Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ON Semi Image Sensor Catalog

ON Semi publishes a catalog of its image sensor products combining Aptina, Truesense and Fillfactory sensors in a single document - an impressive list.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Machine Vision Sensor Trends

IMV Europe publishes its Vision Yearbook 2014/15 with many interesting articles (pdf version). "Taking the pulse of the industry" is a collection of short summaries on industry trends from various companies. Few quotes:

Henning Tiarks, head of product management at Basler:

"The year 2015 will be an exciting one for modern cameras and camera technology again! ...It will be the first time the whole range of standard resolutions, from VGA to five megapixels and above, is expected to be covered by CMOS technology. CMOS will therefore become relevant for all existing and new applications in machine vision, as well as in applications outside the factory floor such as medical or intelligent traffic systems."

Guy Pas, VP worldwide for instruments sales at FLIR Systems:

"For many years Flir Systems has made efforts to make thermal cameras more affordable and accessible. This is a trend that will continue in 2015. Because of this increased affordability, it will be possible to deploy multiple cameras for a variety of applications and more customers will be able to benefit from the economies of scale."

Lou Hermans, COO at CMOSIS:

"The demand for very high-resolution area image sensors for machine vision applications is expected to continue to grow. This growth is mainly fueled by the expanding need for inspection of LCD panels used in smart phones, tablets and TVs. These screens are not only becoming bigger, but also the resolution is continuously increasing. This combination is at the basis of the demand for 50+ megapixel resolution inspection cameras and image sensors.

Frame rate requirements are in the 10 frames per second range – out of reach of most CCD-based camera solutions. Although most camera users and producers would prefer global shutter based CMOS solutions, a fair amount of these applications can also be realized with rolling shutter type pixel-based image sensors. ...The realisation of smaller, high-performance global shutter pixels will remain a challenge. It implies that image sensor manufacturers have to migrate to more advanced and more expensive CIS process technologies.

I also expect a growing demand for image sensors optimized for wavelengths outside the visible spectrum, more in particular for the capture of UV and NIR images. UV imaging is mainly driven by the needs of the semiconductor industry whereas NIR imaging is by non-obtrusive machine vision applications. I expect that the demand for UV sensitive imagers will accelerate the development of backside-thinned and illuminated CMOS image sensors in industrial and professional applications. Although backside illuminated imagers are now the standard in mobile phone camera applications, they are still the exception in machine vision area. The larger pixels of machine vision imagers do not benefit much in terms of QE increase in the visible when using backside illumination. The limited performance increase cannot justify the significantly higher price. For UV however, the QE increase is significant and customers are willing to pay the higher price.

The introduction of backside illuminated devices in industrial cameras is also delayed because few foundries are ready to support backside thinning and processing for such low-volume applications. For the same reasons, I do not expect to see so-called stacked backside illuminated CMOS image sensor technology to be applied shortly in dedicated machine vision image sensors.

Nicholas James, imaging product line manager at Edmund Optics:

"In the past year imaging and automation customers have been adopting larger, higher resolution sensors. One-inch format sensors have become more readily available, and the machine vision industry is moving toward four and six-megapixel resolution versions of these larger sensors. The market will continue to push upward toward the nine- and 12-megapixel options – and even higher as technology evolves."

Dale Deering, senior program manager at Teledyne Dalsa:

"One of the most significant trends in imaging today is the continued evolution of CMOS image sensors as the technology of choice for general machine vision applications. A complementary trend is the reduction in the cost of processing image data within the camera – the price of FPGAs, microprocessors and memory continues to drop, while speed and capability continue to increase."

Terry Arden, CEO of LMI Technologies:

"For LMI, we have identified two major segments of growth for 3D sensing technology. The first is the 3D scanning market where 3D scanners are used to build real world models of objects. The second segment is the 3D inspection market where 3D smart sensors are used to scan, measure, and pass or fail parts in an assembly process within a factory."

Frank Grube, president and CEO of Allied Vision Technologies:

"One emerging market segment on the cusp of a major change due to the introduction of machine vision is the transportation industry, an industry which has long suffered from an inability to collect quantifiably accurate infrastructure level information. With the introduction of MV technologies, the transportation industry could collect data multiple times per second, providing a quantity and quality of data not only cheaper than a magnetic loop, but considerably more robust than any other current sensor technology."

Michael Gibbons, director of sales and marketing at Point Grey

"New CCD and CMOS sensor technologies have also evolved in the last few years and have dramatically influenced the development of completely new types of imaging and machine vision systems. The number of global shutter CMOS sensors available in the market has increased and CCD technology, such as Sony’s new line of EXview HAD CCD II sensors, has also become more advanced, providing improved quantum efficiency, reduced smear, and increased sensitivity, including into the near infrared."

Sebastien Teysseyre, head of the marketing and solution creation team at e2v:

"as applications are moving away from the factory floor and its controlled environment, the imaging sensors are exposed to extreme and possibly harsh environmental conditions, such as fog, rain and snow. Technically, we know how to get a decent image in these conditions by using high power lasers and gated image intensified CCD cameras, but these solutions are physically large, fragile and expensive, limiting their adoption to high-end, niche market applications. It is very likely that, based on the initial results, in 2015 we’ll demonstrate that a CMOS-based system can be used instead of a gated tube intensifier, removing the barrier to entry for many applications."

e2v Announces Imaging Business Re-org

e2v announces that its imaging business has grown by 26% last year. Following the growth, e2v splits ita imaging business into two: Professional Imaging and Space Imaging.

