20 Jan 2010
Morocco's wafer-level camera supplier has added test and certification capabilities to its manufacturing operation
Nemotek Technologie, Rabat, has now commissioned in-house test procedures for its wafer-level camera (WLC) products.
"Being able to provide the complete manufacturing process to customers is a unique situation, one that has required substantial engineering effort and investment," Nemotek CEO Jacky Perdrigeat told optics.org.
"Sensor and camera module makers have previously had to turn to separate testing houses for WLC assessment, resulting in a longer production process and higher manufacturing costs. Now they no longer need to."
As well as reduced costs, the result should be an easier path to breakthroughs in wafer-level cameras, optics and packaging.
"A 'one-stop shop' is always a preferable option for customers, eliminating the need for multiple sources of the various components in a camera assembly and improving the overall time-to-market," Perdrigeat commented. "It also allows Nemotek to move further up the value chain in wafer-level technologies."
Tests employed by Nemotek include measurements of electrical and imaging behaviour, focusing on the camera leakage and operating currents. Image resolution, distortion, signal-to-noise ratio and colour accuracy are also monitored.
However, testing regimes for WLCs are not well established, and vendors in the sector are currently matching their qualification procedures closely to customer requirements and constraints, as Perdrigeat noted.
"The novelty of WLCs is not itself a barrier to developing effective tests, but it does mean that vendors have to implement testing regimes which might not have been used before. Customers are incorporating WLCs into increasingly automated production processes, for example, which pushes them to request very specific electrical tests."
Nemotek is a licensee for two complementary technologies from Tessera, a Silicon Valley developer of miniaturization technologies for next-generation electrical devices. One is OptiML, which builds thousands of lenses on a wafer at the same time, and then aligns and bonds multiple lens wafers without the need for costly manual focusing. The other is SHELLCASE, a family of packaging techniques.
"Tessera supported us in the technology transfer operation, but not in the development of the testing programme since it did not form part of their IP [intellectual property]," said Perdrigeat. "We learned these procedures by ourselves."
Nemotek's Morocco location has helped to shield the company from the worst ravages of the economic downturn and should also provide an advantage in penetrating the emerging markets for cameras, according to Perdrigeat.
"A lack of multiple sources of the technology is a barrier to wider adoption of WLCs at present, and manufacturers of conventional camera modules are also fighting their corner. But our position in Morocco and the economics of manufacturing here give us an advantage when we supply components to Europe, where the significant growth markets for WLCs in medical and automotive applications are already well implanted."