TECHNOLOGY FOCUS

CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) Technology Leadership

Update from Dr. Avi Strum, Sr. VP and GM, CMOS Image Sensor Business Unit

TowerJazz offering in machine vision, customer base, and next generation development in Japan for vision and industrial cameras with the smallest in the world global shutter pixels

The machine vision (or industrial camera) sensors market is one of the CIS markets TowerJazz has been focused on for the past ten years. Today, TowerJazz is considered the world’s leader in pixel technology for the high end machine vision market. Machine vision is a very wide and fast growing area that includes food industrialization, factory line inspections (for example LCD panels inspection) and even ITC (Intelligent Traffic Control) speeding cameras. According to MarketsandMarkets, the machine vision market is expected to grow from USD 8.08 Billion in 2015 to USD 12.50 Billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 9.1% during the forecast period.

The common denominator of all these machine vision applications is a very fast sensor that uses GS (Global Shutter) pixels. GS pixels allow the capture of the whole image at once, unlike standard pixels (Rolling Shutter) that allow the scene to be captured only in a raster scan mode, row by row. Without global shutter, a fast movement in the scene while capturing an image will result in strange artifacts such as straight lines “bending.” Therefore, for industrial applications where objects are moving very fast, only global shutter sensors can be used.

TowerJazz has developed GS pixels and pixel technology that are being used now by the leading global shutter based sensors providers to the industrial vision market such as e2v, On Semiconductor, CMOSIS and others. In addition, the whole gesture control and gesture recognition sensors market also requires global shutter technology and this application drives very fast growth of this specific market segment.

Manufacturability
The current technology in production is TowerJazz’s 0.18um platform with IS11 extension, however this technology can be limiting as far as pixel size, down to 3.5 microns, and can consume high power in its digital circuits, especially in high resolution and high frame rates.

In order to provide a roadmap to our customers for next-generation capabilities, we have started the development of global shutter technology in our Arai 110nm technology node, using the excellent CIS process of TPSCo. This is a very exciting development for our customers and we are moving very fast towards having a new family of global shutter pixels that are not only smaller than our current ones, but allow sensor designs at smaller die size and lower power consumption of the digital circuitry. In addition, pixel performance, especially shutter efficiency, is expected to be better than in our current designs even with smaller pixels.

The new platform is already available for customer designs and will be fully qualified for production in Q1 2017. In parallel, we will be transferring this technology to Israel’s Fab 2 to allow for large sensors (stitching) and dual sourcing for our customers. Stay tuned!

For more information, please contact Dr. Assaf Lahav, Senior Principal Engineer, at assaf.lahav@towerjazz.com or info@towersemi.com.