Archives for November 2019

Panasonic ToF Sensor for Mind Reading

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Nature paper "Non-contact acquisition of brain function using a time-extracted compact camera" by Takamasa Ando, Tatsuya Nakamura, Toshiya Fujii, Teruhiro Shiono, Tasuku Nakamura, Masato Suzuki, Naomi Anzue-Satoi, Kenji Narumi, Hisashi Watanabe, Tsuguhiro Korenaga, Eiji Okada & Yasunori Inoue from Panasonic and Keio University, Japan, describes an optical camera for brain scanning:

"A revolution in functional brain imaging techniques is in progress in the field of neurosciences. Optical imaging techniques, such as high-density diffuse optical tomography (HD-DOT), in which source-detector pairs of probes are placed on subjects’ heads, provide better portability than conventional functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) equipment. However, these techniques remain costly and can only acquire images at up to a few measurements per square centimetre, even when multiple detector probes are employed. In this study, we demonstrate functional brain imaging using a compact and affordable setup that employs nanosecond-order pulsed ordinary laser diodes and a time-extracted image sensor with superimposition capture of scattered components. Our technique can simply and easily attain a high density of measurement points without requiring probes to be attached, and can directly capture two-dimensional functional brain images. We have demonstrated brain activity imaging using a phantom that mimics the optical properties of an adult human head, and with a human subject, have measured cognitive brain activation while the subject is solving simple arithmetical tasks."

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Lucid Vision Publishes EMVA Measurements of Sony 4th Generation BSI Global Shutter Sensor

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Lucid Vision Labs publishes EMVA1288 data of its Atlas 10 camera based on 24MP Sony IMX530 sensor with 2.74um BSI pixels, a part of 4th generation Pregius-S family announced in October 2019:


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Panasonic to Sell Semiconductor Business to Nuvoton

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Reuters: Panasonic announces the selling of its loss-making semiconductor unit to Taiwan’s Nuvoton, a part of Winbond Group, for $250M. The sale includes image sensor business and Tower-Panasonic JV fabs. The transaction is expected to close by June 2020.

Panasonic says, "...the competitive environment surrounding the semiconductor business has become extremely severe due to aggressive expansion of competitors, huge investments in the focused area, and industry reorganization through M&A. In such an environment, the Company has come to believe that the even stronger business operation and the continuous investment is critical in order to achieve a sustained growth and expansion of the semiconductor business.

Accordingly, it has concluded that the best option would be to transfer the business to Nuvoton, which highly appreciates the Company’s accumulated technical and product capabilities and therefore has a potential to lead stable growth by leveraging those capabilities.
"




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Espros ToF Calculation Spreadsheet

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Esporos November Newsletter promotes the company's ToF power and noise calculation spreadsheet:

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II-VI Presentation on 3D Sensing

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II-VI presentation on 3D sensing compares different approaches and spectral bands:

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Low Resolution Sensors Shortage

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IFNews quotes Laoyaoba report that VGA, 2MP, and 5MP image sensor prices went up by 20-40% due to the recent shortages. As more and more multi-camera configurations are now being applied to smart terminal products, the market demand mainly for mobile phones has further expanded, and the shortage and higher prices may continue.

In the past, Galaxycore used to ship ~100-110M sensors a month, but it's out of stock now. The price of Galaxycore 5MP sensors used to be 50-60 cents a piece, 2MP ones - 30 cents, but now 5MP sensor price grew up to 70 cents, while 2MP is 43 cents.

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Whispering-Gallery-Mode Resonance Enhances Si PD Responsivity at 1,000nm

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EurekaAlert reports that Korean POSTECH University developed a photodiode with increased absorption of the NIR light by using the hourglass-shaped silicon nanowire array. The research team was led by Prof. Chang-Ki Baek and consisted of Kihyun Kim, Myunghae Seo, and Sol Yoon. The team has proved that the hourglass-shaped silicon-nanowire photodiodes has 29% increased NIR photoreseponse at 1,000nm in comparison to the existing planar type silicon photodiode.

Prof. Chang-Ki Baek said “this study used the existing silicon processes that can be produced in mass at low cost and 100% compatible to the semiconductor production. It is very meaningful in that we were able to demonstrate increased photoresponse of the near-infrared light at the wavelength where the existing silicon hardly detect. It is possible that the developed device can optimize the absorption of the near-infrared wavelength desired according to the structure of nanowires such as diameter, length, and pitch. It is expected to provide optical solutions to various fields such as LiDAR of a self-driving vehicles, medical laser, military night vision goggles, image sensors and more.

