Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blue Filters in Short Supply

Korea IT News, Digitimes report that so called "blue filters" used in high-resolution BSI camera modules are in short supply. The "blue filters" are made of IR-absorbing material that can keep its IR stopping efficiency in wide acceptance angle typical for modern BSI sensors. Older FSI-based modules used multi-layer IR cut filters which are more sensitive to the angle. Korean makers OPTRONTEC, OPTRONTECH, Nanos and LMS have entered the market dominated by Japanese Asahi Glass and German Schott and drive the prices down.

Samsung Securities report gives more examples of BSI sensor artifacts when used with older IR cut filters:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Experiment: Pinned PD Paper Peer Review

Eric Fossum and Donald Hondongwa submitted Pinned Photodiode review paper for publication in open-access IEEE Journal of Electron Devices Society, J-EDS.

The experiment is to publish a draft version of the review paper and solicit input – especially on things that ought to be referenced or discussed – in order to create the best possible review paper for our community. A list of references is quite extensive and currently counts 102 items. Here is the link to the draft version:

"A Review of the Pinned Photodiode for CCD and CMOS Image Sensors"

Abstract: The pinned photodiode is the primary photodetector structure used in most CCD and CMOS image sensors. This paper reviews the development, physics, and technology of the pinned photodiode.

Hamamatsu Presents 90,000-Pixel SPAD Imager, More

Hamamatsu News 2013, Vol. 2 presents a number of multi-pixel SPAD devices, or as the company calls them, Multi-Pixel Photon Counters (MPPC) with pixel sizes spanning from 10um to 100um:

The 400-pixel S12576-050 and 3600-pixel S12577-050 MPPCs include Peltier cooling element in quite a compact package:

The S12572-010C boasts resolution of 90,000 pixels on a 3mm x 3mm die, with pixel pitch of 10um. Impressive resolution and pixel size for a photon counter:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Vision Research Announces 1MP 22,000fps Camera

Vision Research announces the Phantom v2010. The new 1MP camera is able to capture more than 22,000fps at full resolution or 1280 x 800. The camera is based on a custom-designed image sensor having 28um pixels. The pixels are said to have 12b "bit depth", not sure what it means. The sensor has a global shutter with fastest speed of 1us (standard version) or 500ns (export-controlled version). The physical size of the sensor is 35.8mm x 22.4mm.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

More on TowerJazz-Panasonic JV

TowerJazz publishes Q&A document on its joint venture with Panasonic. One of the answers directly states that the most advanced Panasonic internal CIS processes are becoming available to TowerJazz customers on a foundry basis:

Q: What does the acquisition mean for TowerJazz customers?

A: The JV will provide TowerJazz customers with access to a 12 inch fab, enabling the company with a cutting edge technology roadmap on top of its current offering, and will include 65nm and 45nm CMOS and 65nm advanced image sensor production flows.
Furthermore, the JV is expected to increase TowerJazz’s technology portfolio by providing multiple additional specialty flows, including Panasonic’s High Definition FSI – a world famous CIS benchmark technology for high quantum efficiency, its world class low dark current CIS technology, and its high voltage SOI based power management technologies.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sony Announces Low Power 16MP Sensor

Sony announces 16.35MP/10fps, 1.34um BSI pixel IMX206CQC/HQC sensor with main differentiation being the smaller package and the lower power than its predecessor:

Package Size Comparison
Power Consumption Comparison

Galaxycore Controls 60-70% of CIS Market in China

Digitimes reports that Galaxycore has a 60-70% market share on Chinese image sensor market and now plans to diversify into LCD driver ICs.

Meanwhile, Galaxycore web site presents its first 1.4um BSI pixel sensor - the 5MP 1/4-inch GC5004:

Friday, December 20, 2013

CMOSIS Company Presentation

CMOSIS publishes a Youtube video presenting the company capabilities:

Toshiba to Start Sampling 3D Stereo Module in January 2014

Business Wire: Toshiba starts sample shipments of the previously announced TCM9518MD stereo camera module for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, on January 31, 2014. The new product is said to be the industry's first dual camera module to incorporate twin 1/4-inch 5MP sensors, which simultaneously outputs recorded images and depth data.

The depth data is calculated by a dedicated image processing LSI which measures and appends the depth data to objects in the image. Used in combination with customers' applications, the module supports new photo functions, including focus and defocus, and even allows objects in photographs to be extracted and erased. The image processing LSI generates 13MP images by upscaling images taken by the twin 5MP cameras, realizing a lower module height than that of conventional 13MP camera modules.