The Professional Imaging business, led by Francois Thouret, and now incorporating the newly acquired AnaFocus CMOS business, will focus on commercial imaging products and services, including machine vision, medical imaging, science and thermal imaging markets. Francois Thouret says "The acquisition of AnaFocus is a key milestone on our journey to grow our business. The acquisition strengthens our position and market share by extending our value proposition for customer specific CMOS image sensors into high-growth market segments."

The Space Imaging business, led by Marc Saunders, will further develop e2v’s relationships with global space agencies, including ESA, NASA, JAXA, Airbus Defence and Space, Thales Alenia Space and Ball Aerospace. e2v’s Space Imaging business has already seen over 70 new jobs created in the past year (following a £3.8m Regional Growth Fund grant). Marc Saunders comments: "The changes we are making, with the creation of more agile customer-focused business areas, will put us in the best possible position to accelerate growth."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Apple Proposes Flexible Pixel Summing

Apple patent application US20140263951 "Image sensor with flexible pixel summing" by Xiaofeng Fan proposes a multiple pixel sharing with charge summing on floating diffusion:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fast Image Sensor Simulator

Ecole Centrale de Lyon publishes a 2014 PhD Thesis by Zhenfu Feng "Fast Scalable and Variability Aware CMOS Image Sensor Simulation Methodology" devoted to a fast LUT-based image sensor simulator built in Cadence environment:

The simulator was used to explore Monte-Carlo pixel variability, starting from classical 3T pixel to quite exotic structures, like carbon nanotube transistor-based pixel.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Omnivision Reveals Global Shutter CameraCubeChip

PR Newswire: OmniVision launches the OVM6211 CameraCubeChip, a complete global shutter camera in the industry's smallest form factor. The OVM6211 is aimed to a number of consumer applications, including machine and computer vision ones such as gesture recognition, eye tracking and motion detection.

Built on 3um B&W OmniPixel3-GS pixel, the OVM6211 has 400 x 400 pixel resolution and speed of 120fps. The OVM6211 also features a unique ultra-low power mode, which allows it to be used in an "always aware" mode with minimum power consumption.

The OVM6211 CameraCubeChip will be available in two packages. The OVM6211-RADA, intended for human interface systems such as eye tracking, will have a narrow field of view (FOV) at approximately 50 degrees. The OVM6211-RAHA, intended for applications including gesture recognition and wearable devices, will have a FOV wider than 90 degrees. The OVM6211 is currently sampling and is expected to enter volume production in Q4 2014.

"The value that the OVM6211 brings to consumer electronics extends far beyond the machine and computer vision functionalities that it enables," said Aaron Chiang, director of CameraCubeChip marketing at OmniVision. "As a monolithic camera solution with x and y dimensions that are each less than 3.5 mm, the OVM6211 can easily be built into narrow-bezel devices. In addition, the CameraCubeChip allows for the use of standard surface-mount assembly processes, which can reduce both production cost and time-to-market for manufacturers."

DynaOptics Promises More Compact Zoom Lens

IEEE Spectrum: Singapore-based DynaOptics "says its technology will allow mobile device manufacturers to offer cameras with optical zoom without making the phone thicker or requiring the zoom lens to protrude. The company says its secret is its lenses: they are asymmetrical, so a sideways movement can change the perspective from near to far." DynaOptics has raised $2M to date, and is looking for more. The company expects to have engineering samples available for mobile device makers in Q1 2015, and will be ready to start mass production by late 2015.

Update: MIT Technology Review too publishes an article on DynaOptics.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Report from Samsung Image Sensor Forum in China

Samsung Tomorrow publishes a report from the company's Image Sensor Forum in China, held in Shenzhen on Sept. 22, 2014. "Samsung has proved its on-going leadership in mobile image sensor innovation by developing and commercializing ISOCELL for the first time in the industry last year," said Kyushik Hong, VP and Head of S.LSI Marketing at Samsung Electronics. "With the first annual Samsung Image Sensor Forum 2014, Samsung will strengthen its communication and lead the Chinese image sensor market."

Over 300 participants from the imaging industry, including smartphone manufacturers and camera module companies, attended the forum. Samsung exhibited its recent technologies including:
  • Pixel miniaturization ISOCELL technology, ultimately enabling imagers with resolutions higher than 20MP
  • PDAF(Phase Detection Auto Focus)
  • Global Shutter technology

Imaging Without Limits at SEMICON Europa 2014

SEMICON Europa 2014 to be held in Grenoble, France on Oct. 7-10, 2014 hosts a 2-day conference "Imaging without limits" (Oct. 7-8). Speakers come from a wide range of companies:

The conference agenda:

Session 1: Imaging Application Overviews

Keynote: From pervasive sensing to operational efficiency a path towards internet of everything
Pascal Brosset, Sr VP Innovation, Schneider Electric Industries

Imaging and Telcommunications
Rahul Swaminathan, Senior Expert, Telekom Innovation Laboratories

Driving solutions - intelligent sensor systems
Berthold Hellenthal, Robust Design, Semiconductor Strategy, Audi

Imaging in ophthalmology: From eye astronomy to artificial retina for visual restoration in blind patients
Serge Picaud, Directeur de recherche, Institut de la vision

2013 - 2018 Markets & Applications for CMOS Image Sensors
Frédéric Breussin, Business Unit Manager MEMS & Sensors, Yole Developpement

Session 2: Imaging Technology Overviews

Keynote: CMOS Image Sensors: Now and Future
Eric R. Fossum, Professor, Dartmouth

French infrared technologies offering competitive edges to imaging sensors business
David Billon-Lanfrey, CTO, Sofradir

