Sunday, April 18, 2021

Samsung is Rumored to Stop Pixel Size Race

GizChina quotes rumors that Samsung is going to stop megapixel race and will concentrate on image quality instead of the number of megapixels in its future products.

Huawei and BAIC Announce Self-Driving Car

HuaweiUpdate, HuaweiCentral, GizChina: Huawei and BAIC jointly announce Arcfox Alpha S Huawei HI self-driving car equipped with twelve cameras, three 96-line LiDARs, six radars, and thirteen ultrasound sensors. The computing engine includes Huawei chip with a computing power of 352Tops.

The new car demonstrates an impressive ability of autonomous driving on the busy streets of Shanghai:

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Review of MoS2 Based Photodetectors

MDPI publishes University of Trento, Italy, paper "MoS2 Based Photodetectors: A Review" by Alberto Taffelli, Sandra Dirè, Alberto Quaranta, and Lucio Pancheri.

"Photodetectors based on transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) have been widely reported in the literature and molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) has been the most extensively explored for photodetection applications. The properties of MoS2, such as direct band gap transition in low dimensional structures, strong light–matter interaction and good carrier mobility, combined with the possibility of fabricating thin MoS2 films, have attracted interest for this material in the field of optoelectronics. In this work, MoS2-based photodetectors are reviewed in terms of their main performance metrics, namely responsivity, detectivity, response time and dark current. Although neat MoS2-based detectors already show remarkable characteristics in the visible spectral range, MoS2 can be advantageously coupled with other materials to further improve the detector performance Nanoparticles (NPs) and quantum dots (QDs) have been exploited in combination with MoS2 to boost the response of the devices in the near ultraviolet (NUV) and infrared (IR) spectral range. Moreover, heterostructures with different materials (e.g., other TMDs, Graphene) can speed up the response of the photodetectors through the creation of built-in electric fields and the faster transport of charge carriers. Finally, in order to enhance the stability of the devices, perovskites have been exploited both as passivation layers and as electron reservoirs."

Omron Touchless Buttons and Face Recognition

Omron presents its COVID-era touchless buttons:

Omron also presents its OKAO face detection and recognition functions:

Friday, April 16, 2021

Dongbu Hitek Announces Development of BSI GS Pixel and SPAD

BusinessWireDB HiTek announces that the company has developed 110nm based GS and SPAD processes and that DB HiTek will be expanding the specialized image sensor business. 

Based on 110nm BSI process, DB HiTek’s global shutter is applied with light shield, and light guide technologies. It also shows 99.99% performance of GSE (Global Shutter Efficiency) in varying pixel sizes of at least 2.8um.

DB HiTek SPAD achieved PDP of 3.8 % @905nm of 3.8% based on 110nm FSI process. The foundry plans plans to use BSI process and develop a SPAD with PDP of 7% @905nm within the year.

DB HiTek will continue on providing diverse customer support programs and plans to hold MPW for global shutter and SPAD in upcoming September.

TSMC Fab 14 Power Outage Might Impact Sony CIS Production

 TrendForce publishes its analysis of the April 14th power outage at TSMC Fab 14 Phase 7:

"TSMC’s Fab14 P7 in the Southern Taiwan Science Park suffered a power outage on April 14th. The cause of the power outage was an accidental damage of an underground power cable during construction work nearby.

The diesel uninterruptible power supply (DUPS) of the facility kicked in instantly when the power cable was cut, but there was still a short period of power interruption and voltage drop. As a result, some of the equipment systems in the facility temporarily experienced operational irregularity or malfunction. Based on past experiences with this type of incident, TrendForce believes that it will take 2-7 days to recalibrate the equipment systems so that they can return to normal operation.

...the Fab14 P7 facilities contain 45/40nm and 16/12nm production lines, and the outage will primarily impair end products including smartphones and automobiles

TrendForce further indicates that ... CIS logic products (manufactured at the 45/40nm nodes) are bearing the brunt of the outage’s impact... In particular, Sony CIS 40nm Logic products are primarily supplied for high-end smartphones."

