IBM, Kodak Collaborate on CMOS Sensors
Anne L. Fischer
IBM has been in the chip manufacturing business for 40 years, but a recent agreement with Eastman Kodak Co. of Rochester, N.Y., spells change for the veteran. The terms of the agreement enable Kodak to take its portfolio of image sensor technology to IBM's CMOS fabrication facility in Burlington, Vt.
Although both companies have experience with CCDs, they see value in developing high-quality CMOS sensors for consumer digital still cameras and camera phones, markets that can take advantage of the power savings offered by CMOS technology. The firms will collaborate on the manufacture of CMOS devices using Kodak's designs, which the companies expect will bring image quality closer to that of CCDs.
A participant in the CCD market worldwide, Kodak is moving aggressively into the CMOS arena. It recently agreed to purchase the imaging business of National Semiconductor of Santa Clara, Calif., acquiring that company's intellectual property, equipment and employees.
By taking advantage of Kodak's proprietary pinned photodiode and 4T cell architectures, IBM will be able to manufacture pixels that approach the size of the smallest CCD pixels offered today, with improved photosensitivity and lower noise.
IBM also brings unique manufacturing technologies to the table, including the 0.18-µm CMOS copper manufacturing process already in place at its Vermont facility. The companies expect their combined expertise to result in digital products that can capture high-quality, multimegapixel still images and 30-fps videos in low-light conditions.
IBM also has the option to offer its manufacturing process to other foundry customers. Jeff Couture, communications manager for its Vermont facility, added that the company plans to make the CMOS image sensor technology available in mid-2005. He said that the offering will comprise a fully integrated design kit, including a 4T reference pixel with pinned diode, and that foundry customers would work directly with Kodak to obtain access to its proprietary pixel design architecture and other intellectual property.
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