Thursday, October 14, 2021

Hynix Aims to Capture Larger Chunk of CIS Market

BusinessKorea: "I am confident that CMOS image sensors (CISs) will be a pillar of SK Hynix's growth along with DRAMs and NAND flashes," said Song Chang-rok, VP of SK Hynix's CIS business, in an interview with SK Hynix Newsroom on Oct. 12. "The next goal is to join the leaders’ group."

Although SK Hynix is a latecomer, it aims to strengthen its R&D capabilities for image sensors and improve productivity early to join the leaders of the high-pixel count sensor market.

Currently, Sony and Samsung Electronics are the leaders of the CIS market, with a combined market share of about 80%. SK Hynix, OmniVision, and GalaxyCore are competing for the remaining 20%.

Technology gaps become meaningless when the market undergoes big changes,” Song said. “Competition factors will change from process technologies such as miniaturization to peripheral technologies such as information sensors and intelligence sensors.

The CIS market is expected to grow 7.3% annually from US$19.9 billion in 2021 to US$26.3 billion in 2025, Gartner said in June. During the same period, the overall semiconductor market is expected to grow by 4.0% annually and the memory market - by 4.1%.

Few more quotes from Song Chang-rok's article (in Google translation):

"As the memory semiconductor market grows and technology advances, new fabs are being built and new processes and equipment are introduced. Idle assets and prior art generated during this process can be applied to the CIS business. CIS requires a lower level of refinement compared to memory, but the equipment and processes required for production are similar.

In addition, the CIS business is important in that it serves as a bridgehead for SK hynix to expand into the non-memory market. We will respond effectively to market growth and create a successful story.

As a latecomer, we have experienced some trial and error, but we have continued to grow steadily. At first, customers doubted the possibility that SK hynix could do CIS business, but now it is recognized as a major supplier in the low-pixel area of ​​13MP (megapixel) or less. In order to expand into the 32MP or higher high-pixel market that can create high added value, we are strengthening our R&D capabilities and striving to secure productivity.

Above all, SK hynix has a great advantage in securing 'Pixel Shrink' technology, which determines the reliability of CIS. Cell miniaturization know-how has been accumulated for a long time in the DRAM field, and proven equipment is deployed on the production line. When our competitors go through multiple stages, we can find shortcuts. We will strengthen our competitiveness by making good use of these advantages.

Analog driven CIS cannot continue to reduce pixel size like DRAM. When the limit of miniaturization is reached, overcoming it requires new innovations in the surrounding technology rather than the process technology. In the future, CIS will evolve into an information sensor or intelligence sensor, not just a visual sensor. Accordingly, the paradigm of competition also changes.

The CIS business has different characteristics from the memory semiconductor business, such as a multi-variety small-volume production system and a complex industrial ecosystem, but there have been some inefficiencies by using the existing memory semiconductor process or system as it is. We focused on improving the speed of decision-making and improving work efficiency by improving it for the CIS business."

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