DxOMark Analyzer 7.4 Adds Raw File and LED Flicker Mitigation Tests

DxOMark Analyzer v.7.4 adds LED flicker suppression measurements based on upcoming IEEE / P2020 standards. The module contains both software and hardware. The hardware includes the Universal LED Timer Mark II with 5 rows of LED lights that can be programmed to perform 5 tests simultaneously that allows for automation. The module measures the sensitivity of the camera to LED Flicker and proves essential to automotive cameras that need to ascertain flickering accurately.

The Raw module objectively measures the image quality of smartphone camera modules.The RAW Module now provides an overall score for indoor, outdoor and low light as well as sub-scores for each of these lighting conditions. The scores can now evaluate zoom capacity and video.

Pamtek Presents ToF Module Testing Systems

Pamtek presents its new ToF module testing systems:

Trendforce Forecasts 5B Camera Modules in 2021

Trendforce reports that despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the smartphone market in 2020, total mobile camera module shipment still underwent a 3% growth YoY due to the increasing number of camera modules featured per handset as a result of smartphone brands’ competition over camera hardware. Given that the upward trajectory of smartphone camera module shipment will likely persist this year, TrendForce therefore forecasts an annual shipment volume of 5.07 billion units for 2021, an 11% growth YoY.

In addition to increasing the number of camera modules per handset, smartphone brands have also been raising the specifications of their smartphone cameras. First, with regards to the primary camera, certain Android phones will feature up to 64MP camera modules, which will surpass a 20% penetration rate in 2021 (making this particular pixel count spec the fastest-growing among all primary camera specifications), whereas the latest iPhones will likely continue to feature a 12MP primary camera, since Apple is mainly focused on the overall image quality of photos as opposed to megapixel count. Second, with regards to CMOS image sensors, certain smartphone brands, such as Apple, Huawei, and Xiaomi, are expected to increase their smartphone cameras’ sensor sizes to one inch in order to improve these cameras’ performances in low-light or night settings.

Third, with regards to ultrawide cameras, Apple will look to strengthen the autofocus performance of its flagship iPhone models by equipping the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max with VCMs. On the other hand, Huawei and OPPO will incorporate FreeForm Lens technology to address the distortion effect commonly found towards the edges of photos taken with ultrawide cameras.

Finally, with regards to periscope cameras, their widespread adoption by Android smartphone brands in 2020 resulted in a massive 429% growth YoY. Compared to the telephoto cameras found in iPhones, which offer 2.5x optical zoom, periscope cameras are capable of 5x optical zoom at the bare minimum, which delivers much higher image clarity in long-range photography situations. However, the forecasted decline in smartphone shipment of Huawei and Honor, which are the most aggressive in the industry in terms of periscope camera adoption, will in turn negatively affect total periscope camera module shipment for 2021 as well. TrendForce believes that a return to massive growth will not take place unless periscope camera modules capable of continuous autofocus are successfully mass produced, and smartphone brands are willing to adopt such modules for their handsets.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

ST Aims to Embed its ToF into Every Power Switch

ST Micro publishes a use case of "Touchless Switch Using ST Time-of-Flight":

ON Semi and Ambarella Promote FaceID Access Solution

ON Semi publishes a promotional video "Smart Access Control with AR0237IR":

Gigajot Achieves 0.19e- Readout Noise in 16.7MP Sensor

IEEE EDL publishes Gigajot paper "A 0.19e- rms Read Noise 16.7Mpixel Stacked Quanta Image Sensor with 1.1μm-Pitch Backside Illuminated Pixels" by Jiaju Ma, Dexue Zhang, Omar A. Elgendy, and Saleh Masoodian.

"This paper reports a 16.7 Mpixel, 3D-stacked backside illuminated Quanta Image Sensor (QIS) with 1.1 μm-pitch pixels which achieves 0.19 e- rms array read noise and 0.12 e- rms best single-pixel read noise under room temperature operation. The accurate photon-counting capability enables superior imaging performance under ultra-low-light conditions. The sensor supports programmable analog-to-digital convertor (ADC) resolution from 1-14 bits and video frame rates up to 40 fps with 4096 x 4096 resolution and 600 mW power consumption."

