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New generation camera phones: smaller, cheaper, better

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June 12, 2007

Tessera's OptiML camera technology: smaller, cheaper, better.

Tessera's OptiML camera technology: smaller, cheaper, better.

June 13, 2007 A key part of the accelerating convergence of mobile technologies is the constant struggle to miniaturize functional units while constantly improving their quality and reducing cost of manufacture. Tessera has scored big on all three points with their OptiML wafer level camera manufacture technology - their new modules are half the size of current mobile phone camera units, 30% cheaper to manufacture, and capable of supporting the high resolutions we expect from digital cameras. The company has also made some impressive aquisitions to sort out the traditional focus and zoom issues we've had on camera phones.

Tessera Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of miniaturization technologies for the electronics industry, recently introduced OptiML WLC, the company's new wafer-level camera technology designed to significantly advance the integration of miniature cameras in mobile phones, personal computers, security cameras, and other electronics. OptiML makes it possible for cameras to be manufactured at the wafer level, drastically reducing the size and total bill of material cost of camera modules. As a result of these and other significant benefits, Tessera is providing the electronics industry a powerful tool for integrating cameras into a wider range of electronic products.

Tessera’s solution is designed to overcome the cost, size and manufacturing roadblocks facing the industry as cameras become ubiquitous in mobile phones and other electronics. Using OptiML WLC technology, thousands of lenses are manufactured simultaneously on a wafer, and then bonded at the wafer level to create the optical element of the camera. The result is simplified assembly and up to 30% cost savings for the optical component of the camera module. OptiML WLC technology also reduces the size of the camera to a minimum, delivering up to 50% size reductions over conventional camera modules in camera phones today. Tessera’s recently acquired Eyesquad technology can be easily integrated into the OptiML WLC solution, providing advanced auto-focus and digital optical zoom without the use of moving parts, resulting in greatly enhanced camera functionally and reliability at lower costs and smaller form factors.

According to Bruce McWilliams, Tessera’s Chairman, President and CEO, “With our acquisitions of Shellcase, Digital Optics and Eyesquad, we have assembled what we believe to be the strongest portfolio of camera optic technologies in the marketplace.... We believe our OptiML wafer level camera technology represents a significant leap forward in the development of highly integrated, lower cost optics for consumer and other electronics.”

OptiML WLC technology can be used for a wide range of camera phone applications, and is designed to scale to multi-mega pixel resolutions. Wafer level techniques are used to build thousands of lenses on a wafer at the same time. Multiple lens wafers are then aligned and bonded at the wafer level using Tessera’s OptiML WaferStack technology. The need for costly manual focusing is removed due to the accuracy of the WaferStack process. The bonded lens wafers are then diced into individual lens modules, and each lens module is mounted on top of a packaged image sensor.

Reflow compatible materials are used to build the lenses. The result is a camera module that can be mounted directly onto the phone board using the same reflow process used to assemble other electronics. Assembly through reflow results in lower labor cost, part count and cycle time when incorporating the camera into the phone.

For fixed focus applications, traditionally used for VGA to 2 mega pixel resolution camera phones, OptiML WLC eliminates the need for manual focus adjustment of the cameras' optical elements. For 2 mega pixel resolution and above, advanced auto focus and digital optical zoom can be integrated into the OptiML WLC solution using Eyesquad technology without the use of moving parts.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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