LONDON – Sony Corp. (Tokyo, Japan) has announced that it plans to spend about 80 billion yen (about $1 billion) by September 2013 to expand its manufacturing capacity for stacked CMOS image sensors.
The investment in Sony Semiconductor's Nagasaki wafer fab, includes 45 billion yen already assigned to capex in the current financial year that ends on March 31, 2013, will increase Sony's production capacity for image sensors to 60,000 wafers per month.
Stacked CMOS image sensors attach the back-illuminated sensors on to ICs that perform signal processing, rather than using substrates to support both the back-illuminated CMOS image sensors and processing IC. Stacked CMOS image sensors smaller sized of image sensors and allow more compact size for digital cameras and mobile devices, Sony said.
The billion-dollar spend is intended to solidify Sony's position as the largest maker of CMOS image sensors and address the rapidly increasing demand for image sensors for use in smartphones and tablet computers, Sony said.
Sony will benefit from a government subsidy that will be provided by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan, through the "Subsidy for Domestic Location Promotion Projects" program. Sony did not indicate the size of the subsidy.
Sony Semiconductor's Nagasaki Technology Center
Sony has 200-mm wafer production lines for CMOS images sensors at Kagoshima and Nagasaki and the company also outsources CMOS image sensor production to foundries. For the purposes of calculating the monthly output production has been recalculated to 300-mm diameter wafer equivalents.
I don't know how much more affordable they can get! To a first order, the higher end cameras essentially have larger area sensors. It's really pretty amazing how far things have come in the last 10 or so years. The camera modules in phones are a few dollars. Not convinced? You can get a replacement module for the iphone 4s for around $12. (anyone guess country of origin?_
The back-side illumination is the approach to cope with fill factor. However, I agree that smaller sensors is not generally the goal.
Bigger pixels, more pixels, which usually means more die area and cost.
One way in which smaller die might help is if a developer goes for multi-sensor approach similar to Pelican Imaging.
A smaller sensor does not necessarily mean better quality, for an image sensor, the most important parameters is Fill Factor and efficiency. A smaller sized pixel would mean reduction in these factors.
Sony image sensors are of very high quality and have unique result. However, they are not freely available for design and prototype work. They should also make effort to make literature freely available and supply samples for designs. Will they also go for advance ASIC to support these CMOS image sensors?
If it is required to put the professional looking pictures and videos capturing ability to mobile phones and tablets, Sony's efforts will be really fruitful. This step by Sony will surely be highly result oriented as Sony team have a very vast experience for these sensors due to their Professional Video Division.