Friday, June 18, 2021

Challenges of Curved Sensor Mass Production

Yahoo: Phoblographer publishes an interview with curved image sensor startup SILINA’s CTO Wilfred Jahn. Few quotes:

"For the last few years, curved sensor technology has mainly been developed by labs for research purposes. Various curving processes have been developed for a few years by different players. These curving processes are all “single-chip curving process”, meaning that only one sensor can be curved at a time. These single-chip curving processes create strong limitations, such as a very low volume of production and a very expensive unit price. Thus, a single-chip curving process is not economically viable for consumer applications, which is why you have not seen any compact camera using a curved imaging sensor yet. Up to now, technological developments have only been limited to niche markets (astro-instrumentation, scientific).

SILINA has developed a “multi-chip curving process” to curve thousands of sensors at the same time. This makes the process scalable and economically viable for high volume markets. We have proven our claims with a demonstrator: starting from a wafer of 275 imaging sensors, we have curved all of them at the same time. This is more sensors than have ever been curved during the past 20 years. SILINA plans to automate this manufacturing process, transfer the technology to large sensor manufacturers and reach high volume markets.

Note that SILINA does not manufacture any imaging sensor with foundries. SILINA only develops curving solutions for existing sensors that will be transferred to image sensor manufacturers for the mass market. For high-end markets and custom requests requiring specific technical features, SILINA will curve its clients’ sensors in-house.

Our curving process is independent [of] the sensor characteristics. CMOS, CCD, FSI, BSI, visible or infrared have already been demonstrated. Today, we are discussing with various sensor manufacturers to perform testing on their last generation of sensors."

Yole Developpement's interview with SILINA's CEO Michael Bailly tells more about the company's mass production process:

"...we curve sensors reliably and at industrial scale for the very first time. We have recently made a demonstrator and curved all the sensors on a single wafer. A set of 275 curved sensors has been curved at the same time, in less than one hour. This demonstrates the scalability, repeatability and high yield of our technology. These sensors are 1 inch format, like the ones planned to be used in the new generation of smartphone cameras. Smaller and larger formats can also be curved in the same way. Also, we have manufactured a curved sensor with a freeform shape, which is a very complex shape to optimize even more the performance and compactness of imaging systems we have designed for one of our targeted markets. R&D developments are on-going and new patents are being filed."

Galaxycore to Invest More than $1B into BSI Processing Fab

Trendforce Consulting reports that Galaxycore IPO at Shanghai Stock Exchange has been approved. Most of the raised investment, 6.8B yuan (about $1.056B) goes into the company's own BSI processing 12-inch fab with capacity of 20,000 wafers per month. The new fab will be responsible for backthinning, wafer bonding, and and other BSI manufacturing steps.

The fab is supposed to provide most of the capacity for Galaxycore's low-end and mid-range sensors. The company also plans to penetrate a higher resolution sensors market.

Assorted Videos: Princeton Infrared, Trioptics, Algolux, Luminar, Teledyne e2v

Princeton Infrared publishes a nice demo of how the world looks in SWIR band: cigarette light like a projector, soldering iron like a lamp, black water, etc. The demo starts from 2:25 time:

Trioptics publishes a presentation on its active alignment in ADAS camera assembly and testing:

Algolux shows that AI adversarial attack can target only specific ISP types, leaving intact others:

Luminar introduces Blade, it's new generation flat profile LiDAR:

Teledyne e2v publishes a webinar on 3D vision with laser triangulation and requirements to image sensors for this application. The company claims that its Flash 2K (2MP, 1500fps) and Flash 4K ( 4MP, 1800fps) are best suited for that:

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Hynix on HDR History

EETimes publishes an article "HDR: The Secret Behind Great Images" by Jonghyun Bae from SK Hynix ISP team. The article talks about HDR sensors history and presents Hynix approach:

"SK hynix has completed developing QHDR and staggered HDR technologies, which are now ready to be provided to customers."

Yole on Market Trends in 3D Imaging and Sensing

Yole Developpement publishes "3D Imaging and Sensing – Technology and Market Trends 2021." Few quotes:

"The rise of the mobile 3D sensing market is slowing, but the next wave is coming.

In mobile markets there is a temporary hiatus in growth of 3D sensing due to the ban of Huawei in the US as well as the fact that the Android camp has abandoned the technology.

The shipment volume of 3D sensing products recorded in 2020 is about 80% of the previous forecast. The gap between previous optimistic forecasts widened as sales leveled off. But underdisplay camera technology became mature, and there are more low-cost indirect Time-of-Flight (iToF) sensing solutions. These could drive higher 3D sensing adoption and a return to growth around 2023.

Apple continues to use front-facing structured light throughout all iPhone series. It also introduced a 3D camera with a direct ToF (dToF) array sensor into the iPhone 12 Pro, a step forward for the 3D sensing market.

Besides mobile phones, 3D sensing technology has a broad consumer market, including tablets, Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR), robot vacuum cleaners, and Artificial Intelligence combined with the Internet of Things (AIoT).

Yole Développement expects the global 3D imaging and sensing market to expand from $6.8B in 2020 to $15.0B in 2026, at a 14.5% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR).

In the mobile and consumer worlds, some bigger players have paused upgrading of cameras with 3D sensing temporarily. However, we are seeing some small smartphone players start to use iToF cameras to enhance photography, such as Sony and Meizu. Apple, on schedule, used a dToF rear module on the iPad Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro in 2020. It still uses structured light as its face identification in its whole series of products.

