Samsung unveil Galaxy Fold
Thursday, February 21st 2019
Samsung officially unveiled their highly anticipated foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, yesterday at its Unpacked event in San Francisco. The South Korean technology giant’s debut foldable device features their in-house 7.3-inch ‘Infinity Flex Display’ and was described as being capable of seamlessly transitioning between a smartphone, tablet and camera. The device is planned to go on sale in just over two months’ time.
The Galaxy Fold marks the arrival of a new ultra-premium market segment, described as a luxury item by Samsung. The initial 4G version of will start at $1,980 (£1,515), with a 5G version planned for future release. David Lee, BBC’s North America technology reporter, cited the Fold as a ‘tremendously creative feat of engineering’.
Samsung have designed a novel display for the Galaxy Fold, around 50% thinner than existing smartphone displays. However the Verge observe the relatively thick nature of the folded device. CML has previously reported that future folding devices are expected to be developed with a slimmer form factor to be closer in thickness to handsets available currently.
The Galaxy Fold sports cameras on all three device ‘faces’ to ensure it can capture images however it is held. Therefore, the smartphone arrives with a total of six cameras. This provides a positive outlook for high end camera component suppliers such as CML, as the number of cameras per device continues to grow, especially for high-end devices.
Counterpoint Reports Premium Smartphone Market Growth
Friday, February 15th 2019
Counterpoint Research is a global industry analyst firm headquartered in Hong Kong, with analysts based within significant global industries. They provide detailed smartphone market analysis, regularly releasing a ‘Market Pulse’ which provides readers with an in-depth analysis of market players, challenges and emerging opportunities.
According to a recent Counterpoint Market Pulse report, the global premium smartphone segment continues to grow faster than the overall market. As global shipments enter decline, premium smartphone shipments grew 18% in 2018 with market contraction carried predominantly by low-end devices. This growth has been driven by Apple, Samsung and Chinese vendors including Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus.
Tom Kang, Research Director at Counterpoint Research, commented that ‘within the premium segment, the $800 plus ultra-premium segment has been growing the fastest’. Varun Mishra, Research Analyst at Counterpoint, adds that the introduction of 5G-enabled devices alongside emerging foldable devices means that premium market growth ‘is likely to continue’.
This Counterpoint analysis provides a positive outlook for high end component suppliers such as CML. Our actuators enhance high performance smartphone components found within premium devices.
Consumer Electronics Show 2019
Friday, January 18th 2019
The Consumer Electronics Show, CES, is the world’s largest consumer electronics trade show and was held this month in Las Vegas. It attracts technology leaders and pioneers from across the world. Over 182,000 visitors, 4,400 exhibitors and 1,000 speakers attended this immense display of innovation. A multitude of exciting products were on display varying from walking cars, to wooden smart speakers.
As reported by the BBC, curved and foldable displays were a key topic of CES 2019. LG’s roll-up TV, the LG Signature OLED TV R, impressed with T3 describing the product as a ‘true game-changer’. The television and components are made of a flexible material which allows compact storage within a box, unrolling upwards when required. Royole’s Flexpai, the world’s first smartphone with a foldable screen, was also on display alongside an array of concepts showcasing the company’s technology. The Flexpai unfolds into a tablet configuration with a 7.8 inch diagonal screen size and can fit inside a pocket when folded up.
CML are monitoring foldable display technology with anticipation. The first folding handsets released by Royole, and expected later this year from Samsung and Huawei, are reported to be quite thick. However, CML expect users to demand that over time these devices should be be no thicker than current smartphones. This will apply significant pressure to the thickness of key device components. The design of our SMA camera and haptic actuators are significantly thinner than those using alternative technologies, allowing future foldable devices to ship with advanced feature sets and still achieve slimmer designs.
Credit Suisse 2019 Smartphone Components Trends
Friday, December 21st 2018
Credit Suisse is a leading financial services company with investment banking capabilities and operations in over 50 countries worldwide. A recently published analyst report covers the smartphone technology sector. It reviews the performance of major players in 2018 and forecasts market trends for 2019.
