17 March 2008
Liquid Lens for Cellphones
One Step Closer To Reality, Finally!
Varioptic and SII announced today the signature of a cooperation agreement to develop, manufacture and market Varioptic’s Liquid Lens products. The aim of this agreement is to achieve a significant penetration with Liquid Lens products in the fast growing camera module market and other large volume end equipment markets such as barcodes and webcams.
Over the last five years, camera phones have revolutionized the mobile phone market, growing from (barely) nice-to-have features, to key must-have features. More than half of all mobile phones sold in 2006 came with an embedded camera, and camera phone sales could hit the 1 billion mark by 2010.
Making the most of this success, handset manufacturers are now looking at grabbing an even bigger market by taking the low end digital still camera market. For this they need to deliver the same level of image quality. The first step is to increase pixel count. The current market trend is clearly showing an increase in resolution with mobile phone manufacturers pushing ‘‘mega-pixels’’, with many 2 or 3MP camera phones being launched today. Sensor sizes are at the same time being reduced to fit trendy slim phones, hence smaller pixels are constantly being developed (from 5.6μm 3 years ago, to 2.8μm last year, and even 2.2μm this year). But this comes at the expense of sensor sensitivity.
Within the next year or two our FluidFocus lenses may be enhancing the resolution
of pictures from cellphone and PDA cameras
The next challenge is to add better optics. Features such as auto focus, zoom lenses, and anti-jitter mechanisms, which are standard features on today’s digital still cameras.
SII will use its manufacturing expertise as the number one supplier of Backup button battery and Capacitor to Cellular phone companies to produce Liquid Lens units in very high volume with aggressive cost reduction to ensure liquid lens products maintain their cost advantage for auto-focus. SII production capacity plan is expected to reach 0.5 million units per month by 3Q of 2008 and will expand mass production capacity according to market needs.
This agreement builds on an existing production capacity for Arctic 314 and Arctic 416 liquid lenses designed for 5–Megapixel, 1/3” and ¼’’ format camera modules.
*click to enlarge
Varioptic will continue to develop the liquid lens technology and to ensure the system wide competitiveness of the Liquid Lens products. Varioptic’s liquid lens feature many advantages over competing technologies in terms of cost, size, robustness, power consumption, silent operation and speed. These advantages position liquid lenses particularly well for the emerging camcorder phone market where continuous auto-focus for video is a “must-have” feature.
Commenting on this agreement, Christian Dupont, CEO of Varioptic said: “We are delighted to have signed this agreement with SII. SII’s unique position as the number one Backup button battery and Capacitor supplier to the leaders in the cellular phone market meets perfectly Varioptic’s objective to become the leading supplier of high quality image solutions for mobile devices. SII’s proven expertise in the production of low cost miniature mechanical assemblies make them an ideal partner of Varioptic.”
Takeshi Sasaki, General Manager of Micro Energy Division of Seiko Instruments Inc. (SII), added: “We look forward to working with Varioptic. Varioptic’s Liquid Lenses present significant advantages for the miniature camera phone industry and other large volume end equipment applications, resulting in higher yields and reduced production costs in line with our strategy to provide quality and innovative products.’’
Liquid lens in action