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Jan 23rd, 2014
“BSI image sensors accounted for 27% of total CIS sales in 2012”, says Yole Développement
“From front-end silicon technology to camera module, numerous technological innovations will contribute to better performances, higher resolution and new functionalities”, explains Yole Développement in its new report, Status of CMOS Image Sensors Industry. Indeed the French consulting company announced this week this technology & market analysis, which is an update of a report released two years ago. Status of CMOS Image Sensors Industry report especially presents the latest technological trends for CMOS Image Sensors production. Dr Mounier, Senior Analyst, Yole Développement and Jean-Luc Jaffard, formerly at STMicroelectronics and now part of Red Belt Conseil both collaborated on this report. According to them, Back-Side Illumination (BSI) is on its way to becoming a mainstream technology…
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As we foresaw in 2010, the CMOS image sensor industry has evolved since BSI’s introduction. And though BSI increases manufacturing costs, it enables a dramatic increase of sensor sensitivity which has allowed pixel size to decrease further towards higher resolution”, details Jean-Luc Jaffard.

Three years after its introduction by Sony and Omnivision, BSI image sensors accounted for 27% of total CIS sales in 2012. BSI’s adoption is expected to reach more than 78% in 2018, bringing its total revenue to $10B. The technology will be widely adopted by any applications requiring high performances, small pixels and small footprint out of the handsets will remain the leading field of application. Another breakthrough technology is stacked wafer CIS technology, which represents a disruptive route for performance and process optimization and sensor foot print.

Over the last few years, one of the image sensor world’s burning topics has been 3D cameras for gaming and 3D imaging. The technology has seen increased development since the 2000s, and several products have reached the consumer market. Although 3D imaging has long been used in industrial automation, it only entered the consumer market in 2010, when Microsoft introduced Kinect, its low-cost 3D sensing camera.

The next generation of consumer 3D cameras will fuel the image sensor market with considerable potential, such as:
•Gesture recognition in consumer applications, i.e. TV and gaming
•Optical quality inspection in industrial automation
•3D imaging in photographic or video cameras
•Image analysis in automotive, surveillance and biometrics

At the front-end level, CMOS image sensors are undergoing numerous technological innovations.

The race towards smaller pixels (and thus a smaller light-receiving photodiode area) in order to achieve better resolution also leads to pixel performance degradation. This is due to the degradation of two key parameters: SNR (limited by QE and spectral cross-talk) and full well capacity.

To cope with performance loss when pixel size is reduced, heavy process and design innovations are necessary to overcome the limitations of conventional pixel performance and move to advanced pixel technology, while maintaining high sensitivity. All of these process improvements can be applied to less-aggressive pixel sizes and therefore contribute to overall performance increase. These evolutions are described in Yole Développement’s report.

The current batch of breakthrough CMOS image sensor technologies aim to:
•Reduce form factor
•Improve image sensor performance (i.e. QE, sensitivity, resolution, reduced cross-talk, higher dynamic range, multispectral imaging, faster processing, higher CRA, lower power consumption)
•Permit new functions (i.e. post/fast focus, photon discrimination, 3D imaging, gesture recognition, increased processing power).

 “The “Big 3” are likely to maintain their leadership, thanks to advanced technologies and strong production capacity”, announces Dr Eric Mounier.

For each application, different market dynamics exist between competitors. In the handset market, we believe the Big 3, Omnivision, Samsung and Sony, will continue to dominate thanks to advanced technologies, a large installed capacity and a cost optimized manufacturing machine, while second tier players must overcome economic and technical challenges to stay competitive.

In the consumer market, major Japanese companies will still lead in DSLR, and it’s likely to stay that way since they’re vertically-integrated (although some CIS companies have announced dedicated products).

The strong move in the CIS markets from major player such as SONY’s pushes other companies to a fablight / fabless strategy. Indeed, this evolution has started already with companies like Aptina and STMicroelectronics. As they are stuck with limited volumes and struggling because of fierce competition from both high-end and very low-end players, they need to outsource or co-develop their leading edge production (as their volumes are not high enough to invest in the prohibitively expensive infrastructures). Besides a dramatic change in their business model, these players also move to higher end applications and out of the traditional mobile phone market.

Discover detailed information about this new technology & market report, with the Yole WebTalk, an interactive interview of Dr Mounier, Senior Analyst, Yole Développement. To watch this interview, please contact Clotilde Fabre (fabre@yole.fr).

Next WebTalk will take place on January 30. Ask your questions in advance right now and register.
•    Your contact: Clotilde Fabre (fabre@yole.fr).
•    Topic: Graphene for Semiconductor Applications


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