MIGDAL HAEMEK, ISRAEL & BERNIN, FRANCE: TowerJazz, the global specialty foundry leader and The Soitec Group, the world’s leading supplier of silicon-on-insulator (SOI) and other engineered substrates for the microelectronics industry, have signed an agreement that will enable a turn-key solution for high-end backside illuminated (BSI) CMOS image sensors (CIS) for industrial, medical and automotive applications.
“The market for BSI CMOS image sensors replacing current Front Side Illumination (FSI) technology is expected to reach $800M in 2013,” according to Jerome Baron, principal analyst at Yole Developpement. “The BSI image sensor market will be mainly driven by digital cameras and cell-phone applications, but high performance imaging applications such as medical, industrial and automotive vision sensors are also an important segment. We estimate the market for high-end BSI image sensors to reach $120M in the same time frame.”
The TowerJazz BSI CIS offering will leverage the foundry’s extensive expertise and leadership in CIS technology and will integrate SOI substrates and Soitec’s new Smart Stacking circuit layer transfer technology, customized for the TowerJazz fabrication process. Soitec is the market leader in SOI wafers and circuit stacking solutions and TowerJazz is well-known for its industry leading pixel performance.
This collaboration will enable a rapid ramp to a complete BSI foundry solution that can be transparently utilized by TowerJazz customers.
Backside illumination is fast gaining traction in the image sensor market for its higher resolution, smaller pixels that capture far more light, higher quantum efficiency (QE), and improved performance. BSI allows 100% fill factor of pixels maximizing photon collection without any shading of metals. This provides very high light sensitivity in high-end applications.
SOI substrates, which Soitec manufactures using its patented Smart Cut process, make BSI much more robust to manufacture in high volume. Soitec’s new Smart Stacking technology enables chip manufacturers to leverage wafer-to-wafer level stacking through low-stress bonding and high-precision thinning of partially or fully processed circuits. It is particularly well suited to achieving low cross-talk and better pixel quality in BSI CMOS image sensors through access to the backside of the device.
“This is a unique offering in the foundry area and we will be the first to offer such technology to customers as a foundry service. Soitec’s SOI substrates and Smart Stacking circuit transfer technology are an excellent complement to our industry-leading CIS technology,” said Dr. Avi Strum, Vice President and General Manager, TowerJazz Specialty Business Unit.
“Our collaboration will result in high-performance image sensors and will allow fabless designers to create new generations of ultra-sensitive image sensors – which in turn will enable exciting new applications for cinematography, DSLR cameras, space cameras, and high-end medical cameras, among others.”
“This partnership will be a great advantage for the fabless design community,” said Dr. Bernard Aspar, Vice President and Managing Director of Soitec’s Tracit Business Unit, which developed the Smart Stacking technology. “We believe TowerJazz’s excellent CIS technology, combined with our best-in-class SOI substrates and unique Smart Stacking manufacturing capabilities, will provide a comprehensive BSI offering, enabling a turnkey solution for their CIS customers.”