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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Cell-Phone Imagers Lure the Unaware

But, knowledge and a few simple questions can help the uninitiated.
2-Megapixel cell phone imager
Photos: Micron
A 2-Megapixel cell phone imager. By following a few simple guidelines, imagers can have a long shelf life. Each sensor supports an imager development kit that typically includes a sensor board and an interface board.
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By Don Lake
Contributing Editor

When the industrial, scientific and military imaging communities look out at the image-sensor landscape, it sees millions of sensors being embedded in cell phones. When a new cell-phone camera is brought back into the lab and tested, the community finds the results surprisingly good. The immediate thought is "I could design that sensor in my application, reduce the cost dramatically and get a real jump on the competition."

But, leaping without looking into all the potential pitfalls can backfire on a manufacturer. Luckily, there are simple ways to become knowledgeable.

THE DESIGN CYCLE
From the initial realization of the sensor's capabilities begins a procedure that has been repeated by hundreds of engineers worldwide over the last couple years.

The first step is to get on the web, do a search and find out which companies are making the cell-phone sensors. Several companies will most likely offer the sensors and all of them will have a field sales organization that is supposed to be willing and eager to help companies who are not making cell phones.

This is not always the case. Some provide service, some say they cannot be bothered, and some simply have not bothered to let their field people know what is available. As strange as it may sound, there are sensor makers who would rather not sell their product and cannot be bothered to give new customers the time of day. Still, with a little persistence, the design engineer can get the specifications on the cell-phone imagers.

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