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Samsung Paper on AI Demosaicing

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A preprint paper "Deep Demosaicing using ResNet-Bottleneck Architecture" by Divakar Verma, Manish Kumar, and Srinivas Eregala from Samsung R&D Institute Bengaluru, India, proposes CNN network to reduce demisaicing artifacts:

"Demosaicing is a fundamental step in a camera pipeline to construct a full RGB image from the bayer data captured by a camera sensor. The conventional signal processing algorithms fail to perform well on complex-pattern images giving rise to several artefacts like Moire, color and Zipper artefacts. The proposed deep learning based model removes such artefacts and generates visually superior quality images. The model performs well on both the sRGB (standard RGB color space) and the linear datasets without any need of retraining. It is based on Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) and uses a residual architecture with multiple `Residual Bottleneck Blocks' each having 3 CNN layers. The use of 1x1 kernels allowed to increase the number of filters (width) of the model and hence, learned the inter-channel dependencies in a better way. The proposed network outperforms the state-of-the-art demosaicing methods on both sRGB and linear datasets."

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Actlight Announces Vital Signs Monitor with its DPD

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PRNewswire: Actlight presents vital signs monitoring sensor based on its Dynamic Photo Diode. Despite ultra small detector area (less than 0.2mm2) and minimal LED power (less than 1uW/Hz), the sensor is said to deliver higher than 70dB SNR. The ActLight solution provides a strong output signal without AFE, further reducing the power consumption of the overall system.


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ST Reports 1 Billion Shipped ToF Sensors

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GlobeNewswire: STMicroelectronics announces the shipment of its 1 billionth ToF module. ST’s ToF sensors utilize SPADs manufactured at ST’s 300mm front-end fab in Crolles, France. The final module, which integrates the SPAD sensor, a VCSEL, and the necessary optical elements, is assembled and tested in ST’s internal back-end facilities.

ST has pioneered and transitioned Time-of-Flight technology from its research labs to a fully industrialized family of market-leading products that are now being used in more than 150 different smartphone models and have just passed the 1 billion module milestone,” said Eric Aussedat, GM of ST’s Imaging Subgroup. “In continuing to invest, ST has extended the FlightSense roadmap for Time-of-Flight products from high-performance 1-dimensional ranging devices to multi-zone solutions and most recently adding high-resolution 3D depth sensing capabilities to enable innovative applications using advanced proximity sensing, human presence detection, and laser autofocus.

The VL6180, VL53L0, and VL53L1 families of products, among others, are in high-volume production for consumer, personal computer, and industrial markets. ST’s vertically integrated manufacturing model for the ToF sensors ensures high levels of service, quality, customer support, and performance.

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Voyage 81 on CFA Trade-offs

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Israel-based Voyage 81 startup presentation discusses CFA approaches for low-light imaging (video is here):

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EPIC Meeting on LiDAR

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European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) Meeting on LiDAR held at Eindhoven, The Netherlands on October 30-31, 2019, publishes many of its presentations. Few random slides:

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EPIC Meeting on LiDAR

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European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) Meeting on LiDAR held at Eindhoven, The Netherlands on October 30-31, 2019, publishes many of its presentations. Few random slides:

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Sony Outstanding Engineer Awards

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As a part of the first ever Sony Technology Day held at Sony City Osaki in Tokyo, Japan, on Sept. 18, 2019, the company announced SOE Awards. SOE stands for Sony Outstanding Engineer, the highest form of individual recognition for Sony Group engineers. Quite a few of the Awards went to image sensor designers:

  • Yoshihisa Kagawa for "Development of Novel Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with Cu-Cu Direct Bonding"
  • Jun Komachi for "Scientific Method for Image Quality Improving"
  • Masaki Sakakibara for "Development and Improvement of Pixel-Parallel 14-bit ADC for CMOS Image Sensor"
  • Daniel Van Nieuwenhove for "3D ToF (Time of Flight) Sensor and System Used in Cars and Mobile Applications"

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SET Releases 1um-accurate Hybrid/Direct Bonding Machine

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SET, Smart Equipment Technology announces the release of NEO HB, an automatic flip-chip bonder designed for ± 1 µm 3σ post-bonding accuracy, in stand-alone or full automatic mode (EFEM). NEO HB is suitable for direct hybrid bonding processes.

The first of a new line of SET flip-chip bonders dedicated entirely to production, the tool combines high precision, flexibility, short cycle time, and creative design. It was developed in collaboration with CEA-Leti as part of IRT Nanoelec’s 3D integration program.

SET joined IRT Nanoelec in 2016 with the goal to develop a brand-new tool for direct-bonding applications that delivered high accuracy and high throughput, and a high level of cleanliness,” said Pascal Metzger, CEO of SET. “That ambition required a strong collaboration among experts from different disciplines. Today, SET’s team is proud to commercially launch NEO HB, which meets the initial technical targets and will address development and production needs for tomorrow’s chips.

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Espros on ToF Camera Calibration

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Espros distributors Pacer (UK) and Aprizes (China) publish Espros application notes on ToF camera calibration. Almost everything affects the ToF measurements, some factors have quite a dramatic influence:

The main error sources which affect the accuracy of distance measurement are:
  • Distance response non-uniformity DRNU of the sensor
  • Temperature drift
  • Ambient light
  • The magnitude of the signal amplitude
Under the term DRNU, we treat all factors that lead to a different distance reading between any of the pixels in the pixel-field looking to the inside of a sphere. These factors are sensor/camera related and include:
  • Flat-field error of the pixel-field
  • Column A/D converter differences
  • Row addressing differences
  • Fixed-pattern noise caused by manufacturing tolerances
  • 4th order harmonics distortion of the demodulation algorithm


Another Espros presentation gives more info on ToF error sources:

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Cameralabs Cafe Podcast episode 004

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The Cameralabs Cafe podcast returns! In Episode Four, Gordon and Doug talk about how to choose the best camera for vlogging - and video in general - before recommending a selection of models at various price points! So grab a drink and join us in the Cameralabs Cafe!…

The post Cameralabs Cafe Podcast episode 004 appeared first on Cameralabs.

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Sony Keeps Outperforming Semiconductor Industry

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IC Insights Research Bulletin says that Sony is the best performing semiconductor company: "The largest move upward in the ranking is forecast to come from Sony, which is expected to move up four spots to the 11th position on the strength of extremely strong image sensor sales."

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ADI LiDAR Lecture

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Analog Devices' Fellow Ron Kapusta presents the company's solutions for LiDARs:

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Unconventional Processing with Unconventional Visual Sensing

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ETH Zurich published PhD Thesis "Unconventional Processing with Unconventional Visual Sensing: Parallel, Distributed and Event Based Vision Algorithms & Systems" by Julien N.P. Martel.

"Through this work we will specifically consider CMOS sensors that place intelligent circuits directly in the pixel. Coupling sensors with processors allows us to report new visual quantities as processing can interact, in a closed loop, with sensing. Besides, deporting processing closer to the sensor alleviates classical bottleneck issues in conventional vision sensors, as most of the information can stay and be processed directly on the sensor while only “relevant" visual quantities can be output. Indeed, blurring the frontier between sensing and processing using such sensor-processors on the hardware side calls for new algorithms that can run directly in the pixels and hence must be distributed, parallel and eventually triggered upon the arrival of an event.

Considering these first three principles 1) the joint inference of visual quantities, 2) “starting" by the observation of other visual information than direct correlates of illuminance 3) thanks to sensors that have more “intelligence” in-pixel suggests 4) to design vision systems more holistically. This ultimately means: from the physics of the transduction of a photon in the device up to its contribution to the inference of high-level visual quantities. A red-thread in this work has been the design of algorithmic solutions that try to exploit the peculiarities of the devices we used: not only this aims at creating high-performance systems, but also aims at exploring a new design space, building, for instance, systems that process visual information as exposure is happening.

This thesis demonstrates through various examples the practice of those unconventional sensors coupled with in-pixel circuitry and the kind of new algorithms it is possible to design for those. Examples include applications such as high dynamic range imaging and tone mapping, depth reconstruction from focal sweeps as well as tracking in the focal plane. These examples show how such sensor-processors simplify the design of systems that report other visual quantities than illuminance.

Then, this work takes a step back and suggests processing frameworks that can help guiding us in the design of algorithms for these parallel, distributed and eventually event-based devices. Specifically, we instantiate the idea of jointly inferring visual quantities in a more formal computing framework. Finally, considering vision systems holistically a need is to build tools that allow the use of these new kind of unconventional sensing and processing devices.
"

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IDTechEx on LiDAR Technology

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PRNewswire: IDTechEx Research publishes its view on LiDAR approaches and comparisons. Few interesting points:

IDTechEx believes that non-rotating mechanical LiDARs is the cheapest technology today, but MEMS-based scanning LiDARs overtake them as the cheapest option after 2020:


The technological options are quite diverse:


106 LiDAR companies are spread across the globe: 34 players headquartered in Asia (20 start-ups in China), 19 players headquartered in Europe, 48 players headquartered in North America and 5 players headquartered in the rest of the world (ROW).

