Silina bends the rules for CMOS imaging sensors
Startup microelectronics company, Silina has developed curved imaging sensors on an industrial scale. Curved sensor technology has been developed for some time but was limited to single chip manufacturing processes, explains the company. Silina has developed technology which enables it to curve hundreds of imaging sensors at the same time, to serve camera manufacture from high volume to niche markets.
Nature uses curved lenses, as can be seen in the human eye. It allows a single lens to provide a wide field of view within a compact space. Unfortunately, all electronic imaging systems use flat imaging sensors which require complex lenses, using many expensive optical elements, explains Silina. This degrades the optical performance and capabilities of the camera, and increases the mass/volume budget and overall cost of any camera and optical system, says the company.
Curved imaging sensor technology overcomes hardware limitations that software cannot solve to open up the possibilities of a whole new generation of cameras with improved image quality and detection capability, as well as reduced cost and bulk of cameras.
Silina’s innovation is that the technology is scalable and application to high volume markets. Wilfried Jahn, chief technology officer (CTO) and co-founder of Silina explained: “Previously, this technology was limited to niche markets since the various solutions were limited to manual single-chip manufacturing processes, delivering a few tens of units during the past 20 years. . . . we have been able to create a unique process to curve hundreds chips at the same time. We can control all the parameters which make the process reliable and repeatable, reducing significantly the cost of production.” After the first month, Silina achieved curved 275 units of one inch CMOS imaging sensors at the same time, Jahn reported.
The curving process is the same whatever the sensor format and technology (CMOS and CCD). It can be applied to front or back side illuminated sensors, and on various spectral bandwidths from ultraviolet, visible to infra red. The process enables low volume and high volume manufacturing, curving one or several sensors or a full wafer at a time. Various shapes can be obtained: spherical, aspherical, freeform and custom shapes on-demand.
The manufacturing process has been developed to keep the same original packaging used for classic flat sensors, meaning that the mechanical architecture and electronic board remain the same, which helps the technology to be integrated on current production lines.
Silina offers support in optical system design to integrate the curved sensor technology in customer’s specific applications, and there is also an on-demand service to curve customer’s imaging sensors. Silina does not design nor manufactured sensors, it curves existing flat sensors. It is able to reach high volume markets via IP licensing.
The technology can be used to enhance image quality for smartphones, introduce low mass/volume budget for aerospace and drones, or increase the detection capability for automotive sensor technology.