from a VC fund, totaling €1m of seed money, which is said to cover the first 18 months of development.
  • In the first year, Cmosis set itself two goals: firstly, to check that the market still had need of the specific branch of CMOS technology in which they were all experts. Secondly, the team needed to develop its new IP, which had to be tested in hardware operation, and subsequently patented, while not infringing any third party’s (including FillFactory’s) IP.
  • At the end of that first year, Cmosis had filed two patents: 8T fully pipelined global shutter pixel and fast column-level ADC
  • During that first year, Cmosis also worked on its first custom design contract. This had the benefit of generating revenue at an earlier stage than perhaps Cmosis was expecting.
  • An intermediate round in 2008, with the same investors, brought another €1m.
  • With IP developed and a custom design contract in hand, the team was able to pursue another round of financing in August 2009, this time for a further €3m, with the help of a bank and some government supported investment funds. The money were used to move to larger offices, install a cleanroom, buy a wafer probing station. The company also invested in its infrastructure and expanded its team.
  • First standard image sensor products for the machine vision market – the 2.2MP/340fps CMV 2000 and 4.2MP/180fps 4000, launched at the Stuttgart Vision show in Nov 2009.
  • Leading names in the machine vision industry have adopted the sensors for their camera ranges, including Basler, Point Grey Research, IO Industries and Adimec.
  • Sept. 2011, Cmosis has 35 employees based at its headquarters in Antwerp, Belgium.
  • Future plans include the launch of a new product at the Vision show later this year, aimed at the lower end of the market.
Funding in 2009 allowed the company to invest in
cleanroom facilities and a wafer prober for wafer testing


  1. The man in the picture is holding a 12" wafer - where can a fabless company get access to this? The sensor seems to be pretty large as well; CMOSIS CMV12000?

  2. Cypress is the biggest loser in this history. Who will be the next loser?

  3. @ "The man in the picture is holding a 12" wafer - where can a fabless company get access to this?"

    I'd guess it's ST wafer. Both ST and CMOSIS take part in European research projects, it would be natural for them to cooperate.

  4. Omnivision uses 12 wafers for years, it's fabless company too.

  5. Well done CMOSIS!

  6. Can you write an article on how to dissolve an image sensor company by using Micron to Aptina example?

  7. I'm going to publish Aptina's financial data in the coming days. It's not that bad like you question might imply.

  8. I was asked to refrain from publishing Aptina's numbers, even though I think they are way better than most people guess. Anyway, the numbers I can publish are:

    - Aptina had revenue of $570 million in FY’11

    - Aptina experienced 8% YoY growth in FY’11

    - Aptina has more than 800 employees

    Not dissolving company at all.

  9. I thought this was going to be a do-it at home guide? How do I build my own 41 megapixel image sensor and hook it to some Adruino board? I ain't forking out $500 on that pureview Nokia.


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