Pixel Perfect

Panel Discussion: Image Sensors - What's next?
Closing the first day of our inVISION Days, Gpixel, Onsemi, Photolitics and Teledyne e2v joined Editor-in-Chief Dr.-Ing. Peter Ebert for a panel discussion regarding the day's main topic 'Cameras'. Together they tried to answer the question: What's next for image sensors?
Peter Ebert 
Peter Ebert (inVISION)Bilder: TeDo Verlag GmbH

To start things off: What are the current trends in image sensors?

Wim Wuyts (Gpixel): First of all, we see that the bandwidth race is still ongoing and that customers still require higher resolutions and frame rates. You would think that it might saturate at a certain level because people have enough data, but that seems not to be the case. The faster sensors we bring to the market are always welcome, and sometimes it takes a while before the industry catches up. But they do catch up over time and there is always a market afterwards. So the race is definitely not over.

Martin Wäny (Photolitics): I agree that the race for more data is still going on but what we also see – and have been for the last 20 years – is the requirement for smaller and smaller pixels in spite of the optical limitations. That is a trend that industrial vision is definitely following: Nowadays we have global shutter sensors with pixel sizes of 2 to 3m. So I think we have pixels that are close to perfection in physical limits, thanks to technologies like deep trench isolation for example we were able to reduce cross talk which allowed us to make even better and smaller pixels.

Vincent Hector (Teledyne e2v): Marketwise we are even facing kind of a first consolidation. Similar standard sensors with high resolution and small pixels. With power and performances not always needed by all the applications. Digital features-wise we are starting to have a real standardization which makes it not so easy for camera makers to differentiate themselves on the market.

Ganesh Narayanaswamy (Onsemi): It’s highly dependent on the application. Of course we have the smartphones which are bleeding edge and are always looking for more pixels and more bandwidth that need to be handled; not every application has these demands to keep pushing the boundaries upwards. Many applications dictate that you get the best image quality with a certain (silicon) real estate and that does not have to be only through more pixels. That said, the bandwidth problem is definitely still existent in a different way. Because if you do have smaller resolutions, increase the frame rate of these sensors, it does present an equivalent issue. This is where you have to take your bandwidth and your interfaces into consideration. Current image sensors are trying to address these in a variety of ways through serialized traffic, lower power consumption, smaller footprint – all easy innovations that seek optimal solutions to the use case needs. AIoT applications particularly benefit from these approaches.

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