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Samsung to boost image sensor output amid rising demand: analysts

All Headlines 09:17 January 19, 2020

By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co. may boost the production capacity of its complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor by nearly 20 percent this year, analysts here said Sunday, as the South Korean tech giant tries to meet soaring demand.

CMOS image sensor converts light into electrons, thus creating a digital image in an electronics device.

Demand for CMOS image sensor has been sharply rising as smartphones with multiple cameras became increasingly popular in the market, while developing internet of Things (IoT) and mobility technologies prompted the need of such semiconductor.

This image provided by Samsung Electronics Co. on Aug. 12, 2019, shows the company's high-end mobile image sensor, ISOCELL Bright HMX, that features 108 megapixel for high-resolution photographs. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Market researcher IC Insights estimated the global CMOS image sensor market at US$16.8 billion in 2019, up 19 percent from a year earlier.

Against this backdrop, local analysts said Samsung is expected to expand its CMOS image sensor production capacity by converting its DRAM memory chip production lines in South Korea. The fabrication process of CMOS image sensor is known to be similar to that of DRAM.

Samsung, the world's largest memory chipmaker, announced in 2017 that DRAM chip production line 11 at the company's fab in Hwaseong, south of Seoul, will be retooled to produce CMOS image sensors.

"In addition to the DRAM chip production line 11, Samsung plans to convert the line 13 to produce CMOS image sensors this year," said Doh Hyun-woo, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities Co. "Samsung's CMOS image sensor production capacity, based on wafer input, can be expanded from the current 55,000 to 65,000 sheets per month in 2020."

Samsung is the No. 2 player in the global CMOS image sensor market dominated by Sony Corp. As of May last year, Sony accounted 51 percent of the global image sensor market in terms of revenue, industry data showed, with Samsung making up less than 20 percent.

Market watchers said Samsung's efforts to beef up CMOS image sensor production capacity will reduce volatility in its earnings.

This photo taken on July 5, 2018, shows Samsung Electronics Co.'s image sensor products displayed at the company's exhibition hall in Seoul. (Yonhap)

"CMOS image sensors are usually supplied in long-term contracts, meaning there's low risk of price changes," said Kim Dong-won, an analyst at KB Securities. "In the long term, it could surpass the profitability of DRAM."


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