Sony Boosts Stacked CMOS Production Yet Again

TOKYO—Sony continues to push out more stacked CMOS sensors to meet the growing demand for smartphones and tablets. The electronics giant said it would invest a total of ¥105 billion (US$895 million) in its three CMOS plants in Nagasaki, Yamagata and Kumamoto. Sony bought the Yamagata plant from Renesas Yamagata Semiconductor last year for ¥7.5 billion (US$73.4 million in exchange rates at the time) to keep up with demand.

Sony said its semiconductor division will be reorganized and optimized “as it accelerates the shifting of resources to the image sensor business.”

Sony’s investment is intended to increase total production capacity for image sensors from its current level of approximately 60,000 wafers per month to approximately 80,000 wafers per month by the end of June, 2016. The company put the top target at 75,000 last July, after having announced a plan to invest ¥35 billion (US$340 million at the time) in stacked CMOS production.

Sony said the additional investment will help it to “exceed its previous target ahead of schedule.”

The current investment is intended primarily to augment production facilities used in the mastering and layering processes. The mastering process refers to the manufacture of photodiodes and wiring processes for stacked CMOS image sensors. The layering process refers to the layering of semiconductor chips containing back-illuminated structure pixels on top of semiconductor chips containing the circuit for signal processing.

Stacked CMOS image sensors are a stacked structure that layer the pixel sections containing back-illuminated structure pixels onto semiconductor chips containing the circuit for signal processing, in contrast to the supporting substrates used in conventional back-illuminated CMOS image sensors.

Sony said demand for these image sensors is anticipated to further increase, particularly within the expanding market for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Sony also announced the discontinuation of operations at Sony Semiconductor Oita Technology Center—a base for the development and production of high-density semiconductors such as LSIs—by the end of March 2016. Oita TEC began in 1984 as a production site for memory packaging, but in recent years its primary focus has shifted to the development and production of advanced packaging for LSIs used in game consoles.

Sony said “the decision to cease operations at Oita TEC was necessitated by the changing business landscape.” The 220 employees at Oita TEC are scheduled to be transferred to other sites engaged in the production of image sensors or to other Sony Semiconductor sites that will take over some of the operations of Oita TEC.

July 23, 2014
Sony Continues Expansion of Stacked CMOS Image Sensors Production
Sony said it will invest in its Nagasaki and Kumamoto Technology Centers next year to increase production capacity for stacked CMOS image sensors. Sony first announced its plan to expand CMOS production back in January with the purchase of a fabrication facility in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture.

January 29, 2014
Sony Invests $343 Million to Expand CMOS Production Capacity
Sony is sinking more money into the production of stacked CMOS image sensors. The company said today that it will spend ¥35 billion (US$343million) on assets to increase CMOS output.