What's aside of Megapixel race: Imager & Photonics Process Development for Mass Production
Krysten Rochereau, Img div. / CMOS & CIS process manager, STMicroelectronics

Evolution of Design and Manufacturing of optical modules for mobile phone.
Jean Pierre Lusinchi, CTO AOEther, Asia Optical Ether

The Benefits of GPU Compute on ARM Mali GPUs
Tim Hartley, Staff Engineer, ARM

Wavelens - Shaped for Sharpness
Arnaud Pouydebasque, Co-Founder and Product Development VP, Wavelens

Specialized Design House for High Performances CMOS Image Sensors
Philippe Rommevaux, CEO & President, Pixalys

Imaging applications based on organic materials
Alain Jutant, President & CEO, Nikkoia

MultiX - multi energy spectrometric X-ray detectors for various applications
Patrick Radisson, Co-Founder & CTO, MultiXDetection

Session 3: Consumer

Wafer-level technologies for imaging and sensing applications in mobile devices
Markus Rossi, Chief Innovation Officer, Heptagon Advanced MicroOptics

Multi aperture camera module with 720p-resolution using microoptics
Andreas Brückner, Senior Scientist, Fraunhofer IOF

CMOS-based innovations for specialty imaging industries to consumer applications
Maarten Willems, Business Director - Smart Systems, IMEC

Imaging for companion humanoid robots
Rodolphe Gelin, Research Director, Aldebaran Robotics

Spectral filtering on CMOS Image Sensors with metal dielectric multilayers
Laurent Frey, senior research scientist, CEA LETI MINATEC

Session 4: Automotive

Automotive Camera Systems - Photons to Ethernet
Tarek Lule, Camera System Engineer, STMicroelectronics

New Developments on CMOS Logarithmic Image Sensor
Yang Ni, CTO, New Imaging Technologies

High Performance Global Shutter Image Sensors - Design and Applications
Guy Meynants, CTO, CMOSIS nv

All-glass wafer-level lens manufacturing technology for industrial imaging applications
Palle Geltzer Dinesen, Technical Strategy Director, Imaging, AAC Technologies

Custom image sensors for high performance application
Benoit Dupont, chief designer, Caeleste

Session 5: Industrial & Professional

Multisensor Camera Architectures for Security and Operational Applications
David Dorn, Applied Technologies Manager, Schneider Electric

High speed line and area image sensor for industrial and medical applications
Bernhard Schaffer, Senior R&D Engineer, CSEM S.A.

Imaging Devices in Space
Roland Meynart, Head of EO instrument pre-development, European Space Agency

Herodion Architecture for Synchronized Multi-camera Capture and Analysis
Constantin Papadas, CEO, isd

Image sensors in organic and plastic electronics for Industry 4.0 and Internet-Of-Things
Laurent Jamet, Co-Founder, Director Business Development, ISORG

Session 6: Medical

From Computer Assisted Medical Interventions to micro-nano implanted medical robots
Philippe Cinquin, Director, UJF / CNRS / CHU Grenoble

Development of Silicon Photomultipliers at FBK for nuclear medicine applications.
Claudio Piemonte, Chief Scientist, Fondazione Bruno Kessler

Xray & high energy imaging : applied technologies oriented perspective
Jean Roux, Business Developper Sales&Marketing, Hamamatsu Photonics France

Miniaturization trends in medical imaging enabled by full wafer level integration if micro camera modules

Fully integrated CMOS THz Imaging Solutions
Andreia Cathelin, Senior Member of Technical Staff, STMicroelectronics

Computational Photography and Intelligent Cameras Workshop

UCLA Institute for Pure & Applied Mathematics is hosting a 3-day workshop "Computational photography and intelligent cameras" in February 4-6, 2015. This workshop is intended to serve as a gathering place for all those interested in theories, algorithms, methodologies, hardware designs, and experimental studies in computational photography. The confirmed speakers include:

Amit Agrawal (Amazon Lab126), Richard Baraniuk (Rice), David Brady (Duke), Robert Calderbank (Duke), Lawrence Carin (Duke), Ayan Chakrabarti (TTIC), Oliver Cossairt (Northwestern), Kristin Dana (Rutgers), Paolo Favaro (University of Bern), Carlos Fernandez-Granda (Stanford), Mohit Gupta (Columbia), Wolfgang Heidrich (KAUST), Kevin Kelly (Rice), Pascal Monasse (ENPC), Kari Pulli (Stanford), Ramesh Raskar (MIT), Neus Sabater (Technicolor), Guillermo Sapiro (Duke), Sabine Susstrunk (EPFL), Yohann Tendero (UCLA), Pauline Trouvé (Onera), Jack Tumblin (Northwestern), Ashok Veeraraghavan (Rice).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sony Shows Effio ISP Capabilities

Sony posts three Youtube videos demoing Effio ISP for security cameras features (video 1, video 2, video 3):

poLight Uses STM Piezoelectric MEMS Technology

Euronext: STMicro announces that it is commercializing an innovative TFP (Thin-Film Piezoelectric) MEMS technology. One of the first customers of ST`s TFP process is poLight, whose TLens (Tuneable Lens) uses a piezoelectric actuator to change the shape of a transparent polymer film, imitating the focussing function of the human eye.

