SK hynix Strengthens Technological Prowess with the Opening of its CIS R&D Center in Japan

By November 8, 2019 December 9th, 2019 No Comments

CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) is emerging as the new driving force for the semiconductor industry. In August 2019, market research institute IC Insights predicted global image sensor market volume to reach USD 15.5 billion by the end of the year, an increase of 9% from the year before (USD 14.2 billion), and also forecasted that this market trend would continue and generate USD 21.5 billion in 2023.1To keep pace with this sizeable growth, SK hynix recently opened a Japan R&D Center (JRC) in Tokyo on September 1st, further reinforcing the development of the company’s next-generation CIS technology.

CIS, Core Technology in the Multi-camera Era

CIS, also known as the “eyes for electronic devices,” is drawing huge attention within the sensor semiconductor market thanks to its wide application and importance in various fields, including smartphones, vehicles, medical treatment, and security. With the era of multi-camera smartphones now underway, the demand for CIS technology is skyrocketing.
According to another market research institute, Techno Systems Research (TSR), the average number of cameras equipped to a smartphone will exceed four by 2023. While smartphone production recently entered a phase of stagnation, smartphones with more than two rear cameras (Dual, Triple, Quad) are expected to continue to increase from 71.1% in 2019 to 84.4% in 2020 and 89.6% in 2021.2Also worth noting is that 60% of overall image sensor gross sales is generated from its utilization in smartphones.
“Multi cameras for smartphones will further develop and be utilized as a sensing application, not just a viewing application, in a wide scope of smartphones from mid and low-end smartphones to high-end ones”, said Shimura Masayuki, the Head of the JRC. “With the introduction of image sensors and related systems, including 3D cameras which recognize three-dimensional structures, comes a large amount of data that must be processed. If image sensors can play a role as an edge device, they will be able to create new solutions and businesses with the imminent arrival of 5G and the possibilities it brings,” he added.

CMOS Image Sensor (CIS)

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SK hynix Opens JRC for the Development of Next-Generation CIS Technology

To stay in tandem with the growth of the CIS market, SK hynix recently opened its CIS R&D center in Tokyo, Japan, on September 1st. By establishing the JRC in the heart of the world’s image sensor innovation, SK hynix aims to secure the excellent CIS talent and to further strengthen its technological prowess through the creation of a global network.
Japan is home to numerous small and large image sensor manufacturers, with Sony being one of the largest. According to IHS Markit, a leading market research institution, Sony now leads the image sensor market with its 51.1% market share achieved in the first quarter of 2019.3The country is also seeing companies from overseas, such as China, bolstering their research and development by establishing research centers in Japan. “The significance of SK hynix opening up the JRC in Japan cannot be understated. The new facility will give the company ultimate access to the diverse CIS resources concentrated in Japan,” said Shimura. “This extends to joint research and development with leading Japanese universities, which is expected to contribute to various aspects of our CIS business, including the successful development of a new CIS technology.”

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JRC to Act as Bridgehead for the Expansion of SK hynix’s Next-Generation CIS products

The building where JRC is located in

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While SK hynix continues to run a robust business by focusing on DRAM and NAND Flash, the company has been experiencing the ups and downs of the market environment due to fluctuating demands. Among the numerous different product families within the semiconductor market, CIS is the most similar to DRAMs. Accordingly, through the development of CIS technologies, SK hynix can promote business stability while keeping pace with the market environment at the same time, thus diversifying its businesses.
SK hynix’s CIS business is currently focusing on the mobile sector. However, CIS is a core component of the 4th Industrial Revolution, essential for Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). To enhance its CIS market share with this industrial trend, the development of high-tech products is important. The industrial trend is now evolving to high-resolution, high-performance products, putting added importance on Image Signal Processing(ISP) technology.

SK hynix aims to develop new technologies via the newly opened JRC to meet the market needs, and expects the JRC to play the important role of a bridgehead to help pave the way for SK hynix and its next-generation CIS business. Shimura emphasized the importance of the JRC, stating that the development of innovative solutions is crucial to satisfying these expectations, and that the JRC is fully committed to technological reviews in a wider scope, believing that this commitment will be the key to unlocking the potential of a new CIS market.



1Source: IC Insights, CMOS Image Sensors Stay on Stairway to Record Revenues, August 2019

2Source: TSR, Market Study of Camera Phone, October 2019

3Source: IHS Markit