Monday, October 26, 2020

Sony R&D Stories

 Sony publishes an article "Sony’s Latest Image Sensors and the Technologies that Lies Behind Them." Few quotes:

"There are various types of ToF, and we focused on developing an indirect-ToF (iToF) method that works by measuring the phase delay of returning light after it has been reflected by the target object. To realize this sensor, we developed a new back-illuminated CAPD (Current Assisted Photonic Demodulator) by combining CAPD technology, which is an IP of Sony Depthsensing Solutions, with Sony’s back-illuminated CMOS image sensor technology.

Making the most of the back-illuminated structure, it efficiently converts light into electrons, enabling time detection of under 50 picoseconds and greatly improving distance resolution."

"Sony Depthsensing Solutions was an emerging company at that time and only a small number of skillful members were involved in the development. Right after we started collaborating, the difference in corporate cultures perplexed us. By making Sony Semiconductor Solutions’ team small too, requiring each member to be more responsible, we were able to realize rapid development while absorbing this unfamiliar culture. During the development, issues that we had never experienced before cropped up, including chips breaking while under evaluation, but we worked with each other and brought them to completion. In addition to image sensors, this collaboration between the two companies from Belgium and Japan also contributed to securing the iToF businesses."

"In the automotive industry, there are many international standards related to the product development process, which itself must also be refined along with the product in line with industry-wide standards. Using the evidence gathered during development, the validity of the process is demonstrated with the aim of establishing a firm position as a reliable supplier in the industry while being assessed and audited by customers. At first, we did not understand anything about the differences when compared with electronics products and the unique culture of the automotive industry, but we learned by reading standards and attending seminars, all the while striving to improve. In particular, it took a lot of time and effort to think about how to apply ideas defined on the vehicle level to the image sensor level."

"A unique technology called "SenSWIR" connects these different semiconductors via a Cu-Cu direct bonding, realizing the Sony’s innovative SWIR image sensor. By thinning the indium phosphide (InP) substrate that blocks visible light, the SWIR image sensor is able to capture a broad range of wavelengths, from visible to short-wave infrared, with high sensitivity."


  1. Interesting statement: "By making Sony Semiconductor Solutions’ team small too, requiring each member to be more responsible, we were able to realize rapid development while absorbing this unfamiliar culture."

    Many companies tend to do the opposite after they acquired a startup. Responsibilities get spread over the large corporate organization, which slows down development.

  2. Indeed, "the difference in corporate cultures perplexed" Sony at the beginning ...

  3. "Perplexed" can be positive and can be negative. I do guess Sony was positively perplexed ;-)

    1. Positively of course, otherwise they wouldn't have adapted them.

    2. Other companies that have acquired CIS groups in Belgium may learn from this. SONY, and other larger companies, usually work with very large teams with narrow scope for each member. Belgian engineers are trained as generalists from day one and this is a great skill in start-up environments. When the teams get acquired by a larger (foreign) group they are forced to adapt. It appears SONY has managed to see the value in this and learn from it. Kudos to the SONY teams on both sides.


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