"Piezoelectric actuators and sensors can now be manufactured in our Agrate 8" Fab that has produced billions of motion sensors, taking full advantage of ST`s long-standing position as the world`s leading manufacturer of MEMS devices," said Anton Hofmeister, Group VP and GM of Custom MEMS Division, STMicroelectronics. "Our TFP MEMS technology rewrites the script, opening up new cost/benefit scenarios that will, in turn, enable many new applications."

ST is targeting volume production for its pilot customers in mid-2015.

New Gesture Recognition Market Forecasts

NanoMarkets publishes "Gestural Recognition: Sensors, Cameras and Other Technology Opportunities—2014" report predicting that "over the next decade, gestural recognition could replace touch sensing as the leading edge computer input technology. Although gestural recognition and control technology has served niche markets in gaming and virtual reality for some time, NanoMarkets believes that within a few years, gestural recognition will begin to generate significant revenues in general industrial applications, as well as in the signage, healthcare, automotive and telepresence sectors.

We think that this surge in interest in gestural recognition will lead to a broad range of opportunities in the sensor, camera and related businesses.

Industry ARC report "Gesture Recognition in Consumer Electronics Market (2013 - 2018)" published in January 2014 has forecasts "the global gesture recognition market in consumer electronics industry had revenues of around $243m in 2012 and this is expected to increase to around $2740 m in 2018.The total available market for mobile hardware in gesture recognition stands at around 25% of the overall global gesture recognition market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25% from 2013 to 2018. The market for automotive gesture recognition finds an untapped potential and the number of shipments in this category is expected to increase from 750,000 units in 2013 to around 20 million units in 2018 at a CAGR of over 90%." (from slideshere.net)

From the report:

  • Tablet PCs and laptops are the top growing consumer electronics product segments using gesture recognition in the next 5 years.
  • Gesture recognition is also slowly penetrating the household appliances sectors for smarter devices manufacturing.
  • 3D Gesture recognition penetrates smart watch technologies, which in turn could create a new trend in fashion
  • Gesture recognition penetrates automotive sector considerably as leading companies such as Volkswagen and General Motors adopt this technique.
  • Recent developments like acquisition of Flutter by Google, usage of Leap Motion in Asus computers, acquisition of Primesense by Apple and acquisition of Omek by Intel are positive signs of market expansion on the financial backing of larger companies.
  • Consumer electronics currently contributes to more than 95% of the global gesture recognition market.
  • 2D camera based gesture recognition is expected to account for a significant market share in the Smartphone gesture recognition category.

Update: PR Newswire publishes few more detailes from Nanomarket report:

"the market for sensors and related components used in gestural control systems will grow from $770 million in 2014 to about $3.5 billion in 2019."

"The market for sensors and related devices for gestural control in smart TVs will reach $1.18 billion by 2019. By the end of the forecast period a sizeable fraction of smart TVs will be controlled by the hands and fingers alone, without a remote control.

In fact, many of the latest applications for gestural recognition will be enabled by the advent of cameras using 3D image sensors, which can detect image and depth information at the same time. This is a compelling technology for the consumer electronics market; it can provide more precise gesture recognition than 2D image sensors at a reasonable cost. By 2019, NanoMarkets projects revenues from 3D image sensors to reach $930 million.

Nonetheless, ToF cameras could be the next big thing in gesture recognition. ToF promises ultrafast response times and this will be very effective for accurately detecting much more subtle hand and finger gestures than is possible with stereo cameras. ToF also has no problem with latency, which can cause noticeable delays in image recognition in other systems. ToF also works well in poorly lit environments, which can be an important advantage. ToF sensors generate almost no revenues today, but by 2019 NanoMarkets expects that $550 million in ToF sensors will be bought for gestural recognition systems.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

poLight Gets New CEO

Optics.org reports that tunable lens maker poLight has appointed Øyvind Isaksen as its new CEO. The former CEO Christian Dupont will become CMO in charge of Sales & Marketing. poLight is working with several potential customers and is in the process of establishing manufacturing capacity in a cooperation with a manufacturing partner. Mainstream production is planned to start in 2015 - in time to address a fast growing market estimated to grow from $1.2B in 2013 to $2B in 2017.

"Having Øyvind Isaksen on board, we have in place a CEO with significant background from technology companies as well as extensive experience in leading a publicly listed company," says Chairman of the Board Keith Cornell.

Apple Applies for Charge Transfer Patent

Apple keeps applying patents on global shutter pixel and its components. The US20140252201 application "Charge transfer in image sensors" by Xiangli Li, Xiaofeng Fan, and Chung Chun Wan proposes a doping structure for storage node SN, where the part near the transfer gate is lightly doped to create a potential barrier, said to be useful for multiple storage node pixels like this one:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Rumor: Avago Acquires Tessera Micro-Optics Facility

Reportedly, Tessera micro-optics group has changed hands again. Just over a year ago Tessera sold the Charlotte, NC-based group to FLIR. Now, FLIR has sold the ex-Tessera micro-optics division and business to Avago, including the fab. FLIR optical components group is staying in the same building and is retained by FLIR, continuing with development and production support for FLIR ONE thermal camera.

It appears that Avago decided not to make any public announcements on the acquisition.

Camera Takes Smaller Fraction of iPhone 6 Cost

EETimes publishes Teradown.com report on iPhone6 and 6Plus reverse engineering. The camera component seems to take a smaller proportion of the new phones BOM:

iPhone 6 Plus Camera Dissected

Samsung Image Sensor Forum In China

Samsung presented its CIS news at Image Sensor Forum in Shenzhen, China on Sept. 22, 2014. About the only thing available in open access is an impressive alphabetical list of phones with Samsung sensors inside:

· Gionee ELife E3
· Gionee Elife E5
· HTC Desire 816
· HTC One M8
· Huaqin
· Huawei Ascend G6
· Huawei Honor 3C
· Huawei Honor 6
· KONKA I158
· KONKA W450
· KONKA W550
· Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro
· Loncheer
· Nokia X
· Oppo R601
· Samsung Galaxy S5
· Sony Experia E3
· TCL Soul 4
· TCL Alto 4.5
· Vivo X3
· Vivo Xplay 3S
· Wintech
· Xiaomi Mi 2S
· Xiaomi Redmi LTE
· Xiaomi Redmi Note
· Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G LTE
· ZTE Grand 2

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2013 Leti Annual Report

2013 Leti annual report has a collection of the last year's papers. The "New 3D-integrated burst image sensor architectures with in-situ A/D conversion" by R. Bonnard, F. Guellec, J. Segura, A. Dupret, and W. Uhring, presented at 2013 Conference on Design and Architectures for Signal and Image Processing (DASIP) shows the 3D imager with clusters of pixels sharing a readout and an ADC:

Keysight Explains MIPI C-PHY Signalling

Keysight (formerly known as Agilent) presents a short explanation of how the new MIPI C-PHY scheme works. The webinar with the explanations can be accessed here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

CIS Stacking at Image Sensors Americas Conference

3DInCites publishes a review of Image Sensor Americas presentations on stacked image sensors. "Stacked chip image sensors require high volume manufacturing (HVM) to be cost-effective, explained [Piet] De Moor [IMEC], because of the cost of the manufacturing equipment lines. Because of this, to date stacked BSI CIS are only manufactured by Sony and TSMC (for OmniVision) targeting consumer products, where the volume requirements are higher."

Two pictures form the article:

From Sony ISSCC 2013 paper
Ziptronix Cost Comparison

NHK Demos 8K System

There is an interesting Youtube video by ARMdevices based on an interview with NHK representative:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Chipworks iPhone 6 Plus Teardown Finds Sony Sensors in Front and Rear Cameras

Chipworks is quick to publish reverse engineering pictures of iPhone 6 and 6 plus: "The iPhone 6 Plus iSight camera chip is housed in a camera module measuring 10.6 mm x 9.3 mm x 5.6 mm thick. Fabricated by Sony, the iSight camera chip is a stacked (Exmor RS), back-illuminated CMOS image sensor (CIS) featuring 1.5 µm generation pixels (introduced for the iPhone 5s). The die size is 4.8 mm x 6.1 mm (29.3 mm2). The phase pixel pairs have all been implemented in the green channel and cover the majority of the active pixel array."

"Our speculation of Sony winning the FaceTime sockets, though, turned out to be correct. We’ve just confirmed the iPhone 6 Plus FaceTime camera is a stacked Sony CIS and will provide more details in a future update."

Chipworks publishes few pictures of iPhone 6 Plus rear camera:

Sony Announces SmartEyeglass

Sony releases a development prototype of SmartEyeglass, a Google Glass competitor. The SmartEyeglass is equipped with a 3MP camera, capable of VGA video. A high capacity battery is located in a separate controller box connected to the glasses by a wire:

Sony plans to offer SmartEyeglass for sale to developers by the end of FY2014 (March 2015), with the intention of further promoting the development of applications and accelerating the commercialization of the product for consumer use. A Youtube video shows the prototype glasses in action:

Vision Award Shortlist

IMV Europe publishes Stuttgart, Germany Vision Show 2014 award shortlist. The only image sensor company in the list is Odos Imaging, with its high resolution ToF cameras. Real.iZ-1K (1.3MP) is the first system, released in 2014, while the higher resolution Real.iZ-4K (4.2MP) is to be released in 2015. Each and every pixel can be used to measure both ambient light and range allowing the systems to generate separate images of the scene in both range and intensity modes. The cameras including all the features of a conventional machine vision camera, with the additional benefit of individual pixel range measurements.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Image Sensors at IEDM 2014

IEDM publishes its 2014 agenda with sessions 4 and 10 having many image sensor papers:

4.1 MOS Capacitor Deep Trench Isolation for CMOS Image Sensors
N. Ahmed, F. Roy, G-N. Lu*, B. Mamdy, J-P. Carrere, A. Tournier, N. Virollet, C. Perrot, M. Rivoire, A. Seignard**, D. Pellissier-Tanon, F. Leverd and B. Orlando, STMicroelectronics, *CNRS, **CEA-LETI

This paper proposes the integration of MOS Capacitor Deep Trench Isolation (CDTI) as a solution to boost image sensors’ pixels performances. We have investigated CDTI and compared it to oxide-filled Deep Trench Isolation (DTI) configurations, on silicon samples, with a fabrication based on TCAD simulations. The experiment measurements evaluated on CDTI without Sidewall Implantation exhibit very low dark current (~1aA at60°C for a 1.4μm pixel), high full-well capacity (~12000e-), and it shows quantum efficiency improvement compared to DTI configuration.

4.2 Three-Dimensional Integrated CMOS Image Sensors with Pixel-Parallel A/D Converters Fabricated by Direct Bonding of SOI Layers
M. Goto, K. Hagiwara, Y. Iguchi, H. Ohtake, T. Saraya*, M. Kobayashi*, E. Higurashi*, H. Toshiyoshi* and T. Hiramoto*, NHK Science and Technology Research Laboratories, *The University of Tokyo

We report the first demonstration of three-dimensional integrated CMOS image sensors with pixel-parallel A/D converters. Photodiode and inverter layers were directly bonded to provide each pixel with in-pixel A/D conversion. The developed sensor successfully captured images and confirmed excellent linearity with a wide dynamic range of more than 80 dB.