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Tesla Self Driving Becomes Camera-Only, Abandons Radar

CleanTechnica and Teslarati quote Elon Musk tweets that the oncoming Full Self Driving (FSD) Beta V9.0 will rely only on cameras and use no radars anymore:

Teslarati adds more Elon Musk's tweets:

Smartsens Presents "Blue Ocean of Market Opportunities" for 3K Video

Smartsens unveils a "3K Line of Image Sensors" consisting of a previously announced 60fps SC500AI and a slower 30fps version of it named SC501AI.

3K Video Blue Ocean New Opportunity:

At present, 2K is the mainstream resolution of the image market. But in intelligent applications such as face recognition and intelligent detection, 2K resolution has gradually become unable to meet the market demand for high-definition video. However, in the process of many high-end video applications transitioning to 4K resolution, 4K video is limited by the transmission bandwidth. After the H.265 encoding and compression, the final rendering effect did not meet the application expectations for 4K images. Therefore, a blue ocean market opportunity for 3K video was born between 2K and 4K.

Ouyang Jian, Deputy General Manager of Smartsens, says, "With its continuous in-depth exploration of customer differentiation needs, Smartsens is keenly aware of the huge CIS Blue Sea market between 2K and 4K imaging and has launched a 3K-class product line to better meet the upgrade of end-customer application needs. In the future, Smartsens will continue to launch a number of different series of products to meet the growing application needs of various segments of the future HD video era."

Omnivision Announces Nvidia Drive-Qualified Automotive Sensors

BusinessWire: Omnivision uses Nvidia GPU Technology Conference to announce 2 new automotive sensors compatible with Nvidia Drive platform.

A new un-named 5MP image sensor is an automotive global shutter sensors for DMS applications. It also adds Nyxel NIR technology to achieve the world’s highest QE for DMS of 36% at 940nm wavelength.

As the industry’s first automotive image sensor with 140dB HDR, along with LED flicker mitigation (LFM) and high 8.3MP resolution, the new OX08B40 aims to front-view cameras, powered by an on-chip HALE (HDR and LFM Engine) combination algorithm.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Reuters about ON Semi Automotive Supply Chain

Reuters gives an example of automotive camera international supply chain:

"...consider a chip supplied by a U.S. firm for Hyundai Motor Co’s new electric vehicle, the IONIQ 5.

Production of the chip, a camera image sensor designed by On Semiconductor, begins at a factory in Italy, where raw silicon wafers are imprinted with complex circuitry.

The wafers are then sent first to Taiwan for packaging and testing, then to Singapore for storage, then on to China for assembly into a camera unit, and finally to a Hyundai component supplier in Korea before reaching Hyundai’s auto factories.

A shortage of that image sensor has led to the idling of Hyundai Motor’s plant in South Korea, making it the latest automaker to suffer from global supply woes that crippled production at most automakers including General Motors Co and Ford Motors Co and Volkswagen.

And the winding journey of the image sensor shows just how complicated it will be for the chip industry to both ramp up capacity to address the current shortage and re-invigorate U.S. chip manufacturing.

“Trying to reconstruct an entire supply chain from upstream to downstream in a single given location just isn’t a possibility,” David Somo, senior vice president at ON Semiconductor, told Reuters. “It would be prohibitively expensive.”

High Speed Counting SPADs NIST publishes an Applied Physics Letters paper "Low-noise photon counting above 100 × 106 counts per second with a high-efficiency reach-through single-photon avalanche diode system" by Michael A. Wayne, Joshua C. Bienfang, and Alan L. Migdall.

"We demonstrate a method that allows a high-efficiency single-photon-avalanche diode (SPAD) with a thick absorption region (>10 μm) to count single photons at rates significantly higher than previously demonstrated. We apply large (>30 V) AC bias gates to the SPAD at 1 GHz and detect minute avalanches with a discrimination threshold of 5(1) mV by means of radio frequency interferometry. We measure a reduction by a factor of ≈500 in the average charge per avalanche when compared to operation in its traditional active-quenching module and a relative increase in >19% in detection efficiency at 850 nm. The reduction in charge strongly suppresses self-heating effects in the diode that can degrade performance at high avalanche rates. We show that the single-photon detection system maintains high efficiency at count rates exceeding 1e8 s−1."

