A breeding ground for French startups: Page 2 of 5

October 14, 2014 // By Julien Happich
Taking place from the 6th to the 9th of October in Grenoble's AlpExpo exhibition centre, SEMICON Europa not only packed an impressive number of presentations and forums, ranging from Semiconductor processing and packaging to Plastic Electronics, MEMS manufacturing and test issues, the exhibition also hosted a buoyant “Innovation Village” where French startups pitched their ideas and showcased their product concepts.
Spun-off from the French research organization CEA-LETI in 2012, Wavelens – www.wavelens.com - is sampling its MEMS-based smartphone camera optics to selected customers since the beginning of 2014.

The company’s innovative optical MEMS structure comprises an optical membrane stacked on top of an optical oil-filled cavity with MEMS actuators embedded at the membrane periphery to control the oil flow (hence the membrane’s curvature and the optical assembly’s focal length).

The wafer-on-wafer collective manufacturing process flow makes these optical components very cost effective (about 1200 optical MEMS per 8-inch wafer).

Only 0.4mm in profile (the company says it could decrease the optical MEMS thickness down to 250µm), a total MEMS optics solution measuring 4.5x4.5mm2 (driver included) would draw less than 1.5mW, about a hundred times less than today’s larger micromotors solutions (typically with a footprint of 8.5x8.5mm2), yet it can deliver 10 diopters of optical power variation when driven at 10V.

What’s more, the MEMS have a response time of less than 3ms, about ten times faster than current solutions, claims Co-Founder and CEO Sébastien Bolis.

“We are aiming at autofocus applications, customer feedback has been excellent so far and we’ll be ramping up production from mid-2015 onwards with three products of different optical apertures to cover all the smartphone needs, from HD resolution to over 20Mpixels” told us Bolis at SEMICON Europa.

Wavelens is also developing optical zoom solutions but ultimately, it wants to offer optical stabilization and autofocus all in one MEMS component.

“With three micromotors, today’s optical stabilizers are overly complicated and bulky, and none of the existing solutions would be cost-competitive with our MEMS approach” said Bolis.

“With careful actuator design, we hope to be able to control the lens’ 3D shape so as to tilt the optical axis and perform image stabilization as well as autofocus, using a non-linear lens curvature” Bolis added, saying that if all goes according to plans, such a solution could well be ready by 2016.