4.3 High Sensitivity Image Sensor Overlaid with Thin-Film Crystalline-Selenium-based Heterojunction Photodiode
S. Imura, K. Kikuchi, K. Miyakawa, H. Ohtake, M. Kubota, T. Okino*, Y. Hirose*, Y. Kato* and N. Teranishi**, NHK Science and Technology Research Laboratories, *Panasonic Corporation, **University of Hyogo

We developed a stacked image sensor on the basis of thin-film crystalline-selenium (c-Se) heterojunction photodiode. Tellurium-diffused crystallization of producing uniform c-Se films was used to fabricate c-Se-based photodiodes laminated on complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) circuits, and we present herein the first high-resolution images obtained with such devices.

4.4 9.74-THz Electronic Far-Infrared Detection Using Schottky Barrier Diodes in CMOS
Z. Ahmad, A. Lisauskas*, H.G. Roskos* and K.K. O, University of Texas at Dallas, *JWG University

9.74-THz fundamental electronic detection for Far-Infrared (FIR) radiation is demonstrated. The detection along with that at 4.92 THz was realized using Schottky-barrier diode detection structures formed without any process modifications in CMOS. Peak optical responsivity (Rv) of 383 and ~14V/W at 4.92 and 9.74THz have been measured. The Rv at 9.74THz is 14X of that for the previously reported highest frequency electronic detection. The shot noise limited NEP at 4.92 and 9.74THz is ~0.43 and ~2nW/√Hz.

4.5 Experimental Demonstration of a Stacked SOI Multiband Charged-Coupled Device
C.-E. Chang, J. Segal*, A. Roodman*, C. Kenney* and R. Howe, Stanford University, *SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Multiband light absorption and charge extraction in a stacked SOI multiband CCD are experimentally demonstrated for the first time. This proof of concept is a key step in the realization of the technology which promises multiple-fold efficiency improvements in color imaging over current filter- and prism-based approaches.

4.6 Enhanced Time Delay Integration Imaging using Embedded CCD in CMOS Technology
P. De Moor, J. Robbelein, L. Haspeslagh, P. Boulenc, A. Ercan, K. Minoglou, A. Lauwers, K. De Munck and M. Rosmeulen, IMEC

Imec developed a new imager platform enabling the monolithic integration of 130 nm CMOS/CIS with charge coupled devices (CCD). The process module was successfully developed and the potential of this embedded CCD in CMOS (eCCD) was demonstrated with the fabrication of a time delay integration (TDI) imager.

10.1 Jot Devices and the Quanta Image Sensor (Invited)
J. Ma, D. Hondongwa and E. Fossum, Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth

The Quanta Image Sensor (QIS) concept and recent work on its associated jot device are discussed. A bipolar jot and a pump gate jot are described. Both have been modelled in TCAD. The pump gate jot features a full well of 200 e- and conversion gain exceeding 300 uV/e-.

10.2 SPAD Based Image Sensors
E. Charbon, Senior Member IEEE

The recent availability of miniaturized photoncounting pixels in standard CMOS processes has paved the way to the introduction of photon counting in low-cost time-of-flight cameras, robotics vision, mobile phones, and consumer electronics. In this paper we describe the technology at the core of this revolution: single-photon avalanche diodes (SPADs) and the architectures enabling SPAD based image sensors. We discuss tradeoffs and design trends, often referring to specific sensor chips and applications.

10.3 Toward 1Gfps: Evolution of Ultra-high-speed Image Sensors: ISIS, BSI, Multi-Collection Gates, and 3D-stacking
T.G. Etoh, V.T.S. Dao, K. Shimonomura, E. Charbon, C. Zhang*, Y. Kamakura and T. Matsuoka**, Ritsumeikan University, *Technical University of Delft, **Osaka University

Evolution of ultra-high-speed image sensors toward 1 Giga fps is presented with innovative technology to achieve the frame rate. The current highest frame rate is 16.7Mfps. A new sensor structure and a new driver circuit are proposed. Simulations prove that they further reduce the frame interval to 1ns.

10.4 Imaging with Organic and Hybrid Photodetectors (Invited)
S. Tedde, P. Buechele, R. Fischer, F. Steinbacher, O. Schmidt, Siemens AG

10.5 A CMOS-compatible, Integrated Approach to Hyper- and Multispectral Imaging
A. Lambrechts, P. Gonzalez, B. Geelen, P. Soussan, K. Tack and M. Jayapala, Imec

Imec has developed a process for the monolithic integration of optical filters on top of the CMOS imager sensors, leading to compact, cost-efficient and faster hyperspectral cameras with improved performance. To demonstrate the versatility of imec hyperspectral technology, prototype sensors with different filter arrangements and performance have been successfully fabricated.

10.6 Image Sensors for High-throughput, Massively-parallel DNA Sequencing: Requirements and Roadmap
A. Grot, Pacific Biosciences

The cost of DNA sequencing has dropped significantly over the last decade, due in part to advances in high performance CCD and CMOS image sensors. Key performance specifications – such as resolution, sensitivity, and frame-rate, along with the performance improvements necessary for continued cost reduction – will be discussed.

