Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stuttgart University Proposes 3D Printed Microlens

Science Advances: University of Stuttgart, Germany, researchers propose to utilize a femtosecond laser-based 3D printer to print high precision multi-component microlens directly onto CMOS image sensor. Their paper "3D-printed eagle eye: Compound microlens system for foveated imaging" by Simon Thiele, Kathrin Arzenbacher, Timo Gissibl, Harald Giessen, and Alois M. Herkommer presents the new approach:

"We present a highly miniaturized camera, mimicking the natural vision of predators, by 3D-printing different multilens objectives directly onto a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor. Our system combines four printed doublet lenses with different focal lengths (equivalent to f = 31 to 123 mm for a 35-mm film) in a 2 × 2 arrangement to achieve a full field of view of 70° with an increasing angular resolution of up to 2 cycles/deg field of view in the center of the image. The footprint of the optics on the chip is below 300 um × 300 um, whereas their height is less than 200 um. Because the four lenses are printed in one single step without the necessity for any further assembling or alignment, this approach allows for fast design iterations and can lead to a plethora of different miniaturized multiaperture imaging systems with applications in fields such as endoscopy, optical metrology, optical sensing, surveillance drones, or security."

TetraVue Raises $10M for Automotive LiDAR

MarketWired: South California-based TetraVue closes its Series A funding at $10M, led by Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Nautilus Venture Partners, and joined by Samsung Catalyst Fund as well as Foxconn. The funding will enable TetraVue to bring its Ultra High Definition, Solid State Flash LIDAR to the autonomous car industry, and to be the leader in Vision for Things (VfT).

"TetraVue is unparalleled to any other existing technologies in the three-dimensional Flash LIDAR space," said Luis Llovera, Managing Director of Robert Bosch Venture Capital. "We see its technology as being key to the enhancement and development of the autonomous car industry, which will be the future of transportation as we know it."

TetraVue’s core technology differentiation is their patented “light slicer” technology, which uses time and distance measurements in order to find optical intensities using standard CMOS sensors. The company’s approach yields many benefits including higher reliability to meet automotive requirements, low latency, and ability to produce ultra-high resolution images for a wider range of distances at a lower cost.

TetraVue’s technology results in 2 million or more simultaneous distance measurements of ranges—greater than 200 meters in any weather conditions and utilizes orders of magnitude less power than competitors. This performance is optimal for the autonomous car industry, and TetraVue plans to miniaturize and commercialize its fully functioning prototype.

Picture of car hitting wall of cardboard boxes taken with Tetravue LIDAR

One of the recent TetraVue's patent applications, US20150296201 "Systems and method of high resolution three-dimensional imaging" by Paul S. Banks, explains TetraVue LiDAR operation:

ST Announces 3rd Generation ToF Sensor

ST releases its third-generation laser-ranging sensor based on its SPAD FlightSense technology. The new VL53L1 sensor adds for the first time, optical lenses to the module. This combination boosts core performance while introducing many new features including multi-target detection, cover-glass crosstalk immunity at long distance, and programmable multi-zone scanning. With a form factor of 4.9 x 2.5 x 1.56mm, the sensor module integrates a new lens system, a 940nm VCSEL light source, a processing core, and a SPAD photon detector.

The VL53L1 performs a full measurement operation in as little as 5ms, twice as fast as the earlier-generation devices, for high speed AF operation. It also has doubled the maximum ranging distance of ST ToF sensors to beyond 4.5 meters, ensuring it is well matched to the hyper-focal distance of widely used 21MP camera optics.

The new architecture can detect multiple targets within the scene and also allows manufacturers to sub-divide the SPAD sensing matrix into custom-defined zones. These small zones can then provide spatial ranging information that the customer application can use for dual-camera computation in stereoscopy as well as simple depth-map use cases.

The VL53L1 is in production now.

