ScienceTechnology

key Opportunities and Challenges in the Image Sensor Market

The ecosystem for the market comprises manufacturers such as Sony (Japan), Samsung (South Korea), OmniVision (US), On Semiconductor (US), Panasonic (Japan), Canon (Japan), SK Hynix (South Korea), STMicroelectronics (Switzerland), Pixart Imaging (Taiwan), PixelPlus (South Korea), Hamamatsu (Japan), ams (Austria), Himax (Taiwan), Teledyne (US), and Sharp (Japan).

The image sensor market is expected to grow from USD 12.78 Billion in 2016 to USD 24.80 Billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 9.75% from 2017 to 2023.

How will innovation by OEMs of image sensors lead to the increase in the use of image sensors in applications such as machine vision, ADAS, and wearables?

The use of image sensors is increasing with the growing number of applications related to imaging. The advancement in the digital technology is one of the main drivers for the development of image sensors, thus driving the market growth. Nowadays, various technical functions can be integrated into a single device. This is because of the growing demand for miniaturized devices and also because of the push strategy acquired by manufacturers to be competitive in the market. These advancements are creating opportunities for image sensors in applications such as machine vision, ADAS, and aerospace & defense.

Why is decreasing market for CCD technology and migration from CCD to CMOS posing as a challenge?

CCD technology follows a different value chain compared to CMOS technology. OEMS are looking to adopt CMOS technology in place of CCD. Thus, migration from CCD to CMOS is posing as a challenge for the market as it requires huge investments, but the OEMs are left with no choice.

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OEMs of various applications such as consumer electronics, healthcare, automotive, and security & surveillance may face challenges to meet their customers’ need because of the diminishing market for CCD technology. The implementation of CCD in various applications has already stopped. In the future, it is expected that almost all applications would be based on CMOS sensors.

The increasing popularity of CMOS sensors over the past few years has impacted the use of CMOS sensors in various CCD-based applications. Improved image quality, sensitivity, dynamic range, and speed offered by CMOS have outpaced the CCD technology. All major image sensor suppliers, including Sony (Japan), ams AG (Austria), e2v (UK), and On Semiconductor (US), are expanding their product offering with CMOS sensor. In March 2015, Sony announced that it would discontinue the production of CCDs by 2017 and focus on the growth of CMOS sensors. The announcement further stated that imaging systems equipped with CCD sensors have reached the end of their life cycle. However, in due course of time, with a larger number of players investing in CMOS and replacing CCD completely will be able to overcome the short-term challenge.

Big players in the market focus on developing and launching new products for smartphones and tablets. In October 2017, Samsung (South Korea) launched two ISOCELL image sensors for smartphone application. These new image sensors cater to the demand for sleeker smartphones with high-resolution image sensors in small chips. The new image sensors offer better low-light quality without camera bump.

High manufacturing cost

Images captured using low-megapixel cameras have numerous drawbacks. The image quality of such images gets reduced while zooming in, cropping, or taking prints. Hence, the demand for high-megapixel cameras is growing. To increase the number of pixels, manufacturers either have to increase the chip size or shrink the pixel pitch. However, a larger chip size would incur higher cost. Also, larger chips because of its larger footprint contradict the idea of lean/thin device. Thus, the only way to produce an image with high resolution and low cost is to shrink the pixel pitch, which is a very complex and expensive process. In most cases, the shrinking of pixel pitch results in reduced photo sensing area, which affects the image performance. As a result, it is inhibiting the growth of the image sensor market.

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