10.7 High Performance Silicon Imaging Arrays for . . . - looks like incomplete title in the agenda.

10.8 Detecting elementary particles using Hybrid Pixel Detectors at the LHC and beyond
M. Campbell, CERN

On July 4th 2012 CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider. Englert and Higgs were awarded the Noble Prize for Physics in 2013 for postulating the existence of the boson along with Brout (now deceased) in 1964. The discovery was made possible by the combination of a machine capable of accelerating protons to unprecedented energies, and two huge detectors, called Atlas and CMS, able of record unambiguously the energy and location of the particle tracks produced by the collisions. Every 50ns bunches of protons are made to collide in the heart of the giant experiments and around 20-30 proton interactions take place generating thousands of debris particles. In searching for the Higgs boson, the particles participating in a given interaction need to be detected and tagged to a given bunch crossover (BCO). The innermost regions of the experiments are equipped with hybrid pixel detectors. This paper will provide a brief overview of the large scale hybrid pixel detector systems used at the LHC experiments. It will also describe how the same hybrid pixel detector approach is used in applications beyond high energy particle physics.

26.3 High Performance Metal Oxide TFT and its Applications for Thin Film Electronics
G. Yu, C.-L. Shieh, J. Musolf, F. Foong, T. Xiao, G. Wang, K. Ottosson, CBRITE Inc.

Recent progress on metal-oxide TFT with mobility and stability as good as LTPS-TFT and with uniformity and off current as good as pristine a-Si TFT will be presented. Their applications for high pixel density displays and image arrays are discussed with emphasis on pixel and peripheral circuits with analog functions.

The conference press kit shows a preview of NHK paper #4.2 3D "Pixel-Parallel" Image Processing:

"The resolutions and frame rates of CMOS image sensors have increased greatly to meet demands for higher-definition video systems, but their design may soon be obsolete. That’s because photodetectors and signal processors lie in the same plane, on the substrate, and many pixels must time-share a signal processor. That makes it difficult to improve signal processing speed. NHK researchers developed a 3D parallel-processing architecture they call “pixel-parallel” processing, where each pixel has its own signal processor. Photodetectors and signal processors are built in different vertically stacked layers. The signal from each pixel is vertically transferred and processed in individual stacks. 3D stacking doesn’t degrade spatial resolution, so both high resolution and a high frame rate are achieved. 3D stacked image sensors have been reported previously, but they either didn’t have a signal processor in each stack or they used TSV/microbump technology, reducing resolution. NHK will discuss how photodiode and inverter layers were bonded with damascened gold electrodes to provide each pixel with analog-to-digital conversion and a pulse frequency output. A 64-pixel prototype sensor was built, which successfully captured video images and had a wide dynamic range of >80 dB, with the potential to be increased to >100 dB."

Hua Capital Hires Bank of America to Fund Omnivision Bid

Bloomberg: Hua Capital Management Ltd., a Beijing-based private equity firm, hired Bank of America Corp. to provide funding for its $1.7b bid for Omnivision. Steven Zhang, president of Hua Capital, declined to comment on specifics of the deal, including how much funding Bank of America will provide.

Hua Capital was chosen in June to manage the chip design and testing fund under the Beijing government’s 30 billion-yuan ($4.9b) Semiconductor Industry Development Fund. The Semiconductor Industry Development Fund was set up in December last year to help finance China’s chip industry growth and assist with mergers and acquisitions.

Mantis Vision and Flextronics Present Tablet with 3D Camera

Cnet, NY1, Tom's Guide: Mantis Vision and Flextronics announce their collaboration and development of the OEM-ready 3D-enabled tablet specifically designed for Dynamic 3D Content Creation, called Aquila. Aquila is an 8” tablet featuring Mantis Vision’s MV4D core 3D engine, MV4D Camera Control SDK, and depth sensing components for 3D data acquisition.

At Mantis Vision, we are ecstatic to be such an integral part of Aquila,” said Amihai Loven, CEO, Mantis Vision. “Aquila will be the first tool of its kind for content creators and a variety of commercial and vertical market applications. Because it is available to all developers and OEMs, makers will have unbounded access to a brave new 3D content ecosystem. Along with Flextronics, we are ready to reinvent the 3D experience for everyone, from creators to consumers.

The tablet is aimed to developers who work on 3D imaging applications.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MIPI Alliance Officially Releases C-PHY v1.0, D-PHY v1.2, and M-PHY v3.1 Specs

Business Wire: MIPI Alliance introduces the new C-PHY spec, a physical layer interface for camera and display applications. "The MIPI C-PHY specification was developed to reduce the interface signaling rate to enable a wide range of high-performance and cost-optimized applications, such as very low-cost, low-resolution image sensors; sensors offering up to 60 megapixels; and even 4K display panels," said Rick Wietfeldt, chair of the MIPI Alliance Technical Steering Group.

MIPI C-PHY departs from the conventional differential signaling on two-wire lanes and introduces 3-phase symbol encoding of about 2.28 bits per symbol to transmit data symbols on 3-wire lanes, or “trios” where each trio includes an embedded clock. Three trios operating at the C-PHY v1.0 rate of 2.5 Gsym/s achieve a peak bandwidth of 2.5 Gsym/s times 2.28 bits/symbol, or about 17.1 Gbps over a 9-wire interface that can be shared, if desired, with the MIPI D-PHY interface.

The MIPI Alliance also announces updates to the MIPI D-PHY and MIPI M-PHY physical layer technologies. The updated MIPI D-PHY specification, v1.2, introduces lane-based data skew control in the receiver to achieve a peak transmission rate of 2.5 Gbps/lane or 10 Gbps over 4 lanes, compared to the v1.1 peak transmission rate of 1.5 Gbps/lane or 6 Gbps over 4 lanes. The MIPI M-PHY v3.1 specification introduces transmitter equalization to improve support for challenging channels while maintaining the peak transmission rate of 5.8 Gbps/lane or 23.2 Gbps over 4 lanes, which was achieved in its v3.0 specification.