Yole forecasts that 69.2 million smartphones with ToF cameras will be shipped globally in 2021.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Sony Opens New Design Center in Trento, Italy

Sony Europe VC, Antonio Avitabile, announces a new design center in Trento, Italy. Trento is a home of FBK, one of the major SPAD development hubs in Europe.

Assorted Videos: Omnivision, Omron, Polight, Wooptix, Senseeker, Ishikawa Lab, Bedabrata Pain

Omnivision publishes a Q&A session on its small size endoscopic sensor OH0TA:

Omron presents its ToF sensor applications in people monitoring:

Wooptix Imaging presents the Polight lens application in lightfield selfie camera in smartphones (via Android Authority)

Senseeker publishes a video about its Oxygen ROIC:

Ishikawa Lab at Tokyo University publishes a video on 1ms high speed image vision processing:

Sundry Dialogue publishes an interview with Bedabrata Pain who worked on the first CMOS sensors at JPL but later abandoned his technology career to start a new one in the movie industry:

"In 1990s, Bedabrata Pain was part of a team that invented the active pixel sensor technology that produced the world's smallest camera and has been inducted to the US Space Technology Hall of Fame. Now it is used from cell-phone cameras to movie cameras (such as those used by RED) to those in space telescopes. Bedo, holds over 90 patents and is an inductee to the US Space Technology Hall of Fame. He was an award winning senior research scientist at NASA and Caltech for over 15 years, till he quit NASA to become a film-maker."

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Is Array of Cameras Patentable?

Reuters and National Law Review publishes an interesting article discussing a case of  Yu v Apple, Appeal No. 2020-1760  (Fed. Cir., June 11, 2021) concluding that US Patent 6,611,289 "Digital Cameras Using Multiple Sensors with Multiple Lenses" is not patent-eligible.

Inivation Presentation

Inivation presents the company's history and progress in event-based cameras:

Omnivision's Presentation on Event-Based Sensors

Shoushun Chen, Founder of CelePixel acquired by Omnivision, Will Semiconductor, presents the company latest developments in image sensors at CVPR 2021 Workshop on Event-based Vision:

Sony Work on Event-Based Image Sensors

RPG Workshops publishes a talk by Christian Brändli, CEO of Sony Advanced Vision Sensors - AVS (used to be CEO of Insightness startup in Switzerland, acquired by Sony in June 2020). The slides are available on Github.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Cadence Sees Interest to Integration of its AI Processor with Image Sensors

Semiconductor Engineering publishes an interview with Pulin Desai, group director for product marketing, management and business development at Cadence. Pulin seys that Cadence sees an interest to integration of its AI and DSP processors with image sensors:

IDTechEx on Emerging Image Sensor Technologies

IDTechEx publishes a report "Emerging Image Sensor Technologies 2021-2031: Applications and Markets."

While conventional CMOS detectors for visible light are well established and somewhat commoditized, at least for low value applications, there is an extensive opportunity for more complex image sensors that offer capabilities beyond that of simply acquiring red, green and blue (RGB) intensity values. As such, extensive effort is currently being devoted to developing emerging image sensor technologies that can detect aspects of light beyond human vision. This includes imaging over a broader spectral range, over a larger area, acquiring spectral data at each pixel, and simultaneously increasing temporal resolution and dynamic range.

The report covers the following technologies:
  • Quantum dots on silicon hybrid image sensors
  • Organic photodetectors on silicon hybrid image sensors
  • Emerging SWIR image sensor technologies
  • Organic and perovskite photodiodes (OPDs and PPDs)
  • Event-based vision
  • Hyperspectral imaging
  • Flexible x-ray image sensors
  • Wavefront imaging

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Worker Monitoring with Sony AI Vision Sensor, Canon's "Smile in the Office" Initiative

Sony publishes a video demo showing worker monitoring use case for its IMX500 sensor:

Nikkei Asia (reprinted by KrAsia) publishes an opinion about the worker monitoring systems:

"Workers are not being replaced by algorithms and artificial intelligence. Instead, the management is being sort of augmented by these technologies," said Nick Srnicek, a Lecturer in Digital Economy at the King's College of London. For example, with the development of digital technologies, management can monitor workers who are not in a centralized space, he said.

"Technologies are increasing the pace for people who work with machines instead of the other way around, just like what happened during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century," he said. "The same thing is happening today. Humans just have little autonomy over that."

It appears that AI-vision systems find more use in the office. Electronics Weekly and Nikkei Asia (reprinted by KrAsia) report about a new Canon China initiative:

"Last year, a Chinese subsidiary of Japanese camera maker Canon, Canon Information Technology in Beijing, unveiled a new workspace management system that only allows smiling employees to enter the office and book conference rooms. Using so-called "smile recognition" technology, Canon said the system intended to bring more cheerfulness to office in the post-pandemic era.

The software is in use in its Beijing office and is being marketed at companies in Singapore. However, many workers found the use of such technology intrusive. "So now the companies are not only manipulating our time, but also our emotions," one user said on Weibo. 

A spokesperson for Canon China, however, told Nikkei that the software was intended to help create a positive atmosphere: "We have been wanting to encourage employees to create a positive atmosphere by utilizing this system with the smile detection setting 'on'," the spokesperson said. "Mostly, people are just too shy to smile, but once they get used to smiles in the office, they just keep their smiles without the system which created positive and lively atmosphere.