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Start-up preps piezo-MEMS auto-focus lens for smartphones

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:poLight? MEMS? piezo-actuator? auto-focus lens? voice coil motor?

Norway-based poLight AS has accumulated nearly $19 million in a private placement of shares, to boost the deployment of its piezo-MEMS auto-focus lens technology, TLens. According to the start-up, it is working with several potential customers and is increasing manufacturing capacity in cooperation with ST as a manufacturing partner, with volume production planned for 2H15.

Assembled at wafer level, each 2.9mm x 2.9mm TLens consists of a very thin piezo-actuator layer on top of a thin glass membrane that deforms a soft polymer sandwiched with a thicker layer of glass. By applying varying voltages (up to 30V), the piezo actuator forces the thin glass membrane to bend, deforming the polymer underneath it and varying the optical focus.

Piezo-actuator layer on top of a thin glass membrane

Piezo-actuator layer on top of a thin glass membrane

The TLens is claimed to be 10 times faster than existing voice coil motor (VCM) lenses, while drawing 20 times less power. These features make them very attractive as a replacement for bulkier VCM assemblies, also enabling fast consecutive multi-focus shots to implement full-focus photos in software, noted the company.

Although Tlens depends on STs fab capacity, the company owns the full process IP and could easily second source its capacity.

The company has also developed a proof-of-concept for image stabilisation, again with a very low power consumption, no inertia and no wobbling compared to multiple VCM assemblies.

Next step for poLight will be to become a public listed company. We will probably do a pre-IPO by late 2015 or mid-2016 when we are in the market and are starting to generate revenue, an IPO could follow 12 months later, stated the company's CEO.

One could establish a parallel with Wavelens, a French start-up with similar performance claims for another MEMS-based lens technology using an oil-filled cavity instead of a polymer for the optical variation.

- Julien Happich
??EE Times Europe

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