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Samsung boosts output on 3Mpixel image sensor

Posted: 16 Dec 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:cmos image sensor? camera phone? ccd? cellphone? pixel?

samsung Electro-Mechanics Co. Ltd, the components arm of the South Korean electronics giant, is gearing up for the next wave in camera phone technology by increasing production of a 3Mpixel CMOS image sensor that will form the heart of a hinge-mounted module in new-generation camera phones.

The module will improve resolution while competing in size and cost with the CCD imagers used in current digital still cameras, Samsung said. The company estimates that camera phones will make up 120 million to 150 million of the 620 million cellphones delivered this year, shooting up to 230 million of the 650 million cellphone units forecast to ship in 2005. Samsung foresees a 35 percent CAGR for camera phone modules for the rest of this decade.

Rival CCD technology requires a larger pixel size and consumes more power than CMOS image sensors, said Mike Moon, president of Samsung Electro-Mechanics' North American operation. CMOS imagers are helping drive the camera phone revolution, and CMOS camera modules with 5Mpixel resolution will likely be introduced in 2005, Moon said.

Expansive view

Samsung is currently shipping 4 million 3Mpixel camera modules a month, and will ramp to 8 million per month in 2005 using a production facility in China. The decision to ramp up manufacturing to attack this market is part of a "new vision" for the Electro-Mechanics group, a company spokesman said. The group hopes to generate $9 billion in revenue by 2010, with eight main products lines in three areas of competence: materials, rf/wireless and optical.

The group's main products include circuit boards; RF components; chip components such as resistors, capacitors and inductors; multimedia components such as digital tuners, CD/DVD playback mechanisms and speakers; and communications modules that include LEDs, laser diodes and optical sensors. RF components include low-temperature co-fired ceramics, voltage-controlled oscillators, digital tuners and forthcoming Zigbee transceivers.

Samsung Electro-Mechanics' arsenal of tricks includes what it calls a smart-function circuit, an integrated module technology that buries components between the layers of a flexible PCB. The flexible board and display technology will pave the way for future "foldable" portable computers, Moon hinted. This technology would allow laptops of the conventional size to be folded up and stuffed in a pocket. Currently in development, they are not likely to appear until 2007, Moon said.

The company's new camera module, which groups the 3Mpixel sensor with LEDs and optical devices, takes advantage of Samsung's packaging expertise, Moon said. The module uses a "liquid-lens" mechanism to obtain a 2x to 3x optical zoom. The liquid lens is an electrolytic oil-and-water combination, a convex bubble, which changes its focal length when given a variable voltage. The response time is about 75ms.

In addition to 5Mpixel imagers, Samsung Electro-Mechanics' road map calls for more sophisticated autofocus, zooming and optical-strobe (camera flash) mechanisms.

- Stephan Ohr

EE Times

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