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3 Dimensional Light Sensor for Advanced Portable Devices

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - 3D-LEAP (3 Dimensional Light Sensor for Advanced Portable Devices)

Reporting period: 2014-10-01 to 2014-12-31

This project aimed to develop very low cost and highest quality miniaturized cameras for mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers; more specifically embedded camera modules integrating image-sensing electronics and add-hoc optics in a single lens Wafer Level Camera (WLC).

This disruptive device is aiming towards significant market-shares in imaging modules, accelerating our growth and Europe´s Competitive position in Smart Mini Cameras for imaging. We introduced a paradigm changer in one of the highest growth areas addressable in consumer technologies. Our most disruptive competitive advantage is based on our algorithms, exploiting a novel hardware structure that allows greatly simplified optics, greatly reduced dimensions and hence much lower manufacturing costs.

The phase-1 study minimized technical and market acceptance risks. We extend the well-known FSV-model to FSOV (Fabless Semiconductor and Optical Vendor). Manufacturing, both for the semiconductor image sensors and for the optical layers on top of it, will be performed by third parties (silicon foundries and optical foundries). One of the main tasks of the feasibility study was to choose the best manufacturing partners from the handful of candidate companies in both sectors (silicon and optics), as well as obtaining exact quotations for the costs of the BOM (Bill of Materials); we also had exposure to some potential customers to verify correctness of the data (sales volumes and price targets) and build a Business Plan that includes a Product Roadmap,a Project Plan and Marketing and Sales Plans.
The products we are aiming to manufacture are WLCs (Wafer Level Cameras) capable of high-quality image acquisition.

An overview of the tasks we have performed during this phase-1 project and the results achieved include:
• We held meetings and negotiations with several potential suppliers of CMOS-image sensors, and obtained quotations for encapsulated devices, bare-die sensors and sensor-wafers with different number of Mega-pixels and different technologies.
• We held meetings and negotiations with several potential suppliers of optical layers, packaging and testing services, as well as quotations to manufacture optical wafers, assemble optics and electronics, dicing, packaging and testing the final devices.
• We took the final decision of who are going to be our first suppliers for the main blocks mentioned above: CMOS-sensors, optical layers, packaging and test.
• We run a thorough set of optical simulations using the design rules of the chosen optical foundry that confirm (provide the evidence) that the concepts at the start of the project can become a successful outcome producible in volume with the appropriate level of quality.
• We took the final decision on the structures to manufacture and the product priorities: number of optical layers on top of the MLA for the several products in the product-line (entry-level, intermediate and premium-level products). We prioritized an intermediate-product aimed at “face-looking” cameras for laptops, tablets and mobile phones (selfies,…).
• We prepared a detailed Product Roadmap, including our priorities and Project Plans.
• We prepared detailed Marketing and Sales Plans, including preferred channels and priorities for customers and products.
• We prepared a detailed Business Plan, including targeted volumes, and actions to make it real.
• We thoroughly updated a state-of-the-art analysis that proves we have the freedom to operate; we developed new ideas already protected by a new patent. We came to the conclusion that our first patent (extended to PCT and published recently) is worth pursuing by extending it to the main countries of the world during the coming months.
• We also assessed the resources needed to develop the product and take it to market success minimizing the risks of the project.

As a summary conclusion we can state that the preliminary concepts that started our project are technologically and economically viable to develop a product that can give us a competitive advantage in one of the largest markets a start-up (or even an established company) can address.
The main hurdle to reach the extremely high size markets we are aiming at is to fund the developments needed to get to mass-production, what will be facilitated by the support of the coaching services financed by the Eruopean Commission.

Design trade-offs, quotations from suppliers and surveys with potential customers (confirming volume forecasts and affordable prices) have been prepared for the Business Plan during the phase-1 study. The Work plan we put together minimizes the time from prototypes to volume production, aiming to reach the market as soon as feasible. A disruptive device as the one we are aiming at has never been produced by anybody else in the world, both from the advanced hardware and the algorithmic points of view.

Competitive advantages beyond state of the art will allow us to aim for a leading position in a high-growth niche of a market approaching 2 billion units per year.

Through the phase-1 project we debugged a complete Business, Company and Marketing Plan, we believe it is feasible to acquire a 1% share of the market 2-3 years after starting commercialization of the product (that is more than 20 million units by 2019); our disrupting idea will make feasible to capture 5% of the world market 5 years after we start sales (that is more than 90 million units by 2021).
Monolithic integration of optics and sensor.