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What’s the impact on CMOS image sensors industry in 2013?

January 23, 2013

The CIS and camera module value chain in 2012 was ~$6.6 billion industry, of which ~$2 billion were from design overhead, selling, general and administrative, ~$3 billion from front-end, ~$0.4 billion from optical layers, ~$1.2 billion from BE/packaging, etc., according to Paul Danini, technology and market analyst, Yole Developpment, France.

Source: Yole, France.

Source: Yole Developpment, France.

There is also the camera module assembly and test segment. This segment has the integrated camera module suppliers, and the module assembly and test houses. The CMOS image sensor (CIS) shipments by market is set for a 11 percent CAGR growth from 2012-2017.

There was a $5.8 billion market in 2011 based on an estimated value of the first level packaged device. Samsung with 19 percent was the leader in 2011 revenue share, followed by Omnivision and Sony at 17 percent each, respectively, and Canon and Aptina Imaging at 10 percent each, respectively.

Samsung saw a 200 percent growth in smartphones. Omnivision had 50 percent growth from Apple iPad and iPhone4. Sony has grown with BSI CMOS in mobile phones. Canon pioneered CMOS in DSLR. Aptina Imaging is in high-performance specialty markets, and SETi and Galaxycore are gaining significant market share in Chinese mobile phone market.

There is a two-pronged approach to revenue growth and business strategy — race to volume and market share with CAGR >15 percent, and profit enhancement strategy with single-digit growth. Low price sensors are being offered by Galaxycore, Omnivision, SETi, and so on, while the likes of Sony, Samsung, etc. are plying innovative high-end sensors (>5MP).

A look at the manufacturing environment in 2012 shows 25 different CIS players and 40 separate CMOS image sensor lines globally. The 2011 CIS wafer production by region for 2.5M 8″ eq. wspy was led by Japan at 31 percent, followed by Korea at 27 percent, Taiwan at 24 percent and Europe at 15 percent. From 2013 onward, Japan will maintain its lead while Taïwan and China will increase their share.

What’s going to happen?
So, what’s happening in the final markets? The keys to success are either Chinese and Taïwanese foundries, and simple designs or leading edge R&D such as 3D stacking, BSI, 3D imaging and high dynamic range. And, what’s the minimum requirement? It is 12-inch wafer production and backside illumination. These could be a necessity in the near future in the consumer market.

In the high-end applications, while emerging applications are boosting growth, the competition keeps getting stronger. So, what happens in the high-end market segments? There is an opportunity for CIS players that struggle in the mass consumer market, as the CCD to CMOS shift is accelerating at -16 percent CAGR of CCD sales.

Market opportunities
There are market opportunities for CMOS in x-ray imaging market. CIS is already used in dental x-ray, but emerging in large area imaging. The other major markets are non-destructive testing and security.

In CMOS medical x-ray positioning, the CMOS flat panel detectors will target applications that require medium size and high resolution or high speed. Applications are mammography (high res) or fluoroscopy (real-time imaging). There is also a long-term projection of the use of assisting sensors in automotive. CMOS image sensors applications are likely in automotive. Also, CMOS benefitted from the demand of IP cameras!

Latest technology trends include backside illumination (BSI), 3D stacked sensors and wafer level packaging. BSI is a disruptive technology. BSI is also key to 3D integration. The 3D stacked sensor is also becoming a reality. Success will depend on capacity to handle volume increase and to reduce costs. This strongly depends on the investment capacity.

It is expected that the CMOS image sensor of the future will look like BSI + 3D integration + wafer level packaging. Beyond 2017, it would go on to be 3D integrated CIS + WLAuto-focus.

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