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VIAVI Files 3D Sensing Patent Infringement Complaints Against LG Electronics, LG Innotek, and Optrontec

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PRNewswire: Viavi Solutions files a patent infringement complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission ("ITC") to initiate an investigation against LG Electronics, LG Electronics U.S.A., LG Innotek, and Optrontec.

VIAVI is a pioneer in the field of 3D motion sensing technology, including VIAVI's optical filters. In a typical gesture-recognition system, a light source emits near-infrared light towards a user and an optical filter is used to transmit the emitted light that is reflected by the user to a 3D image sensor, while substantially blocking ambient light. The patented VIAVI optical filters achieve superior optical performance, a desired reduction in filter thickness, and a reduced center wavelength shift with a change in incidence angle of the reflected light.

Mobile device manufacturers like LG Electronics, and its suppliers including LG Innotek and Optrontec, have incorporated VIAVI's patented optical filter design into their optical filters and components to produce high-end mobile phones and tablet computers featuring facial and gesture recognition technology. In the ITC, VIAVI seeks relief, including an exclusion order preventing Defendants from importing the infringing electronic devices into the United States. In the California litigation, VIAVI seeks damages and injunctive relief, including a permanent injunction prohibiting Defendants from importing the infringing electronic devices into the United States.

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Omnivision Announces 0.64MP Camera Module for Medical Applications

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PRNewswire: OmniVision announces the PureCel Plus-S stacked pixel-based OC0SA CameraCubeChip wafer-level camera modules for medical applications. This new module offers a 800x800 resolution with frame rate of 60fps, or 400x400 resolution at 90fps, for blur-free images and video. Additionally, the OC0SA provides a compact size of 2.6x1.6mm and an integrated IR cut filter. With 120° and 90° field of view options for diagnosis and therapeutic applications, respectively, this cost-effective module offers a combination of resolution, size and viewing angle for disposable endoscopes, providing doctors, veterinarians and industrial applications with the very best image quality. It has low power consumption of 82.2 mW to reduce heat at the distal tip of the endoscope for enhanced patient comfort.

"Existing medical cameras are either too large, in the case of reusable cameras, or their disposable counterparts are lacking in resolution for medical procedures such as gastrointestinal, laparoscopy and airway management. Doctors and clinicians require smaller size and increased resolution during these procedures, for better diagnosis and greater surgical precision," said Aaron Chiang, marketing director at OmniVision. "We are building on the success of our widely adopted CameraCubeChip line of wafer-level camera modules by doubling the resolution while maintaining an extremely small form factor, which is essential for these disposable applications."

OC0SA samples are available now.

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SPi Adds More Info on its X27 Color Night Vision

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SPi Infrared updates its web page on X27 color night vision system with the new info and video:



"The X27 is the highest performing true gen 4 color night vision low light sensor imaging system. The low noise real time 60hz HD detector is the first of its kind breakthrough technology that offers day like imagery in the darkest of environments. The X27 color low light camera images from 390 nm to 1.2 um and sees IR military spot lasers. The Sensitivity outperforms the latest image intensified tube night vision technology and does so in full color. The X27 is available in hand held imaging systems and camera core engines for integration into military grade day/night imaging systems.

The X27 utilizes newly advanced BSTFA (Broad Spectrum Thin Film Array) Technology.

The digital X27 ColorVision (TM) reconnaissance LLL (Low Light Level) true Color night vision VIS-NIR sensor is a technological breakthrough in night vision technology. High performance, low noise, high sensitivity & an incredible 5000000 equivalent ISO rating are just a few features offered by the system.

The SWaP ColorVision sensor can be integrated into night vision sights, scopes, monoculars, binoculars, drivers aid, UAV, UAS, unmanned and a wide array of defense, homeland security, border, ground, mobile, marine, airborne, military, wildlife, documentary, specialty combat camera photography, Astro/aerial/airborne/space remote imaging, aurora borealis, security and surveillance applications.
"


The company also announces its next generation product:

"Now In Development:

X28 HD 1600 Nm Real time imaging system, full true COLOR day night imaging system with 1550 Nm IR Laser Detection response. The absolute most sensitive night imaging system available for next generation night vision applications.
"

Another interesting article at SPi site is "History of night vision and IR thermal imaging equipment" starting from 1950s.

