MADISON, Wis. -- If Samsung’s latest smartphone TV commercial (which touts a number of superior camera features and ends with a tagline -- “It's Not a Phone, It's a Galaxy”) is any indication, the ingredient that matters most in smartphones today isn’t the phone. It’s the camera.
As camera functions become essential to differentiate embedded devices, designers of CMOS image sensors (CIS) find themselves wrestling with growing demands on multiple fronts – image quality, size of camera modules and overall cost.
Over the last few years, CIS vendors have embraced chip stacking. Under that option, a CIS is stacked with an image signal processor (ISP). As the next step, at least two major players, Sony and Samsung, are reportedly pondering the use of FD-SOI wafers in manufacturing ISPs for a chip stacked CIS.
At the recent FD-SOI Forum in Tokyo, several participants privately discussed CIS as a volume product opportunity for FD-SOI.
Aside from Sony, Samsung is taking a hard look at using FD-SOI for CIS, as shown in one of the slides presented by Yongjoo Jeon, system foundry director at Samsung Electronics at the Forum.
Before stampeding to FD-SOI for CIS, though, a few key questions need to be answered.
- How big is the CIS market for image sensor suppliers who might opt to use of FD-SOI in their chip stacked CIS?
- What is the real advantage of chip stacking in CIS?
- Why is FD-SOI better than bulk CMOS when designing ISP for chip stacked CIS?
We asked Yole Développement, a market research firm, to help us break it down.
CMOS Image Sensor market
According to Yole Développement, CIS is “a $10 billion market in 2015, growing 12% year on year.”
Noting that it’s “still growing faster than the semiconductor industry,” Yole’s spokesperson said, “Our five year forecast shows 10.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).” This is after taking into account the slowdown of smartphones and increasing value of rear/front facing cameras.
But then, which CIS suppliers are already doing chip stacked CIS?
Yole estimated that in 2015, 27% of CIS revenues were generated from stacked chips, which the firm described as “roughly the market share of Sony.”
Growing camera module industry (Source: Yole Development)
Next page: Why chip stacking?