The market shows steady growth as low-cost CMOS image sensors open up new markets at the low end and displace charge-coupled-device (CCD) sensors at the high end. Over the period from 2013 to 2018 Yole reckons the market will be driven by the adoption of sensors in consumer and automotive applications and show a 10 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and reach a value of $13 billion in 2018.
Over the past five years mobile applications have driven the CMOS image sensor market Yole said. "We foresee consumer applications – tablets, digital still cameras – to be the growth driver over the next five years
After being dominated by CCD, DSC applications are now shifting towards CMOS. The next wave is likely to be automotive applications, which could become CMOS image sensors’ third big market.
The market dynamics are different in each market. Yole reckons Omnivision, Samsung and Sony will continue to dominate in CMOS image sensors for handsets thanks to their advanced technology, large installed base and cost-optimized manufacturing set ups.
Japanese companies will likely continue to lead in digital SLR cameras, partly because they are vertically integrated although some component companies have announced products aimed at that market, Yole said. The automotive market is also focused with 95 percent of the market served by five suppliers, Yole added.
Strong investment by Sony in CMOS image sensor production is putting pressure on second tier suppliers such as Aptina and STMicroelectronics pushing them to adopt a fab-light/fabless strategy.
CMOS image sensors revenue forecast in dollar-billions. Source: Yole Developpement.
Back-side illumination (BSI) is well on its way to becoming a mainstream technology and BSI image sensors accounted for 27 percent of total CMOS image sensor sales in 2012 and are expected to reach more than 78 percent of sales in 2018 bringing its total revenue to $10 billion in that year.
However, more disruption is expected to come with the trend towards 3D and multi-spectral imaging for use in gesture recognition, optical communications, image analysis in automotive, surveillance and biometrics.
The quest for higher resolution is also not expected to abate although it is tempered by limitations in pixel size reduction due technical issues such as signal-to-noise ratio.
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