The image sensors market is expected to witness healthy growth during the next few years because it is integral to a myriad of applications that ranges from automotive, consumer electronics, healthcare, military and defense, transportation, among others. The use of image sensors is further reinforced by continuous R&D investments made by both public and private players which are resulting in an energy-friendly, reasonable, and relatively miniaturized version of image sensors. These improvements are making image sensors suitable for a wider industrial application. Moreover, the continuously changing landscape of consumer electronic goods like mobile phones, handheld devices, cameras, among others is one of the major driving forces anticipated to influence an upward trajectory of image sensors market.
Electronic Integrated Circuits; Parts Thereof (Exports)
In Thousands of US$
Source: International Trade Centre
Regarding consumer electronics, the semiconductor industry has reportedly witnessed certain recent market developments by key players establishing the very indispensability of image sensors to consumer electronics. To substantiate the aforesaid, the key developments were:
2018 – Product Launches
Teledyne UK Limited (LSE: E2V), through its Teledyne e2v, which is a provider of imaging solutions had reportedly announced the launch of Emerald 67 megapixel, the newest addition to its Emerald CMOS image sensor family. The salient feature of this relatively new sensor is a high resolution with the smallest global shutter pixel (2.5 µm). This feature, which was one-of-a-kind during the launch, facilitates the capture of more objects in a single high-resolution shot making it suitable for high-end automated optical inspection, microscopy, and surveillance. It also provides ultra-low noise performance with high sensitivity of 70% QE enabling the precise identification of defect and particle. Additionally, being ultra-high-speed, thereby the production line throughput is significantly enhanced.
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (B3: SMSNN, FWB: SSU, SSUN, KRX: 005930, 005935, LSE: SMSN, SMSD) [SAMSUNG] had reportedly announced the launch of 48-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL Bright GM1 and the 32-megapixel ISOCELL Bright GD1 which are essentially two comparatively new 0.8-micrometer (micron) pixel image sensors. The rationale for the development and the subsequent launch of these sensors is the objective to provide smartphone vendors with greater design flexibility enabling the accommodation of more sensors in the same space, which is the case with the trend of slim, bezel-less smartphones. These sensors are based on Samsung's pixel isolation technology called ISOCELL Plus. This technology, which was launched in June during the same year, reportedly optimizes the performance for smaller-dimension pixels, enabling the integration of the same into premium camera modules. Additionally, this technology is made available incorporated with the organization’s tetra cell technology that facilitates the merging of four pixels into one enabling the enhancement of overall light sensitivity.
Besides, the end-use industry such as consumer electronics, the defense industry is expected to hold a significant share of the image sensor market. One aspect that satisfactorily substantiates the aforesaid to a certain extent is the increase in the military budget by 3.6% from 2018 to 2019 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Direct Budget Plan of Research, Dev, Test & Eval
In millions of US$
Source: Department of Defense, USA
Further, in 2019, the global military expenditures amounted to US$1917 billion representing 2.2% of GDP which in turn reportedly corresponds to approximately US$249 per person. During the same year, the United States was the leading country in global military spending with a share of 38% of the total expenditure. Further, the military spending is in part substantiated by the National Defense Strategy which was issued by the Department of Defense (DOD), Government of United States in 2018, that articulated the necessity to stand by its properties of modernization. Moreover, the increasing technological advancements of Russia and China, an observation noted by the DOD officials, makes it a geopolitical strategic imperative of the USA to reexamine its R&D investments. Thus in 2018, it was reported that U.S. Air Force researchers at Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, have been working with Defense Engineering Corporation, Inc (DEC). in Beavercreek, Ohio; Lockheed Martin Corporation’s (NYSE: LMT) Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Louisville, Colorado and optX imaging systems, Lorton, Virginia, on the R&D of Electro-Optical and Radio Frequency Sensors (RADERS) project with the rationale of developing new enabling technologies for communications, imaging, and signals intelligence (SIGINT) applications, information processing, next-generation electro-optical (EO) and radio-frequency (RF) sensors.
The amount of RADERS contract awarded per entity was as follows, with DEC being awarded US $3.9 million during August; Lockheed Martin Space Systems being awarded US$192,009 during the same month, preceded by optX Imaging Systems being awarded US $748,315 during May. Another such development pertaining to the non-visible spectrum of image sensors related to defense was the announcement by ManTech International Corporation (NASDAQ: MANT) mission-focused technology solutions and services provider for U.S defense, intelligence community and federal civilian agencies, of a reported award of US $45 million 4-year-award for the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane for the technical advancement of sensors which is employed by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Hawkeye aircraft (PMA-231), in August 2018. It is important to note that PMA-231 Hawkeye aircraft provides surveillance, identification, and tracking of threat aircraft and cruise missile systems, thereby ensure situational awareness by employing integrated, automated sensors. ManTech has been tasked with the enhancement of sensor performance in the rapid-fire sprint as well as increasing the speed of crucial intelligence delivery. This will be executed by capitalizing on the organization’s pan DOD experience with sensor integration and support along with engineering and development techniques pertaining to agile software, resulting in more efficiency and flexibility for integrating emerging technologies, among others.
Thus, in view of the driving factors, market developments pertaining to the end-use market of consumer electronics and the sheer quantum of investments made by national defense industry towards effectuating practical advancements of image sensors, it can be stated with certitude that the market for image sensors is poised to witness a stratospheric growth during the next few years. Besides the aforementioned factors, aspects such as the adoption of IoT in almost every sector, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), government regulations mandating the implementation of new safety technologies in the automotive sector within the next few years, among others are also anticipated to reinforce the growth of the market.