ST has already shipped hundreds of millions of Time-of-Flight sensors, which have been designed by OEMs into over 70 smartphone models as well as many other consumer devices,” said Eric Aussedat, General Manager of ST’s Imaging Division. “The third-generation FlightSense product uses its improved performance to support new applications, including human-presence detection, while continuing to improve sensor performance for existing use cases.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Nikkei on Sony 3-Layer Stacked Sensor

Nikkei overviews Sony ISSCC 2017 paper on the 960fps 3-layer stacked sensor:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

LeEco Spent 540 Days Adjusting its Smartphone Camera Performance

One of the large Chinese consumer electronics companies, LeEco, says it has spent more than 540 days tuning its new Le Max 2 smartphone camera performance:

Friday, February 17, 2017

MIPI C-PHY Tutorials

MIPI Alliance posted a number of interesting videos from MIPI DEvcon in Sept. 2016. Among them, there is a C-PHY tutorial by Mohamed Hafed, Introspect Technology:

Another C-PHY tutorial comes from George Wiley, Qualcomm:

Dual Camera Phones to Boost LG Innotek, SEMCO Revenues

The Korea Herald: Samsung Electro-Mechanics (SEMCO) and LG Innotek’s profits are growing on rising demand for dual camera phones, according to the newspaper's sources. SEMCO is supplying its dual cameras to Chinese Xiaomi and LeEco since Q3 2016 and it is also in talks with Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.

According to Counterpoint analysts, the sales of smartphones with dual cameras will rise more than 400% YoY to reach 300 million units in 2017.

DALSA Works on DBI-Stacked Sensors

BusinessWire: Invensas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tessera, announces that Teledyne DALSA has signed a technology transfer and license agreement for Direct Bond Interconnect (DBI) technology.

DBI technology is a key enabler for true 3D-integrated MEMS and image sensor solutions,” said Edwin Roks, president of Teledyne DALSA. “We are excited about the prospect of developing new products and providing new foundry services to our customers that utilize this technology. By working closely with Invensas, we will be able to move more quickly to deploy this capability efficiently and effectively.

We are pleased that Teledyne DALSA, a recognized leader in digital imaging products and MEMS solutions, has chosen our DBI technology to accelerate the development and commercialization of their next generation MEMS and image sensor products,” said Craig Mitchell, President of Invensas.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Global and China Imaging Industry Report, 2016-2020

ResearchInChina publishes "Global and China CMOS Camera System Industry Report, 2016-2020." Few quotes:

"In 2016, the CIS (CMOS Image Sensor) market size approximated USD10.516 billion, rising by 5.6% from a year ago, but with an obvious fall in the speed of growth compared with the growth rate of 13.5% in 2015, mainly because medium- and high-end products are monopolized by Sony and the manufacturers in low- and medium-end fields are hard to break through the technological barriers and do nothing but hit the price war even in the vehicle field.

Although influenced by factors like the Earthquake and the Appreciation of Japanese Yen, Sony still monopolized the medium- and high-end fields by dint of its overwhelming performance superiority and saw an upsurge of 32.9% in its revenue in 2016; by contrast, other players excluding Panasonic and Hynix saw decline. It is expected that, in 2017, the CIS market will grow 4.0%, Sony will see a growth rate of at least 10%, and most others will continue to suffer losses. In spite of being not much expected, the mobile phone market is still the most important market and Sony still monopolizes the high-end mobile phone market.

In 2015, the global CCM (CMOS Camera Module) market size reported USD16.611 billion, up 3.8% from a year earlier but the lowest growth rate since 2010. In 2016, as the shipment of Apple phones with the highest single price of CCM fell, the world CCM market was at low ebb and down 0.5%. Due to the dual-camera stimulus in 2017, the global market rebounds substantially with the growth rate of 4.3% and the size estimated to be USD17.232 billion in 2017 and USD18.512 billion in 2020.

In 2016, Chinese manufacturers made remarkable achievements, while South Korean counterparts saw a drop or slight rise in revenue due to their heavy reliance on Apple and Samsung. Among Chinese players, Q-Tech enjoys the highest growth rate up to 84.5%, followed by Truly, both of which benefited from the outstanding performance of big customers OPPO and VIVO.

It is anticipated that monochrome dual-camera with same pixel will be the mainstream for smart phone brands except Apple in the future, as it is more affordable and can improve nightscape significantly (visible effect betterment for consumers), while Apple will persist in duel-camera design enriching depth of focus. Smart phones tend to be highly homogenized. Although they are still not quite satisfied with the dual-cameras, consumers are more impressed with dual-cameras than mono-camera. So, dual-camera is expected to be a standard configuration in high-end smart phones, and the penetration rate till 2020 would be as high up to 30-40%.

Sony Unveils 4 New GS Sensors

Sony presents 4 new GS CMOS sensors for industrial applications. The sensors have 1/2.9-inch format and include 1.58MP IMX273LLR/LQR and IMX296LLR, and 0.4MP large pixel IMX287LLR/LQR and IMX297LLR.

Sony also posts a video demo of GS sensor advantages: