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Start-up firm enters image sensor market

17 Jan 2008

Turnkey image sensor solutions from cmosis will target demanding industrial and professional applications.

A new company specializing in advanced CMOS image sensors has been created by the some of key people behind FillFactory, a spin-off from IMEC that was acquired by Cypress Semiconductor in 2004. The new company, which has been dubbed cmosis, has initial funds of €1.175 m from the founders and from Capital-E, a Belgian venture capitalist firm.

"We are quite unique as a privately held, pure play, turnkey solution provider for image sensors," co-founder Tim Baeyens told optics.org. "Some of our competitors are less interested in handling production, others are selling also cameras and thus compete with their own customers, whereas some larger firms typically show less flexibility and dedication on the long term."

“We have new technology to make very large-area sensors with an acceptable yield.”

According to Baeyens, the cmosis team has drawn on its experience at IMEC, FillFactory and Cypress to improve the capabilities of image sensors for demanding industrial and professional applications. "cmosis technology is very new," he said. "The experience our key designers have built up at IMEC, and later at FillFactory and Cypress, has helped us to make image sensors that are better suited for our markets."

Key advances include the capability to make large-sized pixels with low crosstalk, since the technique previously used at FillFactory worked well for small pixels but suffered from crosstalk on large pixels.

"We also have new technology to make very large-area sensors with an acceptable yield, which allows to extend the size of the image sensor as compared with the wafer size," explained Baeyens. "Cypress has a patent application on a similar technique, but we have now filed an alternative, and more fault-tolerant, method."

What's more, the cmosis team has developed CMOS sensors for TDI (Time-Delay and Integration) image capture, which has previously relied on CCD technology. "CMOS implementations of such sensors were rather complex, but we found an elegant way of doing it," he said.

These new technical capabilities will allow the company to target specialized industrial applications, including the rapid growth areas of machine vision, biometrics and motion analysis. Other key markets include medical equipment, as well as scientific and space applications. As a fabless company, cmosis will design, characterize and test packaged image sensors, while using external foundries for silicon production.

"We will start by developing image sensors for specific customers with special needs, and who cannot find standard products to meet those needs," said Baeyens. "However, we are currently talking with customers to help us define a new standard product."

Along with Baeyens, the principals of the new company are Guy Meynants, Jan Bogaerts, Gérald Lepage and Lou Hermans. "When working in a small company, you can act faster, with more flexibility, closer to the customer and with less overhead and thus costs," concluded Baeyens. "We think a formula 1 car should drive on a racetrack, not stand in traffic jam."

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