Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sony CCD End-of-Life News

Sony official image sensor distributor in Europe and North America Framos kindly sent me the update on the CCD discontinuation plans:

Dear Valued Customer,

in addition to our first SONY CCD discontinuation information please here find the latest updated and final information about the process how to make sure you can continue to buying SONY CCDs and also benefit from SONY’s extended purchasing timeline.

In the attachment you’ll find the official “SONY CCD Discontinuation Revised Plan” and the final “SONY CCD EOL Product List (as of 17 Apr 2015)”.

As a result of our customers’ and our own efforts and given feedback, SONY was able to postpone the last time shipment date to March 2026 for high running products (A-Rank) marked in yellow color in the attached list, and additionally a couple of more products have been included in the A-Rank list. Like the earlier announcement, all non-yellow marked products will have a last-time-buy/shipment date of March 2020.

In case you continue to buying a high runner product (yellow-marked), the timeline is the following:
- submit a first draft forecast by quantity, part number and year until end of Aug 2015
- submit an non-binding accurate forecast to us by end of Mar 2016
- based on this forecast SONY will produce wafers and will store these in their wafer cage (shut-down of wafer production: end of Mar 2017)
- products will be freshly assembled and tested upon customers’ orders until Mar 2026
- last order to be submitted end of Sep 2025 for shipments until Mar 2026

In case you continue to buying non-yellow marked products (“low-runner part”), the timeline is slightly different from the above and has been specified in the attached products list. Please make yourself familiar with the deadlines depending on the part number and take appropriate actions similar to the above procedure list.

Finally, if you will have submitted your forecasts in Aug 2015 and Mar 2016, FRAMOS will support all your purchase orders with a lead time of 10 - 12 weeks max (depending on SONY’s availability to ship right in time).

Our FRAMOS sales force will contact you within the next weeks to assist you and your company in the last-time-buy process and make sure your demand will be secured under all circumstances. For all questions or needs you can contact us under sales@framos.com and you’ll receive our feedback within 24 hours – guaranteed!

On behalf of FRAMOS I would like to thank you for being our customer and we do hope we can be of any help for your future new imaging projects!

Best regards,
Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Axel Krepil
Sales Director Sensor +

Axel Krepil also kindly sent me a large Excel file with the part number and discontinuation dates list. I'm still trying to figure out how to post it, as it's quite large.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sony Exmor Generations

Framos publishes a nice explanation of Sony Exmor generations. Sony uses Exmore trademark for sensors with column-parallel ADC architecture with dual CDS (analog comparator auto-zero and up/down counting in digital domain). Framos infographics below explains the evolution and improvements from 1st to 6th generation of Exmor:

Fast and High Resolution 3D Imaging

PMA Newsline overviews the Northwestern University Comp Photo Lab work on fast and high resolution 3D depth imaging. The main idea of the paper "MC3D: Motion Contrast 3D Scanning" by Nathan Matsuda and Mohit Gupta, presented on April 24 at the IEEE International Conference on Computational Photography is to limit the structured light laser scanning by the area where the 2D camera detects a change. That way the static areas are not scanned. A Vimeo video explains the advantages of this approach:

STMicro Strikes Go On

Electronics Weekly reports that strikes at ST, Crolles, France, facilities continue. The union is calling for the French government to start an investigation into ST management. Union talk about increasing "brain drain" from ST. Crolles is the location of ST fabs that manufacture image sensors, and also ST pixel design group.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Yole on Apple Acquisition of LinX

Yole Developpement publishes its thoughts on the recent Apple acquisition of LinX Imaging. Yole believes that computational imaging is moving toward the mainstream, and dual cameras will appear in many products:

Pelican CEO Interview

Inside AR Conference, to be held in San Francisco on May 20-21, 2015, publishes an interview with Pelican Imaging CEO Chris Pickett. Few quotes:

"I’ll be talking about how critical depth and 3D data is for the AR market.

Acquiring depth data is especially critical for AR and VR headsets, since the interactive user experience depends on knowing where objects are in space.

My gut says that AR will find its way into the mass market in the next 5 years. That prediction is also backed by market data.

I’ve seen some pretty amazing stuff from a few companies that Pelican is working with, but I can’t really talk about those yet.

VLSI Symposium Preview

VLSI Symposium tipsheet offers a preview of two image sensor papers:

A 3D stacked CMOS Image Sensor with Global-shutter mode and high speed capturing mode:
The paper by Toru Kondo et al. from Olympus Corp. will describe a 16MP 3D stacked CMOS image sensor with pixel level interconnections using 4 million micro bumps. The two semiconductor substrates are bonded by a 7.6um pitch micro-bump array, and the storage node array is comprised on the bottom substrate to improve parasitic light sensitivity (PLS). Both a 16Mpixel global-shutter mode with a -180dB PLS and 2Mpixel 10,000fps high speed image capturing are achieved.

A 3D stacked CMOS Image Sensor with a low noise technique:
The paper by Shang-Fu Yeh, et al., of TSMC will describe an 8Mpixel 3D-stacked low noise CMOS image sensor with Conditional Correlated Multiple Sampling (CCMS) technique. This technique is proposed to solve the low frame rate issue by using multiple small-range voltage ramps. A 0.66e-rms input referred temporal readout noise is obtained with a 5-times CCMS technique, and also both thermal noise and the random telegraph signal (RTS) noise can be
reduced by using CCMS technique.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Eye-Tracking Tech Company Tobii Valued $244M at IPO

Tech.eu: Stockholm, Sweden-based eye-tracking technology company Tobii IPO today gives it a market cap of SEK 2.1 billion (about $244M). Tobii says the offering was over-subscribed multiple times. Tobii will receive gross proceeds of approximately SEK 400 million ($46.5M) through the issue of new shares as part of the IPO, before a possible exercise of the over-allotment option.

The company has about 570 employees across its offices in Sweden, the US, China, Germany and other countries.

Pentax DSLR Features Pixel Shift Demosaic

Imaging Resource: New Pentax K-3 II DSLR features Ricoh pixel shift resolution enhancement that removes the need for Bayer demosaicing, first presented at CP+ a month ago.

Pentax IS actuator shifts the sensor by 1 pixel in 4 directions. "The result is an image which has full color information at every pixel location -- and thus improved resolution and a greater resistance to false color artifacts -- but only a relatively modest increase in file size...

As an added bonus, images shot in the Pixel Shift Resolution mode should also have a cleaner, tighter noise pattern. The reason for this is twofold. First, since multiple exposures are involved, noise can be averaged out across those exposures. Secondly, in a Bayer-filtered sensor, two out of three colors at each pixel location must be interpolated (read: guessed) from the values of surrounding pixels. When that happens, noise from adjacent pixels is likewise spread across their neighbors, resulting in a less film-like and blotchier, more objectionable noise pattern. With full color information at each pixel, a Pixel Shift Resolution shot's high ISO grain pattern is finer, and we're guessing easier to clean up post-capture, too.

Pentax Youtube video calls this mode "Pixel Shift Resolution". It's somewhat similar to one appeared in the previous Pentax DSLR model, but then it used to be a high frequency 500Hz vibration, whereas now it's said to provide a higher resolution for static objects:

Galaxycore Ranked High Among China Semiconductor Companies

PWC report "A decade of unprecedented growth: China’s impact on the semiconductor industry, 2014 update," dated by January 2015, ranks Galaxycore #10 on revenue basis among Chinese semiconductor companies. Other image sensor vendors in China, such as Superpix and Brigates have not make it even in the list of 50 largest companies.

Nomura report "Greater China Semi" places Galaxycore at #8 among semiconductor design houses in China: