Start-up adds a curve to CMOS imaging sensors
Start-up comapny, Silina, claims to bring a paradigm shift to the imaging industry by developing a technology which allows it to curve hundreds of imaging sensors at the same time.
Previously curved sensor technology was limited to single chip manufacturing processes. Silina says the technology offers new perspectives in the design of cameras, from high volume to niche markets.
Most vision systems use curved retinas, the human eye is one example of this happening in nature. Curved retinas enable the use of a single, optical lens, the crystalline, providing a wide field of view to enhance image quality in a compact form factor. Unfortunately, all electronic imaging systems use flat imaging sensors which require making the lens very complex, 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.
Curved imaging sensor technology disrupts the way vision systems are designed. It overcomes hardware limitations that no software can solve to enable a new generation of cameras. It improves in four key criteria, namely, increased image quality and detection capability, and reduced cost and bulk of cameras.
Co-founder and chief technology officer (CT)), Wilfried Jahn, explains: Our innovation has been to unlock the technological barriers of scalability. Previously, this technology was limited to niche markets as the various solutions were limited to manual single chip manufacturing processes, delivering tens of units, during the past 20 years”. He adds that the company’s process curves hundreds of chips at the same time. “We can control all the parameters which make the process reliable and repeatable, reducing significantly the cost of production,” he says. One month after founding the company, it curved 275 units of one-inch CMOS imaging sensors at the same time.
Silina’s curving process is the same whatever the sensor format and technology, notably CMOS and CCD. It can be applied to front-side illuminated (FSI), back side illuminated (BSI) sensors, and on various spectral bandwidths from ultra violet, visible to infra red. This process enables low volume and high volume manufacturing, curving one sensor, several sensors or a full wafer at a time. Various shapes can be obtained, namely spherical, aspherical, freeform and custom shapes.
The manufacturing process has also been developed to keep the same original packaging used for classic flat sensors, meaning that the mechanical architecture and electronic board remain the same, facilitating the integration of the technology on current production lines.
Michaël Bailly, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder, adds “Our services are offered to optical system designers and manufacturers, camera integrators and sensor manufacturers to support them in the improvement of their imaging system performance while reducing their cost of production. . . . .support in optical system design to integrate the curved sensor technology in their specific applications, and an on-demand service to curve their imaging sensors”.
Silina does not design nor manufactured its own sensors, but curves existing flat sensors. Bailly adds that the company plans to reach high volume markets via IP licensing.
Silina’s technology brings benefits to varied market segments. The main value proposition is specific to each market segment and application: e.g. high image quality for smartphones, low mass/volume budget for aerospace and drones, better detection capability for automotive.