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STMicroelectronics’ Time of Flight Proximity Sensor & Flood Illuminator in the Apple iPhone X

3 490 €

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STMicroelectronics Time of Flight Proximity Sensor Flood Illuminator couv flyerA unique combination of STMicroelectronics’ latest proximity sensor, based on single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) technology and a VCSEL illuminator, all in Apple’s most advanced handset.

Ahead of its competitors, Apple has begun using 3D sensing. For the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, Apple integrated this new function under the name “True Depth sensing”. The system features a near-infrared (NIR) camera, a dot projector, and a flood illuminator, along with a proximity sensor. All modules work together to form a high-end security solution: facial recognition. Since the Apple 7, STMicroelectronics has supplied Apple with a custom proximity sensor, one which represents the smallest FlightSenseTM device in its ToF portfolio. And with the Apple X, STMicroelectronics has gained significant market share by integrating several of its components (from the NIR camera to the 3D touch controller), including a new custom version of the proximity sensor featuring a flood illuminator.



STMicroelectronics Time of Flight Proximity Sensor Flood Illuminator 3


Located in the front above the main speaker, the proximity sensor/flood illuminator is packaged using optical LGA. The device is unique to Apple. In the past, STMicroelectronics released a custom proximity sensor two times smaller (2.80 x 2.40 mm) than the devices in its portfolio, based on FlightSenseTM technology. This new version comes with a flood illuminator used in the True Depth system. The flood illuminator is an NIR VCSEL with a wide beam that illuminates the face and allows for nighttime user recognition with the NIR camera. The packaging is specially designed for the flood illuminator’s heat management.

In this report the complete microsystem is analyzed, from the two illumination devices (which are vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSEL)) to the collector (based on the SPAD developed by STMicroelectronics). Moreover, a complete cost analysis and price estimate is presented for the device, based on a detailed description of the package, the ToF detector, the VCSEL, and the second VCSEL for flood illumination.

Also featured is a complete technology comparison with STMicroelectronics’ ToF portfolio since its first generation: the VL53L0X, the VL6180X, and the most recent custom proximity sensor in the Apple iPhone 8.










Table of contents

Overview / Introduction

STMicroelectronics - Company Profile & Time of Flight (ToF) Technology

Apple iPhone X Plus - Teardown

Physical Analysis

> Physical Analysis Methodology

> Package

- View and dimensions

- Package opening and wire bonding process

- Package cross-section: adhesives, PCB, filters, FOV, diffuser, ceramic


- View and dimensions

- Wire bonding, cavity

- Cross-section

- Process characteristics

> ASIC Die

- View, dimensions and marking

- Die overview - active area, SPADs technology

- Die delayering, main blocks’ ID and process

- Cross-section - metal layers, SPADs

- Process characteristics















Physical Comparison with Apple’s iPhone 8, the VL53L0X, and the VL6180X

> Package, Functions, FOV, Optical Blocking Package, ASIC & VCSEL, SPADs


Manufacturing Process Flow

> Overview

> ASIC and VCSELs Front-End Process

> ASIC and VCSELs Wafer Fabrication Unit

> Packaging Process Flow

> Final Assembly Unit



Cost Analysis

> Cost Analysis Synthesis

> Economic Analysis - Main Steps Used

> Yield Hypotheses

> ASIC & VCSEL Die Cost

- Front-end cost

- Back-end - tests and dicing

- Wafer and die cost

> Component

- Packaging cost

- Packaging cost per process steps

- Component cost



Estimated Price Analysis

































About the authors


System Plus Consulting specializes in the cost analysis of electronics, from semiconductor devices to electronic systems.

Created more than 20 years ago, System Plus Consulting has developed a complete range of services, costing tools and reports to deliver in-depth production cost studies and estimate the objective selling price of a product.

System Plus Consulting engineers are experts in:

  • Integrated Circuits 
  • Power Devices & Modules 
  • MEMS & Sensors
  • Photonics 
  • LED 
  • Imaging 
  • Display 
  • Packaging 
  • Electronic Boards & Systems.

Through hundreds of analyses performed each year, System Plus Consulting offers deep added-value reports to help its customers understand their production processes and determine production costs. Based on System Plus Consulting’s results, manufacturers are able to compare their production costs to those of competitors.

System Plus Consulting is a sister company of Yole Développement.

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  • Detailed photos

  • Precise measurements

  • Materials analysis

  • Manufacturing process flow

  • Supply chain evaluation

  • Manufacturing cost analysis

  • Estimated sales price