CMOS image sensors see higher growth from diversity of uses

After leveling off in the second half of the last decade, CMOS image sensors are in the midst of a strong new wave of growth, which is being driven by a broad range of applications and promises to lift worldwide sales to record-high levels each year through 2019, according to the 2015 edition of IC Insights’ O-S-D Report—A Market Analysis and Forecast for Optoelectronics, Sensors/Actuators, and Discretes. The O-S-D Report’s forecast shows CMOS image sensor sales climbing 15 percent in 2015 to reach an all-time high of $10.1 billion after a strong 19 percent increase in 2014 and subpar 4 percent growth in 2013 that primarily resulted from steep price erosion and inventory corrections in camera phones.  CMOS image sensor unit shipments are now projected to grow 19 percent in 2015 to a record-high 3.7 billion after rising 20 percent in 2014 and 2013 (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

For about 15 years, digital cameras in cellphone handsets have been the dominant system application in CMOS image sensors and that will continue to be the case in the second half of this decade, but growth rates in this optoelectronics semiconductor category are expected to be pushed higher by new automotive and machine-vision applications, security and surveillance systems (including body cameras), medical imaging, and a wide assortment of optical-sensing nodes tied to the Internet of Things (IoT).  In 2014, about 70 percent of CMOS image sensor sales ($6.2 billion) were for embedded cameras in cellphones, but that percentage is expected to fall to 49 percent in 2019 ($7.3 billion), which represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just 3.4 percent, based on the forecast presented in the 2015 O-S-D Report.  In comparison, total CMOS image sensor sales are projected to grow by a CAGR of 11.1 percent in the five-year forecast period to reach $15.0 billion in 2019.

The 2015 O-S-D Report forecasts sales of CMOS image sensor sales for automotive safety systems will climb by a CAGR of 57.4 percent to $2.1 billion in 2019 and represent 14 percent of the market’s total dollar volume that year compared to just 3 percent in 2014.  CMOS image sensor sales for security systems and surveillance applications are expected to grow by a CAGR of 38.4 percent in the five-year forecast period to $899 million in 2019, which will represent 6 percent of the market’s total sales that year versus 2 percent in 2014. The O-S-D Reportshows medical and scientific instrument applications driving up CMOS image sensors sales by a CAGR of 36.0 percent to $824 million in 2019 or about 6 percent of the total market compared to about 2 percent in 2014. Toys and video game applications are expected to increase sales of CMOS image sensors by a CAGR of 32.7 percent to $255 million by 2019, which will represent 2 percent of the market’s total revenue compared to 1 percent in 2014.

Major suppliers of CMOS image sensors are responding to the shift in what’s driving sales growth.  For instance, CMOS image sensor leader Sony now aims to become the largest supplier of imaging solutions for automotive systems by the middle of the next decade after it accomplished its goal of taking the top spot in camera phones in the past few years. Sony’s CMOS image sensor sales grew 31 percent in 2014 to about $2.8 billion, which represented a 32 percent share of the market’s total revenues, based on the supplier ranking in the 2015 O-S-D Report.  After Sony, U.S.-based OmniVision was second in CMOS image sensor sales ($1.4 billion in 2014) followed by Samsung ($1.2 billion), Sharp ($720 million), SK Hynix ($488 million), and China’s GalaxyCore ($360 million), according to IC Insights’ supplier ranking.

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