Driving the Future with Advanced Sensor Capabilities

The term may sound like obscure and technical, but the truth is that nearly all of us are at least indirectly familiar with CMOS 3D sensor technology. If you use a phone to take pictures, drive a car, or use any kind of electronics manufactured in an advanced industrial setting, there’s a good chance you’ve benefited from the capabilities of CMOS 3D sensor technology.

What exactly is it, though? Simply put, CMOS 3D is an elegant marriage of old and new technologies. CMOS chips have been around for over 50 years, and they’ve played a vital role in the growth of the semiconductor industry. The addition of 3D has taken the capabilities of CMOS 3D sensor technology to a new level, and what follows is a basic Q&A overview of what’s involved and how these two technologies work together.

When was CMOS invented?

CMOS was invented in the early 1960s, and the acronym stands for Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor. It has what’s known as an MOS-bipolar structure, which made it up to ten times faster than similar chips being used at that time. CMOS also runs on a small amount of current rather than voltage, which originally made it more efficient than many of those same chips

What was it originally used for?

CMOS chips were a staple of logic circuits, and initially they were used a great deal in microprocessors, certain types of RAM and controllers. These chips were popular because they didn’t consume a lot of power, and they were far more immune to noise and electrical interference.

How does 3D capability apply to this technology, and what are the advantages?

In this case, 3D refers to the structure of the chip itself. For instance, in imaging applications, the image sensors are stacked using an illuminated sensor array that increases their processing power. This also helps control costs because the processing power is optimized to the greatest possible extent.

So what applications have come to the forefront recently?

Machine vision is one technology that has clearly benefited from CMOS 3D. But the new capabilities of 3D imaging offer the most promising possibilities in fields like robotics, automotive applications such as self-driving cars, and many other specialized niches. Advanced pixel structures are also driving applications such as photonic imaging to new levels, and it feels like only a matter of time before the range of possible applications begins to expand exponentially as well.

What are some other current applications?

Laser scanning is one, and cameras used in industrial settings are also using CMOS 3D technology. The sensing capability is being used in cameras in phones as well, and security and surveillance applications also rely heavily on CMOS 3D. This kind of expansion should also continue, and some of the growth projections for the CMOS 3D market have been quite impressive.

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