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Avalanche PD Thesis

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University of Trento, Italy, publishes PhD Thesis "Application of Avalanche Detectors in Scientific and Industrial Measurement Systems" of Andrea Ficorella. The thesis overviews APD and SPAD operation and discusses ToF measurements with them:

"Geiger-Mode avalanche photodiodes (GM-APDs) are diodes designed to operate at a reverse voltage that exceeds the breakdown voltage (VBD). Their ability to detect single photons combined with their excellent timing resolution make them ideal for applications in which low amplitude signals need to be detected with sub-ns timing resolution. In the research activity reported in this dissertation two different applications of Geiger-Mode Avalanche Photo Diode arrays have been analysed: a two-tier GM-APD array with inpixel coincidence for particle tracking and a direct Time-of-Flight range meter with a SiPM-based receiver."

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Sony Establishes AI R&D Organization

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EETimes: Sony launches Sony AI, a new organization to pursue advanced R&D in artificial intelligence. The AI research sites will be in Tokyo, Austin, Texas, and an unnamed city in Europe. Sony AI identified three “flagship” projects for its debut, in “gaming, imaging & sensing, and gastronomy,” according to the company.

Hiroaki Kitano, president and CEO, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, will run Sony AI globally. The US site’s chief will be Peter Stone, professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin.

Update: Sony official announcement is here.

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LFoundry Presentation

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Cern publishes LFoundry presentation "Technology development of CMOS Image sensors" by Andrea Del Monte. The presentation starts with the company somewhat entangled history leading to the recent acquisition by Wuxi Xichanweixin Semiconductor:

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Goodix Nominated for Most Respected Public Semiconductor Company Award

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Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) announces its 2019 award nominations with Goodix listed for Most Respected Public Semiconductor Company Achieving $500M to $1B in Annual Sales:

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Macquarie Research on Smartphone Camera Trends

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IFNews quotes Macquarie Research "surveyed a total of 132 smartphones launched in 2019 by the top 6 vendors – Samsung, Huawei, Apple, OPPO / Realme, vivo and Xiaomi. There are 489 cameras in total or an average of 3.7 cameras per device, with 1.0 front camera and 2.7 back cameras. About 45% of the 132 new devices adopted triple cameras, while quad camera penetration reached 18%."

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Yole’s Analysis of Hybrid Bonding IP

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Yole Developpement publishes "Hybrid Bonding: Patent Landscape Analysis" report:

"Generally, 2.5D-3D stacking was achieved thanks to Through Silicon Via (TSV) technology. However, TSVs are large and using them limits efforts to reach very dense architectures. Furthermore, filling TSVs with metals is complex and requires significant know how. To overcome these limitations, players have started to look at other solutions. A first step toward a new way of 3D stacking is ZiBond, developed by Ziptronix, a company founded in 2000 as a spin-out of Research Triangle Institute. ZiBond is an enhanced version of direct oxide bonding that involves wafer-to-wafer processing at low temperatures, from 150-300°C, to initiate high bond strengths, rivaling silicon. The next step was to combine the dielectric bond with embedded metal to simultaneously bond wafers or bond dies to wafers and form the interconnects. ZiBond is the dielectric bond that forms the basis for direct bonding interconnect (DBI) technology developed in 2005. Tessera, now called Xperi, acquired Ziptronix in 2015 and ZiBond and DBI were integrated in the Invensas subsidiary’s portfolio. This hybrid bonding technology is quickly becoming recognized as the preferred permanent bonding path to form high-density interconnects in heterogeneous integration applications, from 2D enhanced, to 3D stacking with or without TSVs, as well as MEMS.

After entering the CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) market in 2016, hybrid bonding technology has started to be investigated by other industries, such as memory. However, the hybrid bonding market’s growth follows Xperi’s developments. The company has adopted an aggressive strategy to assert its patents. Yet in parallel with the market and Xperi’s growth, some other players, like YMTC, Sony, Samsung and TSMC, have developed their own patent portfolios and strategies and are on the edge of releasing their first products using hybrid bonding processes. Understanding the IP landscape is becoming key to evaluate the risks and opportunities that go with the development and use of hybrid bonding technology.
"

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