It's Official: TowerJazz Acquires 51% of Panasonic's Image Sensor Fabs, Including 12-inch 65nm CIS Line

Business Wire, Reuters: TowerJazz and Panasonic sign a definitive agreement to create a joint venture (JV) to manufacture Panasonic’s products. Panasonic will transfer its semiconductor manufacturing process and capacity tools of 8-inch and 12-inch wafers at its Hokuriku factories (Uozu, Tonami and Arai) to the JV, committing to acquire its products from the JV for a period of at least five years, and will transfer to TowerJazz 51% of the shares of this JV.

The JV is expected to increase TowerJazz’s technology offerings, including Panasonic's High Definition FSI technology known for high QE and low dark current. High Definition FSI is said to enable the use of FSI even for small pixels. It consists of light separation walls combined with a light pipe structure that funnels the light into the individual pixels with minimal light loss. This technology provides a high QE, and wide acceptance angles that helps in preventing shading at the periphery and improves color separation leading to true and vivid colors.

The dark current performance CIS technology is said to be one of the best in the industry, not only in the average very low values of dark currents even at elevated temperatures, but also with extremely small tail of high dark current pixels, known as hot pixels. As a result, Panasonic technology allows excellent images at low light conditions with no hot pixels in the image. This technology is well suited for high end DSLR type cameras.

Russell Ellwanger, TowerJazz CEO, commented, "We are honored to place our name side by side with Panasonic Corporation to create an innovative joint venture that provides high capacity, highest quality, multiple world leading analog platforms and, as well, 300mm advanced technology nodes. This partnership brings together two leaders – Panasonic, an acknowledged analog components and systems leader, and TowerJazz, a recognized analog foundry leader - to create a company that will serve and grow the analog foundry space as no existing single foundry company can."

For its 51% equity holding in the JV, TowerJazz will issue to Panasonic ordinary shares in the value of approximately $8M, based on TowerJazz average shares value during March 2014. As a result of holding its ordinary shares, Panasonic will become a minority stakeholder in TowerJazz. The JV balance sheet assets will include, among others, the cap-ex tools of the three fabs, cash in the amount of approximately $40M to be invested by Panasonic and work in process (inventories) manufactured at Panasonic fabs before the closing date.

Following this transaction, TowerJazz will rationalize its Japanese business, which may include fab consolidations between TowerJazz's Nishiwaki facility and the JV's facilities, and to this end, TowerJazz is evaluating potential ventures for the Nishiwaki facility. the 8-inch Nishiwaki plant has been acquired from Micron in 2011. It's used to manufacture Aptina sensors in 90nm process. Recently, Tower started to offer a foundry CIS process at Nishiwaki fab too.

Update: Panasonic has published more details on the JV fabs:

1 Giga-pixel, 0.5sq.m Sensor Launched to Space

IEEE Spectrum: ESA Gaia space observatory equipped with 106 e2v's CCDs with the total area of 0.5m x 1m and combined resolution of 1 Giga-pixel has been launched to space on a five year mission to map the galaxy.

This focal plane array has been designed and built by Astrium and will contain a mosaic of 106 large area, high performance Charged Coupled Device (CCD) CCD91-72 image sensors, which are custom designed, manufactured and tested by e2v. The CCD package is 3 sided buttable, to minimise the dead space between CCDs when they are tiled together in the mosaic. The CCDs are of BSI type, so this becomes not only the largest sensor camera, but also the largest BSI camera in space.

Hans Faulks, General Business Unit Manager for Space and Astronomy commented: "We are immensely proud and excited to finally see our image sensors embark on this mission. All the hard work, dedication and expertise that has been put into our sensors and into the mission will finally come to fruition. Our products will now play their part in history as we help increase our understanding of our universe."

Gaia CCD array assembly. Source: ESA

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DxO Labs Updates Embedded Imaging Pages

DxO Labs has updated embedded imaging pages on its web site. The pages describe the company's ISP, computational photography and services offerings. The news section announces that Motorola's Moto-X phone uses DxO Labs EIS video stabilization with jello effect compensation. A short Youtube video compares DxO's software EIS with OIS in Nokia Lumia 1020:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Omnivision and Gionee Jointly Develop 16MP Smartphone Camera

PR Newswire: OmniVision and Gionee, a smartphone manufacturer in China, have jointly developed a 16MP camera for Gionee's flagship smartphone using OmniVision's OV16825 CameraChip sensor (announced in 2012).

"OmniVision continuously strives to work with technology partners like Gionee that share our passion for innovation and exceeding consumer expectations. We're delighted to see the OV16825 built into a cutting-edge smartphone like the ELIFE E7," said Raymond Wu, president of OmniVision.

"This smartphone reflects Gionee's deep understanding of customer needs, as well as its close ties with world-class technology leaders like OmniVision, " said Lu Weibing, CEO of Gionee.

The 1/2.3-inch OV16825 is capable of operating in full-resolution 16MP video at 30fps, 4K2K (3840 x 2160) video at 60fps, and 1080p HD video at 60fps with extra pixels for EIS. The sensor is based on 1.34um OmniBSI-2 pixels. The OV16825 is currently in volume production.

e2v and UK Open University Continue Collaboration

The UK Open University’s Centre for Electronic Imaging (CEI) and e2v ongoing collaboration in image sensor technology is set to benefit from £1M sponsorship over the five years.

The sponsorship of the CEI helps support the group’s research on imaging devices for science applications such as the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia mission, to be launched this week, and ESA’s Euclid mission to probe the ‘dark’ Universe. The collaboration also actively encourages the free exchange of knowledge and ideas through regular e2v staff visits, technical workshops and the supply of devices and equipment to support the research.

Professor of Electro-Optics at The Open University, Andrew Holland, said: "The CEI has worked closely with e2v in imaging sensor research for years, and the collaboration has been instrumental in the growth of the group."

The CEI 8 PhD students, predominantly funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the e2v sponsorship on the Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (CASE) programme, work in imaging sensor research in support of future space missions and science experiments. The sponsorship also funds the training of e2v staff though continuing professional development workshops held at The Open University. This training is also offered to other space industries as part of their internal continuing professional development (CPD).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ambarella Receives GSA Favorite Analyst Semiconductor Company Award

Business Wire: Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) awards Ambarella with the award for the Favorite Analyst Semiconductor Company of 2013. Semiconductor financial analysts from top-tier firms select their favorite company based on historical as well as projected data such as stock performance, revenue growth, net profit margin, revenue forecasts and product performance.

"It is an honor to receive the GSA’s 2013 award for Favorite Analyst Semiconductor Company, our sixth GSA award," said Fermi Wang, CEO of Ambarella. "We have experienced a year of continued growth in wearable sports, video surveillance and automotive camera markets as well as strong performance in our broadcast infrastructure business. In the year ahead, we will continue to partner closely with our customers to successfully bring their innovative products to market."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Apple Applies for Sensor Cover Alignment Patent

Apple PCT application WO2013/184414 "Cover for Image Sensor Assembly with Light Absorbing Layer and Alignment Features" by Terence Tam and Jeffrey Gleason proposes package cover where "the light absorbing layer 124 includes one or more openings 126 that provide a line-of-sight view 128 of two opposing corners of the image sensor die 110 to facilitate placing the cover 120 over the upper surface 108 of the package 102 in registry with the image sensor array 112."

Friday, December 13, 2013

CSR Stops ISP Development

Reuters, The Telegraph: CSR announces that it will no longer develop new ISPs for digital cameras due to the market weakness and smartphone cameras competition. CSR has entered the camera processor market with acquisition of Zoran in 2011. Its COACH image processor line used to be popular among the major digital camera makers. The line has contributed $36M of revenue in the first nine months of the year. About 200 jobs will be eliminated by Q2 2014 as a result of the re-structuring.


TM-AFM for Microlens Topography Mapping

Chipworks continues a virtual tour in its labs. This time the company explains Tapping-Mode Atomic Force Microscopy (TM-AFM) principle and its difference from the regular AFM. This comes quite useful when profiling the microlens shape:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rumor: Sony to Release Non-Bayer Large Format 54MP Sensor in 2015

SonyAlphaRumors quotes "very trusted sources" saying that Sony develops a 54MP sensor with an integrated phase-detect AF to appear in cameras in 2015. "This sensor is also the first that has not been designed with a classic RGB (Bayer) pixel structure." It depends on the competition "whether Sony will launch the camera with the new sensor in late 2015 or during 2016."

Thanks to DM for the link!

Sony is known by its experiments with color patterns. In 2003 it added Emerald color to RGB color filter array. In 2010 Sony announced Cinealta super-35mm image sensor with non-Bayer color filter, not to talk about ClearVid 45deg-rotated Bayer pattern used in many Sony consumer and professional video cameras, and older cameras using other exotic patterns.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sony Global Shutter CMOS Sensor Features in Video

Point Grey published a nice Youtube video presenting the newly announced Sony IMX174 global shutter sensor and its spec. Point Grey appears to be the early adapter of the sensor, as it already used in its Grasshopper camera. The key specs are:
  • DR - 73dB
  • Peak QE @ 525nm - over 70%
  • Read noise - 6e-

Thanks to MJ for the link!

