Cypress to acquire CMOS image-sensor company

JUNE 22--Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (San Jose, CA; www.cypress.com) has signed a definitive agreement to acquire FillFactory NV, a Belgium-based leader in active-pixel CMOS image-sensor technology.

JUNE 22--Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (San Jose, CA; www.cypress.com) has signed a definitive agreement to acquire FillFactory NV, a Belgium-based leader in active-pixel CMOS image-sensor technology. FillFactory offers a variety of high-performance custom and standard products for advanced digital photography, high-speed imaging, machine-vision, and automotive applications.

FillFactory's products, which are based on a proprietary pixel architecture, include a 13.85-Mpixel sensor for Kodak's new professional digital still cameras; a 100 x 135-mm sensor for mammography applications that takes up an entire 8-in. wafer; radiation-tolerant sensors for aerospace applications such as star trackers and sun sensors; and active-pixel sensors that combine a true snapshot synchronous shutter with very high readout rates for use in high-speed scientific image analysis.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Cypress agreed to pay $100 million in cash for FillFactory. The transaction, which is targeted to close in the 2004 third quarter, is expected to be accretive to Cypress's pro forma earnings. Cypress expects the acquisition to be accretive in 2004, excluding the cost of acquisition-related intangibles. FillFactory posted sales of $6.0 million and profit before tax of $1.3 million in the quarter ended March 31, 2004.

The demand for CMOS image sensors--essentially cameras on a chip made with standard CMOS process technology--is growing rapidly, driven by a swift expansion of the market for DSCs and cell-phone cameras. According to a Q2'04 report by the El Segundo, CA-based semiconductor research firm iSuppli, the 78 million-unit market for CMOS sensors in 2003 is projected to expand at an annual rate of more than 40% through 2008.

"As a spin-off of IMEC, European independent research center for the development of state-of-the art microelectronic technologies, FillFactory provides an experienced, first-rate development team in a highly technical, fast-growing market," said T. J. Rodgers, Cypress president and CEO. "Longer-term, we aim to combine FillFactory intellectual property with existing Cypress IP--such as the optical microelectromechanical systems and image-processing capabilities of our Silicon Light Machines subsidiary--to lay the groundwork for new, integrated, value-added solutions."

FillFactory focuses on high-performance image sensors characterized by large numbers of pixels, as in the Kodak digital camera application; large areas, as in its mammography sensor; high frame rates, which make it easier to capture images in motion; and high dynamic range, improving their ability to distinguish dark objects against light backgrounds. Its proprietary pixel architecture has a high fill factor, meaning that the entire area of a pixel is photosensitive, even with the three or four transistors that are required to reset and sense an image. As a result, FillFactory products have no need for the microlenses required by competitive products.

High fill factors translate into smaller CMOS sensor chips and/or sensor chips with better resolution without making concessions to sensitivity. FillFactory's 13.85-Mpixel CMOS image sensor with a 24 x 36-mm² light-sensitive area is currently shipping into Kodak's new DCS Pro SLR/n and DCS Pro SLR/c 35-mm professional digital cameras.


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