By the end of 2026, installed capacity for image sensors is projected to be 1.8 million 200mm-equiv. wafers per month. That’s an average annual growth rate of 12.5% over the forecast period, making image sensor capacity among the fastest growing segments.
While the Covid-19 pandemic negatively impacted the image sensor market in 2020, growth returned in 2021. Demand for digital imaging is increasing in virtually all areas, including cellphones, automotive, machine vision, security cameras, webcams, drones, and more.
Sony was the first to manufacture image sensors on 300mm wafers. The company has continued expanding its CIS capacity by converting 300mm fabs from logic to image sensor production and by acquiring 300mm fabs from other companies in Japan looking to exit the business of fabricating ICs. Sony has eight 300mm fab lines at four sites in Japan, with the newest being Fab 5 in Nagasaki. Fab 5 started mass production in 2021 and the construction of an expansion is already underway.
Samsung entered the CMOS image sensor business to diversify its business beyond DRAM and NAND flash. Since the fabrication technologies and tool sets for CIS devices are like that of DRAM, Samsung repurposed older DRAM fabs to begin making image sensors. The company became the industry’s second largest supplier of image sensors by serving most of the camera module needs of its huge cellphone business. Samsung’s image sensor production exists primarily at a large 300mm fab facility in Hawseong, South Korea.
SK Hynix has used the same strategy of turning older DRAM fabs into capacity for CMOS image sensors but lacks the benefit of having another related SK Hynix operation to buy its CIS devices. The company has a small but growing share of the global image sensor market.
The industry’s third largest supplier of image sensors is OmniVision but it relies on external foundries for the fabrication of its CIS wafers. OmniVision’s primary sources of foundry capacity are TSMC in Taiwan and SMIC and HLMC in China.
The Global Wafer Capacity 2022 report is available for purchase here.