At ISSCC 2012, Sony presented a 5MP, 5.86um pixel sensor with global shutter that looks quite similar to IMX174 in terms of pixel technology, albeit resolution, frame rate and other parameters are not the same:

"An 83dB-dynamic-range single-exposure global-shutter CMOS image sensor with in-pixel dual storage"
by Sakakibara, M. ; Oike, Y. ; Takatsuka, T. ; Kato, A. ; Honda, K. ; Taura, T. ; Machida, T. ; Okuno, J. ; Ando, A. ; Fukuro, T. ; Asatsuma, T. ; Endo, S. ; Yamamoto, J. ; Nakano, Y. ; Kaneshige, T. ; Yamamura, I. ; Ezaki, T. ; Hirayama, T.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Ziptronix Sells its Development Lab to Tezzaron

Marketwired: Ziptronix announces an agreement with Tezzaron Semiconductor and Novati Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tezzaron, to sell its 3D IC development lab to Tezzaron, to be operated by Novati. Due to widespread adoption of direct bonding in volume manufacturing, Ziptronix no longer has to dedicate its resources to supporting a lab for commercialization of its patented ZiBond and DBI technologies. The deal includes a strategic agreement with Tezzaron that provides Ziptronix's lab customers continued access to the facility.

Triange Business Journal adds that Novati takes over 11 Ziptronix employees. The six remaining Ziptronix staffers moved from the lab with the headquarters in Raleigh, NC. Ziptronix's work will still be conducted at the facility as part of the deal. The 11 employees will continue "to do what they always did, but they’re working for Novati."

"ZiBond has been in high-volume manufacturing for several years now and DBI is well on its way into production," said Dan Donabedian, CEO of Ziptronix. "Quite simply, as the market is now convinced of the value of our technology, our needs have shifted. As we look to accelerate 3D integration, our focus is increasingly on addressing the needs of the maturing and emerging markets that are adopting our technology via licensing."

Ziptronix's DBI (Direct Bond Interconnect) is said to achieve over 100,000,000 electrical connections per square centimeter; a significant increase over the ~100,000 connections per square centimeter density achieved with through-die vias used in other 3D interconnect approaches. DBI is said to be considered by several manufacturers of next generation image sensors to directly connect control electronics and memory to the pixel sensing layer. This can enable direct control of the individual pixel with extremely short connections.

THine Announces 16MP ISP

Business Wire: Tokyo, Japan-based THine announces a superior cost-performance ISP THP7312 supporting up to 16MP cameras, such as smartphones, in-vehicle cameras, drive recorders, security cameras, network cameras, and sports cameras. "It can generate superior quality images for each CMOS image sensor, since THine has collaborated with major sensor makers."

THP7312 offers video image stabilizer function, HDR in full HD video and stills modes and simultaneous capturing of still images and movie images. Because of no need of internal frame memories, THP7312 is suitable for battery-operated handsets, realizing small size, lower power consumption, and higher speed.

THP7312 supports not only RGB but also IR. This new feature enables to offer additional performance for such applications as health-care or beauty-care application for smartphones, drive recorders in night scene, or security cameras that require gesture or pattern recognition under insufficient light. THine offers an auto-defogging image function for drive recorders to read and save front vehicles’ number plate more clearly in PM2.5 or fogging environment.

THine will deliver the samples from December 2013, with mass production starting in Q2, 2014.

PMD Announces nimble UX Gesture Middleware

PMD announces nimble UX - its first gesture recognition middleware solution in combination with the CamBoard pico. nimble UX is a developer package for OEMs and ODMs for consumer, automotive and industrial use cases. It includes:
  • pmd depth sensing camera (which is the CamBoard pico for now but can also be a mass market OEM module in the future)
  • nimble pmd - gesture middleware (SDK) which the customer can use to implement his own gesture controlled application. There are predefined gestures available and customized gestures can be defined based on the SDK.
  • nimble dashboard - an implementaton of Windows 8 gesture control, based on the nimble pmd gesture middleware.
The advantages of nimble UX over competitive solutions are:
  • it delivers a full 3D hand model, not just fingertips or orientation.
  • it enables convenient interaction with a user´s arms comfortably resting on the desk. The user is not required to lift the complete arm to start interacting. This lowers the switching cost between standard interaction and touchless interaction.
  • can handle self occlusions of hands/fingers
nimble UX development kits will be available in limited quantities upon request, starting in January 2014 (after CES 2014). A Youtube video shows nimble UX capabilities:

Friday, December 06, 2013

Full Well Capacity Measurements & Interpretations

Albert Theuwissen continues his series of posts "How to Measure Full Well Capacity". The recent post discusses various discrepancies, such as why a full well from linearity measurements can differ from the one derived from variance measurements.