Synopsys MIPI D-PHY Cuts Area and Power by 50%

PR Newswire: Synopsys says its new DesignWare MIPI D-PHY is 50% lower in area and power compared to competitive solutions. The new IP is the first in the industry compliant to the MIPI D-PHY v1.2 spec (8 data lanes maximum instead of 4 lanes in v1.1), and delivers aggregated data throughput of up to 20 Gbps for high-resolution imaging (2.5 Gbps per lane, 8 lanes).

The new DesignWare MIPI D-PHY is available now in 16-nm FinFET processes, with availability in 28-nm processes scheduled for early 2015. VIP for MIPI D-PHY v1.2 is available now.

"By delivering an extremely small-area and low-power D-PHY to the fast-paced and competitive mobile market, Synopsys helps designers differentiate their SoCs in both silicon cost and battery life," said John Koeter, VP of marketing for IP and prototyping at Synopsys.

"The DesignWare MIPI D-PHY offered low power consumption, high performance and configurability options that were critical to the success of our Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit," said Sean Mitchell, SVP and COO at Movidius. As a side note, Myriad 2 has 12 lanes of 1.5 Gbps D-PHY in 28nm process, so I'm not sure it's relevant to this recent announcement.

Samsung APS-C BSI Sensor

Business Wire, Samsung Tomorrow: Samsung officially announces its 28MP APS-C sensor. Currently in mass production, the new S5KVB2 uses 65nm copper process, while most of the other large sensors rely on 0.18um aluminum techbnology. The 65nm process enables lower power consumption, less heating and lower noise.

The pixel size is 3.6um. Samsung says that BSI technology "improves the light sensitivity of each pixel and increases light absorption in peripheral areas by approximately 30 percent, resulting in crisper, sharper images compared to a conventional front-side illumination (FSI) pixel-based imager."

To satisfy the increasing market need for high-end image sensors in digital cameras, Samsung has introduced this new imager, which features excellent higher resolution, superior image quality, and faster shooting speed with low power consumption,” said Kyushik Hong, VP of System LSI marketing, Samsung Electronics. “Based on its leadership in CMOS imaging technologies, Samsung will continue to address new trends in camera sensor markets.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sony Presents 4D AF

Sony presents 4D Autofocus that the company calls "the beginning of new era." Yooutube videos show its advantages form a user perspective (video #1, video #2:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Technavio Reports on Image Sensor Market in China

Thechniavio prepares "Mobile Image Sensor Market in China 2014-2018" report. There is no much data is available in public domain, other than the forecast that Mobile Image Sensor market in China will grow at a CAGR of 15.35% over the period 2013-2018. Previous Technavio reports have been quite controversial.

Samsung Announces APS-C-Sized BSI Sensor

Business Wire: Samsung NX1 DSLR features what it calls the world's first APS-C-sized BSI sensor. The sensor has 28.2MP (pixel size 3.6um) and features 205 phase detect AF points covering 90% of the frame. The AF pixels allow the camera to achieve 15fps of continuous shooting while continuously tracking focus. The camera also supports shooting 4K video with H.265 HEVC codec.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Judge Finds L-3 Patent "Obvious"

Reuters: A federal judge has ruled in favor of Sony, overturning a jury verdict for L-3 Communications and invalidating several parts of an image sensor patent held by the defense contractor. The judge said that the jury in 2013 was wrong to find L-3's patent claims were not "obvious" and thus insufficiently unique to be patented. New York-based L-3 sued Sony in 2010 over two patents for the image sensors, which it said were originally developed for military low-light applications.

Law360: The patent in the lawsuit is:

US5541654 "Focal plane array imaging device with random access architecture" by Peter C. T. Roberts

This is a divisional patent. The original patent under the same name has been dropped earlier in the dispute:

US5452004 "Focal plane array imaging device with random access architecture" by Peter C. T. Roberts

Update: The official judge opinion on the case is published here.

Apple Proposes Global Shutter BSI Pixel

Apple patent application US20140246568 "Photodiode with different electric potential regions for image sensors" by Chung Chun Wan proposes a vertically stacked fully pinned PDs, whereas the bottom one is used as a storage node (SN) for a GS pixel: "The storage node in global shutter pixels is usually located on the same surface of a semiconductor wafer as the photodiode region, and thus typically needs to be shielded in order to maintain the integrity of the charge stored in the storage node. Also, positioning the storage node on the same surface of a semiconductor wafer as the photodiode reduces the amount of surface area of the photodiode that can be exposed to light, and hence reduces the sensitivity of the pixel." So, here is the proposal:

Omnivision Proposes Dual-PD-Size Dual-Exposure Pixel

Omnivision's patent application US20140246561 "High dynamic range pixel having a plurality of photodiodes with a single implant" by Gang Chen, Dajiang Yang, Jin Li, Duli Mao, Hsin-Chih Tai proposes a dual-PD-size pixel where each PD exposure can be independently controlled. This approach is known, "however, one challenge with manufacturing HDR image sensors using this approach is that additional photo masking and implantation steps are required during manufacture, which add to the overall complexity and cost of implementing the HDR image sensors." So, Omnivision proposes to use the same PD implant and masking layer:

Some other possibilities of the large PD implant layouts: