Saturday, February 28, 2015

Omnivision Proposes DTI with Charge Transfer Assist

Omnivision patent application US20150048427 "Image sensor pixel cell with switched deep trench isolation structure" by Sing-chung Hu, Rongsheng Yang, Gang Chen, Howard E. Rhodes, Sohei Manabe, and Hsin-chih Tai proposes a BSI pixel with DTI, filled by a lightly doped poly. A negative pulse applied to the DTI poly allows increasing PD doping and full well while maintaining a low image lag:

Friday, February 27, 2015

ISSCC 2015 Report: Shizuoka University Compressive Imager

Albert Theuwissen continues to post his reports from ISSCC. Shizuoka University presents a 200 million fps compressive imager. The imager consists of 15 pixel sub-arrays, each of them exposed at the differing times. In the end, a 200Mfps image sequence is recovered.

Cista and SMIC Start Mass Production of 0.13um-Process BSI Sensors

PR Newswire: Remember Cista, a mysterious image sensor startup founded by ex-Omnivision employees? SMIC and Cista System Corp. jointly announce a mass production start of two CIS-BSI products, of 1.3MP resolution with 1.75um pixel and 8MP resolution with 1.4um pixel, respectively. Both sensors are based on SMIC's 0.13um BSI process.

SMIC's 0.13um CIS-BSI technology is said to be independently developed and offers competitive performance. Based on a low leakage process, it only uses three aluminum metal layers for reduced cost and supports pixel sizes down to 1.4um for 8MP resolution CIS. SMIC also provides full in-house turn-key service which includes CIS wafer fabrication, color filter & micro-lens processing, TSV-CSP and testing to help customers shorten the supply chain with fast cycle time and low cost.

"Through working with our partner, Cista System Corp., we are very pleased with the achievement of the production phase for BSI technology," said Dr. Shiuh-Wuu Lee, EVP of Technology Development of SMIC. "Tests on the two sensors have shown great performance which demonstrates our readiness in 0.13-micron BSI technology platform. SMIC is also developing 1.1-micron pixel BSI for 13MP resolution and above, and 3D stacked BSI for high-end applications. With these new sets of products, we hope to provide high-quality CMOS Image Sensors to our customers at a competitive price."

"We are excited to partner with SMIC on launching the CIS-BSI sensors," said Wilson Du, CEO and President of Cista System Corp. "This partnership draws us one step closer to our goal of becoming more integrated with domestic industry resources in developing the image sensor sector. As we move forward, we hope to see more of our designs used in wider applications such as consumer electronics, telecommunications, medical equipment, automotive industry, automation and other applications."

So far, Cista web site only lists 1MP and 2MP products, with others, up to 13MP, are said to come soon. The 2MP C2580 and C2590 SoC specs look similar, and both sensors appear to be frontside-illuminated:

The 1MP C1680 has a similar block diagram and spec, but uses BSI technology:

CEVA Announces 4th Gen Vision Platform

PR Newswire: CEVA unveils the CEVA-XM4, its fourth-generation imaging and vision processor IP. CEVA-XM4 achieves up to 8x performance improvement with 35% greater energy efficiency, compared to the previous generation CEVA-MM3101.

The new IP's capabilities include real-time 3D depth map generation and point cloud processing for 3D scanning. In addition, it can analyze scene information using the most processing-intensive object detection and recognition algorithms, ranging from ORB, Haar, and LBP, all the way to deep learning algorithms that use neural network technologies such as convolutional neural networks (CNN). The architecture also features a number of unique mechanisms, such as parallel random memory access and a patented two-dimension data processing scheme. These enable 4096-bit processing -- in a single cycle -- while keeping the memory bandwidth under 512bits for optimum energy efficiency.

In comparison to today's most advanced GPU cluster (points to NVIDIA, I guess), a single CEVA-XM4 core will complete a typical 'object detection and tracking' use-case scenario while consuming approximately 10% of the power and requiring approximately 5% of the die area.

Taking computer vision one step closer to human vision, the CEVA-XM4 also supports a wide range of computational photography algorithms that enhance the video or image, including refocus, background replacement, zoom, super-resolution, image stabilization, noise reduction and improved low-light capabilities.

Omnivision Reports Quarterly Results

PR Newswire: OmniVision reports results for its fiscal quarter ended on January 31, 2015. Revenues for the quarter were $292.3M, as compared to $394.0M in the previous quarter, and $352.0M a year ago. GAAP net income in the quarter was $14.0M, as compared to net income of $28.0M in the previous quarter, and $30.6M a year ago. GAAP gross margin for the quarter was 22.1%, as compared to 22.0% for the previous quarter and 19.6% a year ago. The Company ended the period with cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments totaling $512.8M, a sequential decrease of $12.4M that resulted primarily from the use of cash in operating activities.

Based on current trends, the Company forecasts revenues for the next quarter in the range of $265M to $295M.

"As we continue to expand in Asia and find new opportunities in emerging economies, our results may continue to be volatile, at least in the near-term," said Shaw Hong, CEO of OmniVision. "However, it is important for us to participate in these markets as they are integral to our strategy. We remain confident about our long-term growth prospects."

SeekingAlpha publishes Omnivision's earnings call transcript. Shaw Hong says on the acquisition prgress: "I would like to comment on the proposed acquisition from Hua Capital Management Ltd., or HCM, a Beijing-based investment management company. A few months ago, we received a preliminary non-binding proposal letter from HCM, pursuant to which a group of investors led by HCM proposed us to acquire all of the outstanding share of common stock of the company in cash at US$29 per share. While the company's board of directors is reviewing and evaluating HCM's proposal, no decision has been made with respect to the proposed transaction. There is no assurance that this or any other transaction will be consummated."

Few other quotes from Aurelio Cisneros - SVP, Worldwide Sales & Sales Operations:

"In a special case, an innovative dual sensor main camera design featuring our 8-megapixel product line was launched by a major Tier 1 China customer. This represents a major potential technology shift where dual camera designs are built for a multitude of reasons such as improved sensitivity, slim compact design requirements and innovative 3D data capture. If this trend spreads, the total available opportunity in the already enormous handset market could surge to higher volumes because dual camera designs could be used for the main camera as well as for the front-facing camera slot. The benefits of a dual camera design are applicable to either case."

"In our third fiscal quarter, we shipped 198 million units as compared to 246 million units in our prior quarter. The average selling price in our fiscal third quarter was $1.46 as compared to $1.60 in our prior quarter. The drop in ASP was attributed to the product mix and aggressive price erosion in some product categories, primarily products shipped to the China market.

Unit sales of 8-megapixel and above represented approximately 10% of total shipments in the fiscal third quarter, compared to approximately 12% of total shipments in the prior quarter. Unit sales of 3-megapixel to 5-megapixel category represented approximately 41% of total shipments, as compared to 42% in the prior quarter for the same category. Unit sales of 2-megapixel and below represented approximately 49% of total shipments, as compared to 46% in the prior quarter.

TI Structured Light Kit Demo

Embedded Vision Alliance posted a TI Youtube demo of its structured light reference design platform, first announced half a year ago.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Framos Survey on Machine Vision Market

Framos 2014 survey on machine vision market paints an interesting picture. "The study is based on answers from 54 respondents based in 13 countries, 10 manufacturers and 44 users, with the main focus on German-speaking countries and Europe. Respondents were ranked in terms of relevance, based on the production or purchase volumes on which they were surveyed. 40% of the manufacturers produce up to 500 cameras a year, 20% over 10,000 cameras. Principal sales areas are North America and Asia. 80% of users purchase fewer than 100 cameras a year, only 5% require more than 1000 cameras. The main area of use is Europe, at 75%, due to the focus of this survey."

Here is the respondents view on CCD vs CMOS market evolution:

"In respect of sensor brands and their future use in imaging systems, camera manufacturers and users are agreed on their decline or rise. Sensors from Sony may have less usage in percentage, but continue to be the most trusted brand, with a predicted market share of 35% in 2016. In particular, considerable growth is expected for the brands Aptina and Truesense Imaging (both now under one roof, belonging to OnSemi), to a market share of 13% and 19% respectively."

AlliedSens to Represent Caeleste in Asia and America

AlliedSens becomes an official representative of Caeleste for custom design CMOS image sensor in Asia and America.

Patrick Henckes, CEO of Caeleste says “With the growing demand of custom design sensors, it is critical for Caeleste to rely on the best possible partners to expand our activities worldwide.

Eiji Watanabe, CEO of AlliedSens says “We are happy to have Caeleste’s cutting edge custom image sensor into our product line in order to fulfill the rapid growing demand of high performance image sensors for industrial, medical and automotive applications in Asia and Americas.

AlliedSens also represents CMOSIS, PixelPlus and Awaiba.

ISSCC 2015 Report - Forza & NHK Sensor, Samsung

Albert Theuwissen continues his report from ISSCC imaging session. The second part presents Forza and NHK 133MP 60fps sensor in 35mm FF format. 484 12b SAR ADCs support that high pixel rate. The pixel size is 2.45 um, 2×1 shared, 2.5T/pixel.

Samsung presents an always on low power sensor having an ultra-low power, low resolution, low quality mode, but waking up as soon as there is any movement in the scene and switching to a normal higher resolution, higher quality mode.

ON Semi Announces PDAF Technology

Business Wire: ON Semiconductor (Aptina) successfully demonstrated its second generation Phase Detect Auto Focus (PDAF) technology featuring a unique pixel micro-lens technology that enables fast focus at 25 Lux light levels. This PDAF has been implemented on a 13MP test chip with 1.1┬Ám pixels and will be utilized in a new product introduction for mobile end-market customers later this year.

The PDAF technology uses two pixels to measure phase information from the target image. This phase information is then used to calculate the direction and the amount the lens needs to move to focus in less than 0.3 seconds, depending on focus actuator speed. Furthermore, ON Semiconductor has implemented a unique pixel micro-lens structure which maintains sensitivity in the PDAF pixels and ensures enough light is captured for PDAF to perform in low-light conditions as low as 25 Lux (similar to a dimly lit room). Competing technologies on the market employ methods that compromise pixel sensitivity and low light auto focus performance.

ON Semiconductor’s PDAF technology is the result of innovations in both pixel and optical stack design,” said Shung Chieh, VP Mobile and Consumer Division for ON Semiconductor. “The outcome is a reduction of auto focus time by nearly a factor of four and delivers a great experience to the mobile device user. The leading low-light capability of our technology enables smartphone manufacturers to deliver a fast AF experience across all light levels to their customers.