Ambarella Sales, Profits Rise

Gobenewswire: Ambarella announces its quarterly results. Revenue for the quarter was $46.0M, up 29% from $35.7M a year ago. For the nine months ended October 31, 2013, revenue was $117.6M, up 31% from $89.5M for the nine months ended October 31, 2012. GAAP gross margin was 63.7%, compared with 64.5% for the same period a year ago. Cash and cash equivalents at the end of the quarter were $128.1M.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Determine Sensor Format from Web-Sized Picture

Reddit user Mike Cialowicz runs an interesting experiment: can you guess the image sensor format of a web-sized picture by looking at it? Over the last 13 hours the results are not that far from 50-50:

Hynix Samples 1.12um BSI Sensors

Hynix image sensor catalog for Q4'13 lists three sensors with 1.4um and 1.12um BSI pixels as sampling:

Image Sensors 2014 Conference Agenda Finalized

Image Sensors 2014 to be held on March 18-20, 2014 in London, UK has published a final program:

The Future of CMOS Imaging
Howard Rhodes, CTO, Omnivision

The Megapixel Story - a decade to 2014 and beyond
Juha Alakarhu, Head of Imaging Technology at Nokia, Finland

Post-capture image manipulation and colour management
Sylvain Paris, Researcher - Advanced Technology Labs, Adobe, US

Extremely low crosstalk and high SNR technology in small size pixel CMOS image sensor
JunChak Ahn, Principal Engineer, Samsung, Korea

Evolution of 3D integration for CMOS image sensors
Lindsay Grant, Imaging Division Process Manager, ST Microelectronics, UK

What can the foundry contribute to advanced image sensor design and manufacture?
Guenther Ernst, CEO, L-Foundry Germany

What do consumers really want from gesture control, and what are the technology routes to getting there?
Jochen Penne, Director BU Consumer & New Technologies, PMD Technologies, Germany

Evaluating the feasibility of gesture control technologies and integration into consumer applications
Ravi Ayyagari, General Manager (Imaging), Texas Instruments, India

2D solutions for gesture recognition
Speaker TBC

Evaluation of different global shutter image sensor technologies
Dr Manuel Innocent, Design Engineer, ON Semiconductor, Belgium

Developments in voltage domain global shutter technologies and wider trends
Guy Meynants, CTO, CMOSIS, Belgium

Innovation in charge domain global shutter technologies
Shoji Kawahito, Professor, Brookman Technology / Shizuoka University, Japan

Overview of imaging in automotive - history and current state of play
Patrick Denny, Senior Research Engineer, Valeo Systems, Ireland

OEM perspective #1 - drivers for adoption of imaging systems in mainstream automotive applications
Martin Edney, Lead System Engineer, Jaguar Land Rover, UK

Tier 1 perspective - supply chain challenges, balancing end user needs with technology capabilities
Hamma Tadjine, Technical Consultant, VW / Senior Project Manager, IAV, Germany

Sensor producer perspective - specific developments requirements for automotive, challenges
Speaker TBC

OEM perspective #2 - future requirements and trends for automotive imaging
Speaker TBC

The future of high-speed imaging - technology, applications and challenges
Takeharu Etoh, Ritsumeikan University, Japan

Progress with artificial retina technology and applications
Professor Jun Ohta, Professor at Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

Latest developments for plastic electronics in image sensor applications
Laurent Jamet, Co-Founder, Business Development, ISORG, France

Backside illuminated imagers, embedded CCD in CMOS based imagers and hyperspectral imagers
Piet De Moor, Program Manager for Optical Sensors, IMEC, Belgium

Future requirements in broadcast imaging
Richard Salmon, Lead Research Engineer, BBC Research & Development, UK

More pixels or more than pixels? The future of semiconductor photosensing
Peter Seitz, Managing Director, Hamamatsu Photonics Innovation Center Europe, Switzerland

There are also two workshops on the first day:

A Million Images per Second and Beyond
Renato Turchetta, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
plus guest speakers.

What on earth shall I do with all these pixels?
Albert Theuwissen, Harvest Imaging

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

TA Associates to Acquire CMOSIS

Business Wire: TA Associates, a global growth private equity firm, has agreed to acquire CMOSIS. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. CMOSIS employs over 60 people and is based in Antwerp, Belgium.

With financial backing and support from Capital-E Arkiv, CMOSIS was founded in November 2007. CMOSIS broadened its capital base and raised further growth capital in 2009 from ING Corporate Investments (Belgium); ING Activator Fund, the Arkimedes Investment Fund of ING Belgium investing in promising Flemish SMEs; and Participatiemaatschapij Vlaanderen (PMV).

Luc De Mey, Chairman and CEO of CMOSIS, commented: "This transaction will allow CMOSIS to continue growing as an independent company with the support of TA Associates, a strong financial partner that has an impressive track record in building technology companies and is committed to supporting our future growth. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Capital-E, ING and PMV for their strong support in growing CMOSIS."

J. Morgan Seigler, a Principal at TA Associates (UK), LLP who will join the company’s Board of Directors, commented: "The CMOSIS management team has demonstrated expertise in building image sensor businesses. We are excited to partner with such experienced and successful entrepreneurs. CMOSIS is profitable, with a highly reputable brand, attractive client base, and impressive and accelerating growth."

Ajit Nedungadi, a Managing Director at TA Associates (UK), LLP who will also join the company’s Board of Directors, commented: "CCD has traditionally been the dominant technology in the high-end image sensor market that CMOSIS serves. The migration to CMOS is being driven by a lower cost of manufacturing, lower power requirements, higher speeds and improved sensor resolution. This accelerating market shift should continue to prove favorable for CMOSIS."

Sony Reportedly in Talks to Buy Renesas Fab to Expand Image Sensor Production Capacity

Seeking Alpha, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal quote Nikkei report that Sony is in talks to buy Renesas' Tsuruoka plant in Yamagata Prefecture and re-target it for CMOS sensor production. "The two sides are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding as early as the beginning of next week." The expected price of the fab is 10 billion yen ($96M).

The article says that Sony controls 30% of the image sensor market. Sony has said it gets 77% of its semiconductor sales from image sensors.

Omnivision Reports Quarterly Results

PR Newswire: Omnivision's revenues for the quarter were $397.2M, as compared to $373.7M in the previous quarter, and $390.1M a year ago. GAAP net income in the second quarter of fiscal 2014 was $26.3M, as compared to net income of $23.1M in the previous quarter, and $10.3M a year ago. GAAP gross margin for the quarter was 18.8%, as compared to 17.4% for the previous quarter and 16.6% a year ago. The increase in gross margin reflects production cost improvements in some of the high-volume devices, coupled by a decrease in allowance for excess and obsolete inventories and an increase in revenues recorded on the sale of previously written-down inventory. The Company ended the period with cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments totaling $265.6M, an increase of $25.1M from the previous quarter.

"In the second quarter of fiscal 2014, OmniVision grew revenues in the midst of a slowing smartphone market and intensifying competition," said Shaw Hong, CEO of OmniVision. Based on current trends, the Company expects revenues for the next quarter will be in the range of $310M to $340M, below analyst's average expectation of $399.9M (Reuters).

Seeking Alpha publishes Omnivision's earnings call transcript.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

ULIS CTO Interview

Azosensors: The newly appointed ULIS CTO, Chris Tisse gives an interview to Azosensors talking about a new generation of low-cost and low-power thermal sensors and their possible applications.

Q: "What will be the key customer demands for the infrared imaging market over the next five years?"

A: "I believe that the main challenge for uncooled IR detectors will be to meet the SWaP-C (Size, Weight and Power - Cost) requirements for embedded applications. Another key customer demand will be the gradually increasing pixel count (i.e., the amount of pixels in the image)."

Monday, December 02, 2013

Sony Announces 2.35MP CMOS Sensor with Global Shutter

Sony announces 2.35MP, 5.86um Global Shutter pixel sensors for industrial applications, IMX174LLJ (B&W) and IMX174LQJ (color). The new 1/1.2-inch sensors feature a speed of 164.5fps (10b resolution) or 128.2fps (12b resolution) and a ROI mode to set at a maximum of 16 areas inside the effective pixels and output cropped partial pictures:

The sensors support HDR mode by combining two different exposed frames internally and outputting just one HDR frame. Sony publishes a Youtube video showing its newly developed global shutter pixels in action:

Samsung Prepares 20MP Camera Phones

Korea IT News reports that Samsung Electronics develops a camera module with 20MP resolution, planned to reach the market in 2H 2014. It's not clear who is the sensor supplier for this camera module. So far Samsung LSI is reported to productize 13MP and 16MP sensors.

Friday, November 29, 2013

CMOSIS Increases its 12MP Sensor Speed to 300fps

Azosensors: CMOSIS is demonstrating its 12MP/300fps version of its CMV12000 sensor, which is now available in sample quantities. High volume production will ramp up from June 2014 onwards. When first announced in 2010 the speed was supposed to be 300fps, but the production version had 150fps.

"We are most happy to have finally achieved the outstanding performance of the CMV12000 in terms of its exceptionally high frame rate of 300 fps," said Lou Hermans, COO of CMOSIS. "Our strong technology focus and dedication to this development enables us to continue to offer new or improved CMOS sensor products on a regular basis."

Recently, CMOSIS entered Deloitte Technology Fast50 2013 as Belguim's highest-ranking company with a 4,098 per cent increase in its turnover (not clear over what period). Also, CMOSIS won 1st price for Export in the province of Antwerp of the Trends Business Tour 2013:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chipworks Tears Down New Kinect Camera

Chipworks publishes a teardown report of the new Kinect camera, including ToF sensor and illuminator pictures:

Laser diodes

"There seems to be something else going on though, since we have three laser diodes, and the filters over them are patterned with what looks like a grid; maybe the diodes are toggled in sequence, and a grid is projected, to help in the motion detection part of the system."

ToF camera board
ToF camera disassembled

Cambridge Mechatronics OIS Motor Passed Reliability Tests

Business Weekly: Cambridge Mechatronics announces that its "smart metal" OIS actuators passed reliability tests: "The suite of test specifications stipulated by our module integrator and handset customers include several individual and combination tests in line with industry standards - including drop testing, extended operation cycles and environments at the extremes of high and low temperature.

The completion and availability of this test data is a key milestone in the market readiness of CML's latest product offering, allowing our customers to confidently design our actuator into their own products.

This latest news is in line with CML's plans for our OIS lens motors to be shipping inside smartphone handsets in early 2014.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kingpak Compares CIS Packages

Kingpak's presentation at Semicon Taiwan 2013 compares image sensor packages, with emphasis on Kingpack's own imBGA/imLCC advantages:

Samsung and Sony Divide Fight for Mobile CIS Market

Business Korea published an article on Samsung efforts to capture mobile CIS market. TSR predicts that Samsung will take the lion’s share of the mobile CIS market this year, capturing 24.5% market share by supplying 548.325M CIS units. Sony’s supply volume and market share are estimated at 410.84M units and 18.4%, respectively.

For now Samsung is focusing on mid-end and high-end products of less than 8MP. Although it does produce those that can capture eight or higher megapixels, these account for less than 20% of the total sales volume. Meanwhile, products of 8MP to 13MP represent over 70% of Sony’s total sales.

"Sony’s CISs are at least 1.5 times more expensive than those of Samsung Electronics and OmniVision. Almost all of the high-end smartphones in the market are equipped with CISs manufactured by Sony," said unnamed market expert. Sony’s brand power is said to be greater than Samsung’s when it comes to high-price products of 8MP to 10MP.

NikkoIA Gets Pan-European Grants for Organic IR Imagers

NikkoIA SAS announces the grant of several collaborative development programs in 2013, totaling more than 1.5 million Euros over the next 2 years for “Organic Semiconductors for NIR Optoelectronics” through the several European research programs, including FP7 Framework Programme. This project will support the development of new organic materials sensitive in the NIR spectrum with tunable sensitivity windows. It complements the other granted programs which are more product-oriented and dedicated to the development of organic image sensors based either on a-Si active matrix TFT backplanes or silicon CMOS substrates, and targeting specific applications such as biometrics, medical and security.

The combination of all granted programs wraps up NikkoIA’s comprehensive development strategy and secures its roadmap objectives.

Panasonic Sells Some of its Fabs to TowerJazz

Reuters, Bloomberg, Globes: Panasonic is reported to sell its three Japanese fabs to TowerJazz. It's not immediately clear whether Panasonic sells its image sensor plants. "The companies are negotiating the size of the stake and transfer of the factories' workers, one of the sources said. The three chip plants in Japan, with about 2,500 workers, have been fully depreciated and had a combined book value of 42.2 billion yen ($416 million) as of March 31.

Panasonic said nothing had been decided. Officials at TowerJazz's headquarters could not immediately be reached.
" "The plants are likely worth more than 10 billion yen ($99 million), and a final decision may come as soon as next month."

So far Panasonic has more than 3 fabs in Japan, not clear which ones go to TowerJazz:

Meanwhile, image sensors are presented as one of the core technologies at Panasonic site:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Imagers in Space, Imec's View

EETimes: Piet De Moor, Program Manager for Specialty Imagers at Imec published a view on CMOS vs CCD for space applications: "While CMOS has become the standard in consumer electronics, the space community is still mainly relying on CCD technology. In part, that's because backside illumination processing for CMOS imagers is almost uniquely developed for 300mm wafers [probably Piet meant Imec process offerings here - ISW], whereas high-end space imagers typically use 200mm wafer technologies.

However, the space industry would well be served with a customized high-end backside illuminated CMOS imager processing platform on 200mm wafers. Given the strategic value of Earth observation, it is not surprising that governments on both sides of the Atlantic are currently supporting local initiatives in this area.

MIT Presents Coded ToF Camera

MIT News: Ramesh Raskar, Achuta Kadambi, Refael Whyte, Ayush Bhandari, Christopher Barsi from MIT and Adrian Dorrington and Lee Streeter from the University of Waikato in New Zealand presented a new ToF camera at SIGGRAPH Asia 2013: "Coded Time of Flight Cameras: Sparse Deconvolution to Address Multipath Interference and Recover Time Profiles."

"Using the current state of the art, such as the new Kinect, you cannot capture translucent objects in 3-D," says Achuta Kadambi. "That is because the light that bounces off the transparent object and the background smear into one pixel on the camera. Using our technique you can generate 3-D models of translucent or near-transparent objects." Changing environmental conditions, semitransparent surfaces, edges, or motion all create multiple reflections that mix with the original signal and return to the camera, making it difficult to determine which is the correct measurement.

