Strengthening demand for high-quality video and camera features in digital and PC cameras, cellular handsets, and other handheld applications has prompted two manufacturers to step up their production of CMOS image sensors.
Semiconductor assembly and test services supplier Amkor Technology Inc., Chandler, Ariz., in September quadrupled production of the sensors as well as camera modules at its plant in Taiwan.
And mixed-signal ASIC manufacturer Dialog Semiconductor plc, located near Stuttgart, Germany, this week will unveil the first two of a family of CMOS image-sensing modules.
In-Stat/MDR estimates that the market for CMOS image sensors will grow from 19 million units in 2001 to 35 million in 2002 and more than 140 million in 2005. The Scottsdale, Ariz., market research firm expects integration of image sensors into mobile phones to exhibit the most growth, increasing from 3.8 million units in 2001 to 10 million in 2002 and more than 62 million in 2005.
That rosy outlook prompted Amkor to project that it will produce 4 million of its VisionPak CMOS image sensors this year, up from 1 million in 2001. In addition, the company expects to make by year's end 300,000 integrated modules combining the image sensors with camera hardware.
Amkor claims it is the largest outsourced supplier of CMOS-based image sensor packages outside Japan, producing 22% of the units worldwide and 13% of all image sensors.
"Typically, the largest suppliers of CMOS image sensors are Japanese camera makers that integrate them into their own products," said Mike Steidl, Amkor's vice president of advanced product development.
Steidl believes that Amkor's high-volume test and assembly capability will make it possible for the company to offer sensors and integrated camera modules at lower cost than Japanese companies. Amkor's process leverages its existing infrastructure for wire-bond and surface-mount assembly.
Also hoping to penetrate the image sensor market is Dialog Semiconductor, which in July purchased the CMOS image sensor patent portfolio and development team of Princeton, N.J.-based Sarnoff Corp., the former research arm of RCA Laboratories, for an undisclosed amount.
Dialog's first two image-sensing modules, designated the DA3510 and DA3520, are aimed at next-generation cellular handsets and PDAs. The DA3510 is a VGA-formatted stand-alone digital camera module combining a sensor, dedicated image DSP, customizable glass or plastic lens, and housing with a flexible connector. The DA3520 module lacks the DSP.
Both products are available in evaluation kits.