Custom vs COTS Image Sensors
Why do some companies choose custom image sensors and others choose standard off-the-shelf (OTS) sensors? Let’s examine the pros and cons of custom versus standard image sensors to understand how technology innovations are changing the rules.
Selection: Generic vs. Higher Specification Requirements
With a vast selection of readily available standard sensors from different manufacturers, the first and most obvious reason to choose a custom image sensor design is that there is not a standard commercial off-the-shelf sensor (COTS) that meets all, or enough, of the client’s product development requirements. Typically, COTS sensor manufacturers determine a set of market requirements and develop a range of sensor products to fit that group. Such standard ranges are perfect for customers looking for relatively generic specifications. At the other end of the spectrum are customers in niche markets that require higher specification image sensors – for example, those sensors found in military/DoD, satellite or medical equipment.
Investment: Short-Term vs. Long-Term Costs
The less obvious reason to opt for a custom image sensor is that standard COTS sensors can be more expensive in the long-term. Customers will be able to go to market faster with lower upfront costs since no NRE (non-recurring engineering) investment is required but may have to undertake significant modification costs to rework the host equipment to suit the sensor. Such modifications might include cabling, power supply, routing, connectors or coupling. Under these circumstances, a custom image sensor is likely the wise choice. Although a custom image sensor will result in higher upfront costs due to the initial NRE investment, it could be more cost effective because the sensor will be designed to meet all technical and mechanical/electrical specifications for the intended application. The client will own the design and be responsible for raw materials and direct production costs, essentially eliminating the middleman. The options are unlimited compared to shopping for a COTS sensor.
Competition: Mass Market vs. Niche Market
The decision in favor of a custom image sensor allows progressive companies to differentiate their product and gain a competitive edge; otherwise they would be competing in the open market where competitors can buy the same COTS image sensor. Selecting the right design partner for this task is critical to address the market opportunity within the market windows. Forza Silicon, experts in custom CMOS image sensor solutions, understands the importance of building trust and collaborative customer relationships based on effective communication, first class project management and shared business objectives.