The new ToF camera uses an encoding technique commonly used in the telecommunications industry to calculate the distance a signal has travelled. "We use a new method that allows us to encode information in time," Ramesh Raskar says. "So when the data comes back, we can do calculations that are very common in the telecommunications world, to estimate different distances from the single signal."

"By solving the multipath problem, essentially just by changing the code, we are able to unmix the light paths and therefore visualize light moving across the scene," Kadambi says.

A Youtube video demo visualizes the light travel, including multi-path resolving on semi-transparent objects:

Key components: PMD 19k3 sensor, FPGA Dev Kit,
Custom PCB for light sources, and DSLR lens from a regular
Canon SLR.

Toshiba Starts Mass Production of 1080p60 1.12um Pixel Sensor

Business Wire: Toshiba will start mass production of T4K71, a 1.12┬Ám, 1/7.3-inch 1080p60 BSI image sensor with color noise reduction (CNR), on December 2, 2013. Initial announcement in April 2013, stated production start in September, so it's almost as scheduled.

Monday, November 25, 2013

OpenVX and Power-Efficient Image Processing

Khronos Group VP Erik Noreke presents "Vision, Camera and Sensor Processing" at SIGGRAPH Asia 2013:

Dongbu Starts Mass Production of 5MP Sensor for Superpix

Business Wire: Dongbu HiTek has begun volume production of 5MP Image Sensor for Superpix Micro Technology of Beijing, China. With patented SuperPix pixel signal processing and SuperImage image processing techniques, Superpix anticipates strong demand for its 5MP CIS devices in China’s mid-range to low-end smart phone market segments.

"We continue to expand our foundry relationship with Superpix, and are now on track to begin developing its 8MP CIS chips early next year so that volume production can also begin next year," said Jae Song, Dongbu HiTek EVP of marketing. He noted that his company’s foundry relationship with Superpix has progressively developed from manufacturing QVGA/VGA chips to the 2MP–to-8MP range.

According to Maybank, the Chinese smart phone market in the mid-range to low-end segment is forecast to grow from some 216M units shipped this year to about 400M units in 2015, thereby exceeding 85% growth over the two year period. In another forecast from iSuppli, smart phones that feature 5MP resolution and above will substantially command this segment’s growth as they replace 2M resolution cameras, shipping 187M units next year and 288M units in 2015, representing a year-over year growth of more than 50%.

Imec Presents Combined CCD-CMOS TDI Imager

Imec presents a prototype of a time-delay-integration (TDI) image sensor based on imec’s proprietary embedded CCD in CMOS technology. Imec developed and fabricated the sensor for the French Space Agency, CNES, which plans to utilize the technology for space-based earth observation. The prototypes were fabricated using imec’s 130nm process with an additional CCD process module. A charge transfer efficiency of 99.9987 % has been measured ensuring almost lossless transport of charges in the TDI array.

Apple Confirms Primesense Acquisition

AllThingsD gets a confirmation from Apple that it has bought Primesense for a price closer to $360M, according to ATD sources:

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet confirmed the PrimeSense deal with the boilerplate comment the company typically provides when news of one of its acquisitions leaks: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Globes reports that the deal was finally closed on Friday, Nov. 22.

Update: Primesense confirms the acquisition in an email to EETimes-Europe: "We can confirm the deal with Apple. Further than that, we cannot comment at this stage."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rambus Lensless Camera Paper Wins Best Paper Award

Rambus announces that its paper "Lensless Ultra-Miniature CMOS Computational Imagers and Sensors" by David Stork and Patrick Gill won Best Paper Award at Sensorcomm 2013, held in Barcelona, Spain in August 2013. Rambus' "method relies on novel special phase anti-symmetric spiral phase gratings, which overcome prior limitations and afford new functionality. Moreover, our new sensor architecture enables the construction of new classes of ultra-miniature sensors whose output is an estimation of some property of the scene (e.g., visual motion) or a decision (e.g., face detection or barcode reading)."

"These imagers promise to be smaller (lower physical volume) than any existing lens-based imagers of comparable resolution, very inexpensive, and customizable to both imaging and a wide range of sensing and image measurement tasks."

Tektronix on M-PHY Requirements and Testing

Tektronix published a nice webinar on MIPI M-PHY operation and testing. Although not yet appearing in image sensor products, the new standard delivers much higher speeds at lower power consumption and certainly deserves to be the interface of choice in CMOS sensors:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sony Improves 3D NR with Blur Compensation

The newly announced Sony Effio-A/V image processors for SD security cameras improve 3D-NR function to reduce moving subjects blur. The 3D noise reduction processes a few consecutive frames, so moving subjects are excessively blurred, at least, in a normal 3D-NR scheme. It looks like Sony has solved this problem: