Samsung has put in requests to its CMOS image sensors testers to expand their capacity, TheElec has learned.
The South Korean tech giant is guaranteeing orders for its testing partners as it is expecting high demand for CMOS image sensors in the second half of the year, people familiar with the matter said.
Currently Tesna is the primary vendor for CMOS image sensor testing for Samsung, LB Semicon is the secondary vendor.
LB Semicon is looking to start spending to expand its testing capacity in the second half of the year after receiving guaranteed orders from Samsung, one of the people said.
However, primary vendor Tesna has already expanded its capacity substantially and is more conservative towards spending more to expand them further, the person said.
LB Semicon told TheElec that additional CMOS image sensor testing equipment will be placed in its facilities in the second half of the year. The amount of testing equipment is a third of what it placed in the first half, the company said.
Meanwhile, Tesna said it was reviewing whether it will be investing in CMOS image sensor testing in the second half of the year.
The pair has been rapidly expanding their testing capacity over the past couple of years. This year, there are receiving large orders for CMOS image sensor testing from Samsung. Tesna started construction of a new factory at Ansung in 2019, earmarking 220 billion won in the project. It began CMOS image sensor testing in October last year. In early 2019, CMOS image sensor testing only accounted for around 20% of its sales but as of the second quarter this year this has gone up to over 50%.
LB Semicon, which as chosen by Samsung as a vendor for the first time this year, began testing the South Korean tech giant’s CMOS image sensor and SoC in March this year. LB Semicon spent 58.1 billion won in its factory, also at Ansung, in September for the order. Its factory operation rate for CMOS image sensor testing was below 50% in the beginning but this has gone up to 70% as of June. Operation rate for SoC is currently around 50%. South Korea analysts expect the company to record higher operating profitability and sales this year from Samsung’s orders.
Meanwhile, Nepes Ark, which went public in November, had previously said it was looking to win orders for CMOS image sensor testing from Samsung. However, the company is currently spending more on expanding its fan-out panel level package and OLED display driver IC capacities.
Image sensors are in high demand from smartphones, tablets and PCs as well as for autonomous vehicle and IoT applications. More sensors are being packed in a single smartphone as well.
Samsung supplies CMOS image sensors for the Galaxy smartphone brand as well as to Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi. Last year, the company converted some of its DRAM production lines to those for CMOS image sensors to expand production capacity. Earlier this year, it signed a 28-nanometer image sensor foundry agreement with UMC of Taiwan.
Samsung began manufacturing image sensors in 2002 and is narrowing its gap with market leader Sony. According to market research firm Omdia, in 2019, Sony held a market share of 52.7% but this dropped to 47.9% in 2020. Samsung saw its share increase from 17.6% to 19.6% over the same time period.