Phone Camera Applications
Ultra-thin autofocus actuator modules for mobile phone cameras
Today nearly two billion mobile phones have digital cameras and an additional 800 million cameras are shipped each year. Recent emphasis on “smart phones” has created the need for faster focus for more rapid picture taking and continuous auto focus (CAF) for clearer video capture.
New Scale's ingeniously small motion systems enable designers to incorporate these features - and more - into smaller phone handsets. We work closely with handset makers, module designers and systems integrators to create complete motion systems for phone camera and other mobile applications.
UTAF™ (Ultra-Thin Autofocus) modules
New Scale's custom UTAF actuators combine a motor with a linear guide mechanism to create an ultra-thin autofocus lens module. It is based on our patented UTAF piezoelectric motor, in which an ultrasonically vibrating beam is oriented perpendicular to the optical axis and contacts the lens at two points to maximize stability and driving force. A unique vibration mode optimizes resolution and speed for the autofocus function. The actuator assembly is only 3.8 mm high - thinner than the lens assembly. Therefore the lens, not the motor, determines the module size.
The UTAF motor is produced under license by New Scale's technology partner, TDK-EPC (EPCOS), using multi-layer co-fired ceramic processing. It is manufactured as a single part that operates directly from the phone battery, less than 2.8 V.
A reference ultra-thin autofocus module design using an M-6.5 mm lens measures 8.5 x 8.5 x 3.8 mm, compatible with SMIA85 packages.
Compared to voice coil actuators, the UTAF module offers:
- Continuous autofocus for > 5-megapixel cameras at the same or lower cost
- Lower operating power - total power usage reduced more than 90%
- Less lens jitter and tilt - 6x improvement for > 5 MP cameras
- Lower height - more space for adding mechanical shutter
- Wider temperature range
- Greater shock resistance - no weak flexures for guidance
The UTAF module is driven by a single ASIC with on-board speed control. The driver accepts 2.3 V to 5.5 V input from the phone battery and uses 1/3 less power than similar piezo motor drive solutions.
Ready for Mass Production
TDK-EPC, our partner for multi-layer co-fired piezoelectric ceramics, is a EUR 6.8 billion global manufacturer of electronic products and routinely produces millions of multi-layer piezoelectric actuators per month to demanding automotive quality standards.
ams (SIX:AMS), our partner for drive solutions, is a leader in analog IC design and production with state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities including a 200mm (8") wafer fab in Austria and test centers in Austria and the Philippines.
We also work with our licensed manufacturing partners ALPS and Tamron for high-volume production.
- Technical Paper: Continuous auto focus for next-generation phone camerasby David Henderson and Danielle Piazza, presented at the Actuator 2010 conference in Bremen. Download paper.
- Article: The New York Times' David Pogue critiques a phone camera designed to compete with digital still cameras on picture quality. He highlights the need for optical zoom: best not to even use the digital zoom, he says, "Essentially, all it does it blow up a photo, degrading it in the process." He also explains why you need autofocus and zoom optics to take advantage of high resolution sensors: more megapixels "doesn't mean you get better pictures - just bigger versions of the same terrible ones."
- Press Release: New Scale partners with TDK/EPCOS for next-generation piezoelectric micro motor development, including reduced-voltage SQUIGGLE motor and UTAF actuators.
Contact us for engineering samples and reference designs.