SAN JOSE, Calif. - Sony Corp. plans to invest approximately 100 billion yen ($1.2 billion) in a newly acquired fab to increase the production capacity for CMOS image sensors.
Through this increase of capacity, Sony plans to solidify its position as one of the world's leading company in CMOS image sensors and CCD image sensors.
As reported, Sony re-acquired the semiconductor fab in Nagasaki, Japan, that it sold to Toshiba Corp. in 2008. Sony will buy the fab for about $597.2 million in order to double its capacity to produce CMOS sensors.
Sony will expand its Sony Semiconductor Kyushu Corp.'s Nagasaki Technology Center in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012.
These investments will further expand Sony's production capacity for "Exmor" and "Exmor R" CMOS image sensors in order to meet increased demand from markets such as those for smartphones and digital still cameras. Through this increase of capacity, Sony expects to solidify its position as the world's leading company in CMOS image sensors and CCD image sensors.
As a result of the investments announced, in addition to the approximately 40 billion yen investment in Sony Semiconductor Kyushu Corp.'s Kumamoto Technology Center, announced on Sept. 1, 2010, Sony's total production capacity for CCD and CMOS image sensors will increase from the current level of approximately 25,000 wafers per month to approximately 50,000 wafers per month by the end of March 2012.
It is important for sony to invest in both the technologies since there is pros and cons for both of them. And certainly there will be a stable market in the area of basic digital camers in the 5 to 10 MP range. These products are in great demand even when we have smart phones with good inbuilt camers.
I am hopeful that the "arms race" will continue as the consumer (and designers) benefit from the increased pixels and lower costs. I have been playing with the Kinect (not with an Xbox) and have been quite impressed. I am always looking for sensor advances and lowered cost as these allow for better robotic sensor platforms.
Image sensors are commodity items that are subject to an "arms race" as vendors try to offer more pixels, longer battery life, and better image quality. Cameras are also becoming "smarter" as embedded software recognizes different scene types or faces and adjust the exposures accordingly. The game changer would seem to be identify what OTHER sensors (beyond GPS tags to document image locations) can be incorporated into devices to enable new unexpected features.
though with the new investment, Sony can increase the production of image sensors but i am thinking whether that would be enough to make Sony a world leader in image sensor technology; quantity vs quality? CCD and CMOS image technology is so mature that 5-8 megapix camera is not a niche market anymore. Any increase in pixels is mostly not an advantage. Sony should spend the money in RnD to develop a novel technique to capture images!
I agree that CCD vs CMOS Image Sensors pave way for an interesting performance comparison.
One more interesting trend is emerging here. Traditional manufacturers are diluting their silicon logic manufacturing bases as the transistor dimensions shrink, and they are bulking up their manufacturing strength in non-logic areas like image sensors. At the moment, the market is in a sort of flux where various players are pushing hard in non-traditional manufacturing niches to gain market edge. It is interesting to think how the semiconductor manufacturing landscape will look like in 2-3 years from now on.
What is far more interesting than digital vs. film is the comparison of CCD to CMOS image sensors. It is interesting and wise of Sony to continue investing in both technologies, but notice that the re-acquisition of the Nagasaki fab is intended to double Sony's output of CMOS sensors, not to increase its CCD capacity.
After buying several generations of CCD-based digital still cameras over the years, I finally took the CMOS plunge with my latest camera purchase. The image quality is finally there, without sacrificing the speed advantage of CMOS.
Both CCD and CMOS imaging technologies have evolved a lot in recent years and I think some of the old stereotypes no longer apply. I wonder if perhaps it's time for EE Times to do an article comparing the two?
With the rise of digital camera, film has got a big hit. Now, consumer demands unified device and, the improvement of image sensors and optical technology, what is the future of point-and-shoot camera?
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