Samsung to Manufacture Image Sensors at UMC

TheElec: Samsung has recently signed a contract for UMC to manufacture Samsung’s image sensors in Taiwan, according Taiwan Economic Daily.

As a part of the deal, Samsung is selling about 400 units of fab equipment to UMC to be installed at USMC's P6 fab at Nanke and used in the sensor manufacturing. UMC expects to produce 27,000 28nm wafers per month at the fab starting sometime in 2023.

The Taiwan Economic Daily says the  P6 fab will mostly manufacture chips for Samsung.

Samsung sees high demand for its image sensors, but it has suffering from a shortage in production capacity. The new Samsung-UMC deal somewhat mirrors Sony-TSMC one, although Sony probably had different reasons for going to TSMC for advanced processes.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Smartsens Announces 2nd Generation DSI Pixel Technology

Smartsens launches two image sensors based on DSI-2 pixel technology, SC233A and SC223A, for surveillance and security cameras. The new 1/2.8-inch 2MP sensors are have 2.9um pixel pitch.

"In 2019, Siteway opened up a new technological path in addition to the traditional FSI and BSI technology, and released the first-generation DSI pixel technology based on its innovative design architecture, which has higher sensitivity and reliability than mainstream FSI technology. Now, Siteway has launched a new generation of DSI-2 technology , which has improved sensitivity and color performance compared with previous generation technology products."

The new sensors feature:
  • sensitivity and chroma improvements by 15% and 20% respectively
  • through the use of PixGainTM Technology, the full well capacity has more than doubled with enhanced MaxSNR and HDR efficiency
  • additionally, the SC233A supports HDR video at 60 fps.
  • the new sensors are first products launched by Smartsense with the new China domestic supply chain partners. More products are to follow
Ouyang Jian, Deputy General Manager of Smartsens, says: “Smartsens has always been committed to the creation and improvement of a multilateral supply chain system for common development, and this time it is working with new domestic supply chain partners. The launch of a new generation of DSI-2 technology products is another step forward in the supply chain system, and strives to provide customers with better supply guarantees."

SmartSens’ SC233A and SC223A are available for sampling immediately, with mass production expected in April 2021.

Update: Dongbu Hitek foundry announces Smartsens DSI-2 too.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Actlight Dynamic PhotoDiode Integrated into Foundry Process

PRNewswire: ActLight and a "globally recognized semiconductor foundry" joinly promote the Dynamic PhotoDiode IP. After having produced several samples and having studied the silicon test report, the wafer foundry has acknowledged the sensors outstanding performance and approved the IP to be part of their library in the Analog & Mixed Signal category. The IP based on CMOS 0.18um geometry is now offered globally and ready for volume, high quality productions.   

"We are very pleased to have the opportunity of extending the commercial offer of our innovative photodiode with the support of such a valued partner," said Serguei Okhonin, Co-founder and CEO at ActLight "The partnership acknowledges not only the exceptional performance but as well the maturity of our technology."

Friday, April 09, 2021

LiDAR News: ON Semi, LeddarTech, Velodyne, Insight, Baraja

ON Semi and LeddarTech publish a joint webinar devoted to their common platform and adaptations that each company made in its design to be compatible with the other:

Veolodyne CEO Anand Gopalan gave a couple of interview on its outlook and SPAC merger. Few quotes:

"Is there enough room in the market for all of the lidar companies going public?

The story of the lidar business has been the story of Velodyne charting the course and then a bunch of people following. Even in this case, we went public as being the first pure-play lidar company to go public.

A few of them followed. I think there is room for more than one lidar company, but there may not room for so many. As we look at some of the other players, the two things that I would point to: One is scale. Velodyne produces more sensors in one quarter than all of these other guys have produced combined in 2020, based on their own public statements.

The applications we’re talking about require scale, and require that we can produce more than 100 units a year. Velodyne, based on all public information available out there seems to be the only player who’s by far way ahead of the competition.

What is Velodyne’s M&A strategy going to be in the next year or so?

I’ve said this in public before: There’s three sorts of things we would look for. 

There’s interesting technologies out there, laterally in the lidar space, which are not ready for prime-time yet, but obviously as having been the leader and first mover in the space, we track every single company in the space quite closely. There may be some interesting technologies that we could accelerate their time to market just on the backs of our ability to scale so quickly. 

That’s one type of acquisition that we might find interesting. The other one is, of course, we do see that there are other interesting sensor modalities that could be combined with lidar in certain applications, so definitely there’s opportunities around that.

The third one, which is really going to be a focus area, is that in a lot of these sorts of applications, we see customers looking not just for a sensor package, but looking for really higher levels of intelligence in terms of software and compute that go with the sensor package. They’re really looking for an entire solution, so we do see opportunities there as well.

Why is it taking so much longer than expected to get fully autonomous cars on the road?

I like to describe the autonomous vehicle, or the robotaxi, as kind of the moonshot in the industry, because similar to the moonshot, it’s the most challenging use case. But as a result of investing in that, many of these other applications have now become possible, whether it is these robotics applications like we are talking about or enhanced safety in the context of a consumer vehicle.

How does the delay in the rollout of autonomous passenger cars affect your business model?

We have been fortunate in that we have a very diversified base of customers, so while we have had some of these L4, L5 programs (delayed), we have had things like the supply chain robotics, applications around last-mile delivery to our homes — those applications actually (pushed forward). We had one customer who was going to roll out in 2023 or 2024 who actually pulled in and is rolling out in 2021.

As a result of that, our business has been fairly de-risked from a financial model perspective, so we have benefited from that. And I do believe, ultimately, that L4, L5 robotaxis will eventually come to fruition, and we continue to have a very robust market share in the space.

BisinessWire: Insight demos the pedestrian gesture recognition with its FMCW LiDAR: 

Insight LiDAR announces that its product, Insight 1600, combines high resolution and velocity detection to enable pedestrian gesture recognition. The new capability can be used by AV perception teams to quickly and accurately predict the actions of pedestrians.

Baraja announces it has raised a new investment round of $31M (AUD$40M). The latest capital raising  includes new strategic investment from Hitachi Construction Machinery. Hitachi’s strategic investment comes after a two-year partnership to validate Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan sensors in real-world scenarios that prove the technology’s reliability in harsh environments.

Hideshi Fukumoto, VP, Executive Officer, and CTO, Hitachi Construction Machinery; President of R&D Group; and President of Client Solutions Group, said: “Spectrum-Scan LiDAR is a must-have technology providing better autonomous sensing solutions for mining customers who demand increasingly higher safety and production efficiency. We are delighted to be working with Baraja, a company with leading-edge technology in this field."

Disruptive Inventions in Particle Physics Imaging

Erik Heijne from CERN presented "Disruptive Inventions: Considerations for ECFA Detector R&D Roadmap" at ECFA Detector R&D Roadmap Symposium in March 2021:

Kanematsu Futuretech CIS Packaging

Fujifilm spin-off packaging house Kanematsu Futuretech publishes a Youtube video showing its capabilities:

Thursday, April 08, 2021

One More Attempt of Holy Grail Color Router - Splitter

Canadian Western University, ON, publishes an iScience paper "Nanophotonic color splitters for high-efficiency imaging" by Eric Johlin.

  • Color splitters focus and sort light into pixels without any absorptive losses
  • New single-material splitters are designed to sit directly on a CMOS sensor surface
  • Splitters with four or more layers show significant improvements over filters
  • Color-corrected and nearly lossless greyscale imaging can be done with one splitter
Standard color imaging utilizes absorptive filter arrays to achieve spectral sensitivity. However, this leads to ∼2/3 of incident light being lost to filter absorption. Instead, splitting and redirecting light into spatially separated pixels avoids these absorptive losses. Herein we investigate the inverse design and performance of a new type of splitter which can be printed from a single material directly on top of a sensor surface and are compatible with 800 nm sensor pixels, thereby providing drop-in replacements for color filters. Two-dimensional structures with as few as four layers significantly improve fully color-corrected imaging performance over standard filters, with lower complexity. Being fully dielectric, these splitters additionally allow color-correction to be foregone, increasing the photon transmission efficiency to over 80%, even for sensors with fill-factors of 0.5. Performance further increases with fully 3D structures, improving light sensitivity in color-corrected imaging by a factor of 4 when compared to filters alone.

Graphical Abstract: