Rockwell unveils line of CMOS image sensors

Taking advantage of 20 years of experience in advanced imaging technology developed for defense and aerospace applications, Rockwell Semiconductor Systems (Newport Beach, CA) is introducing a line of CMOS image sensors for digital still, video, and industrial cameras; videoconferencing; portable communications devices; and machine-vision applications. Compared with available CCD-based imagers, these CMOS image sensors offer less power, a one-rail supply, one clock, lower cost, a standard manufac

Rockwell unveils line of CMOS image sensors

Taking advantage of 20 years of experience in advanced imaging technology developed for defense and aerospace applications, Rockwell Semiconductor Systems (Newport Beach, CA) is introducing a line of CMOS image sensors for digital still, video, and industrial cameras; videoconferencing; portable communications devices; and machine-vision applications. Compared with available CCD-based imagers, these CMOS image sensors offer less power, a one-rail supply, one clock, lower cost, a standard manufacturing process, and higher image quality.

The CMOS image-sensor line comprises five devices that offer OEMs a range of design flexibility. The CIF (352 ¥ 288 color pixel) resolution RI0352P passive pixel sensor and RI0352A active pixel sensor are suited for PC-based and security cameras, cellular handsets, and emerging video devices. They come in a 28-pin surface-mount plastic optical package with an f/2 microlens, support 30 frames/s, include an on-chip 10-bit analog-to-digital converter, and interconnect to OEM-provided back-end signal processors.

The other three sensors offer higher-resolution imaging: the RI0960A with 960 ¥ 720 pixels, the RI0800A with 800 ¥ 600 pixels, and the RI0640A with 640 ¥ 480 pixels. In addition to all the features provided by the CIF resolution devices, these three devices include automatic gain control, RGB Bayer color pattern, programmable window size and location, nondestructive readout capability, and packaging options.

Says Ian Olsen, vice president and general manager of Rockwell`s personal imaging division, "Shrinking process geometries and advances in imager design have enabled CMOS imagers comparable in image quality to CCDs. As a result, they are now a viable alternative that offers a significant benefit over CCDs in consumer and computing products. Current Rockwell imagers match CCD quality and will soon exceed their capability with future design generations."

Says David Escobar, senior product line manager at Rockwell`s personal imaging division, "What has enabled CMOS imagers to make sense now is that the design rules are consistently at submicron levels, that is, 0.5 mm and moving to 0.35 and even 0.25 mm. You can now put a lot of circuit integration just behind the sensor on a pixel-to-pixel basis. The Rockwell three-transistor technology roadmap for CMOS sensor designs will provide far less noise than that found in CCD sensors. Moreover, Rockwell uses a standard CMOS process--the same process that is used to build semiconductors. Thus, the Rockwell infrastructure for manufacturing CMOS sensors is already in place, saving cost."

Customer samples of the two lower-resolution CIF sensors are expected next month, and full production is scheduled for May 1998. Customer samples for the three higher-resolution sensors are planned for May, and full production is set for July. Sample pricing for the CMOS line ranges from $18 to $63.

Comments Mark Kirstein, director of research at In-Stat, a Scottsdale, AZ, research firm, "With their ability to reduce cost, provide higher integration, and improve image quality, CMOS imaging sensors are poised to challenge CCDs as the imagers of choice in emerging consumer markets. The market for digital imaging is growing at an accelerated pace and with its established manufacturing capabilities and high-end imaging expertise, Rockwell is well positioned to provide high-performance CMOS imagers to meet this demand."

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