The camera remains a key marketing tool for smartphone brands and much of the report focusses on this area. Credit Suisse predicts camera specification upgrades for 2019 smartphone models, primarily the migration to 48MPixel image sensors, increased triple and quadruple camera setups, emergence of periscope cameras for high zoom factors, and the accelerated adoption of SMA OIS actuators.
Credit Suisse explain that smartphone manufacturers plan to shift to SMA OIS camera solutions, displacing VCM OIS products, in response to increases in lens size required for high resolution image sensors. The miniature design and high force of SMA OIS actuators allows these specification upgrades without taking up an unacceptable amount of real-estate inside the handset. As discussed in a previous CML news release, SMA OIS products’ lack of magnetic interference further increases their benefit over VCM products for dual, triple and quadruple cameras.
Cambridge Mechatronics Limited is a smart materials engineering company that designs miniature motors (actuators) using Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) for use across a variety of substantial global markets. This report reinforces the central role of CML SMA OIS solutions to deliver smartphone camera improvements for next generation mobile devices.
CML scheduled to talk at Smart Haptics 2018
Thursday, November 29th 2018
Smart Haptics is a global industry-driven event. This year it will be held in San Diego on 5th and 6th December. The conference is attended by industry giants such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook and covers a diverse range of haptic applications including automotive, mobile, augmented and virtual reality. Google will provide the conference keynote address discussing advanced mobile haptics, with CML heading a series of talks from high technology companies including ALPS Electric and TDK. Dominic Webber, CML’s Marketing Director, will give a presentation on the application of smart materials for haptic applications during the first technology enablers session.
Smart Haptics analysis values the haptic market at $20 billion by 2022 as consumers continue to demand increased functionality from their products. CML’s haptic technology carries many benefits including a local effect, miniature design, customisable sensation and low power consumption, making it an ideal choice for future haptic innovations. In addition to the talk there will be demonstrations of CML SMA technology available.
CML to give Haptics Presentation at IDTechEx Show
Wednesday, November 14th 2018
IDTechEx provides independent market research, business intelligence and events on emerging technology to audiences in over 80 countries. On November 14th and 15th they present the latest emerging technologies in Santa Clara at the IDTechEx Show, with over 270 exhibitors, 3500 attendees and 250 presentations expected.
The agenda for the first day includes keynotes from IDTechEx themselves, ARM, Microsoft and Sony Corporation covering a variety of topics including 3D printing, the Internet of Things and emerging wearable technologies.
The following day covers a broader selection of exciting topics ranging from energy harvesting to display and lighting innovations. Marc Scholz, Cambridge Mechatronics, is due to speak in the Haptics and HMI segment in Grand Ballroom H, outlining existing haptic technologies and the clear advantages of utilising SMA technology for haptic applications such as gaming or wearable devices. In addition to the presentation there will be demonstrations of CML SMA technology available.
Samsung’s Foldable Smartphone
Thursday, November 8th 2018
Yesterday Samsung unveiled more details of their highly anticipated foldable smartphone in San Francisco at the Samsung Developer Conference. It features a folding screen, the Infinity Flex Display, as the South Korean company moves closer to launching a device in this format.
With dimmed lights, Justin Denison, SVP of mobile product marketing, briefly showcased the foldable smartphone. Likely to fuel anticipation from early adopters, this device is not the finished article and the development process has been extremely complicated. However, Samsung advise it will be ready to mass produce the device ‘in the coming months’.
The announcement leaves ambiguity surrounding the final device look, however, first impressions indicate it will be thicker than smartphones currently on the market. We expect users will demand folding smartphones to adopt increasingly slimmer designs in future models with the eventual aim to produce a folded device no thicker than competing non-foldable smartphones. Due to the format of this device, the unfolded device should be half the thickness of smartphones currently on the market to ensure the folded version remains dimensionally viable. This will require thinner cameras to prevent camera-shaped protrusions, which in turn favours technology miniaturising the camera module. One of the many benefits of utilising CML’s SMA technology includes the ability to reduce camera dimensions, particularly thickness, allowing slimmer folding handsets without unsightly camera bulges.
Image Sensor Market Set to Boom
Friday, October 19th 2018
Industry sources report that leading CMOS image sensor (CIS) maker Sony has expanded its capacity in anticipation of a boom in CIS demand in 2019. It is expected that the 2019 demand will be fuelled in part by an increase in adoption of triple cameras, a topic that has previously been covered by CML’s Marketing Director Dominic Webber.
The anticipated increase in CIS demand is consistent with a recent CIS market report by analyst Yole Développement. Yole forecasts that the CIS market will enjoy a 9.4% CAGR between 2017 and 2023, which it says will be “driven mainly by smartphones integrating additional cameras”.
At its simplest level, CML expects that the integration of more camera modules into smartphones will lead to an increase in the size of the smartphone camera actuator market. CML expects that additional implications of adding more camera modules to smartphones include increasing pressure on camera size and furthering the issue of magnetic interference caused by placing multiple VCM actuators in close proximity. CML believes that its platform SMA technology is well suited to the multiple camera trend given that it is an intrinsically small, non-magnetic technology.
CML to Give Keynote Speech at TDK Developers Conference
Friday, September 14th 2018
TDK and its entire family of group companies will hold its TDK Developers Conference in Santa Clara on 17 and 18 September. The event theme is ‘Humanizing the Digital Experience’ and illustrates TDK’s vision of helping industry create the solutions which allow end-users to have the best experience possible. Attendees include TDK’s customers, partners and developers across a spectrum of market segments, including smartphones, automotive, IoT, drones, appliances, industrial products and wearables.
Day one involves keynote speeches from senior executives of TDK group companies, Qualcomm, IHS Markit and CML’s Director of Marketing, Dominic Webber. We will be presenting the latest news on our SMA platform technology, products and applications including smartphone camera actuators, haptics, 3D sensing and medical devices.
Day two is a broader networking opportunity for developers, OEMs, analysts, venture capitalists, and public media. Included are five streams of targeted talks in multiple parallel sessions. We are looking forward to attending the conference and sharing views and experiences with leading members of the technology ecosystem shaping our industry.
Apple confirms commitment to 3D sensing
Thursday, September 13th 2018
By Dominic Webber, CML’s Marketing Director
During Apple’s Special Event yesterday, three new iPhone models were launched: the XS, XS Max and XR. During the event, particular emphasis was made to mark a shift to ever-larger screens. The sizes of the new models are 5.8”, 6.5” and 6.1” respectively.
Another major advance was that all of the new iPhones will come equipped with a front-facing 3D sensing module to provide ‘Face ID’, Apple’s 3D face recognition technology. This was first launched last year, but only available on the flagship iPhoneX device. The iPhone8 and 8Plus use a fingerprint sensor underneath the home button to unlock the phone instead.
Both Xiaomi and Oppo launched smartphones this year with similar 3D face recognition technology in their Mi8 Explore Edition and Oppo FindX handsets. Oppo launched a further device, the R17 Pro, which uses 3D sensing in the back face of the phone to create depth data of the surrounding scene.
This reinforces CML’s expectation that 3D sensing modules will eventually be broadly adopted by smartphones, although initially led by top-end devices. As is the case for cameras, we anticipate strong demand for ongoing performance and specification improvements for new applications and an enhanced user experience. Therefore, CML is making available products to deliver advanced, next generation 3D sensing modules for both the front and rear of smartphones using its SMA smart material platform technology.
CML Signs License Agreement with New Shicoh
Monday, September 10th 2018
CML and New Shicoh Motor Co. Ltd (New Shicoh) are pleased to announce the agreement of a licence to use CML’s patented shape memory alloy (SMA) technology to manufacture optical image stabilisation (OIS) actuators (also known as the “4-wire actuator”) for use in smart mobile devices. This represents another major licensing agreement that CML has signed for the use of its SMA technologies in miniature camera modules.
Andy Osmant, Managing Director of CML: “We are very pleased to establish a partnership with New Shicoh. New Shicoh are one of the foremost Chinese actuator manufacturers and have positioned themselves within the supply chain of leading Chinese smartphone vendors.”
Bob Cai, Chairman of New Shicoh commented: “New Shicoh values product innovation and has a history of investing in intellectual property. We believe that SMA actuators, with their numerous benefits, will allow us to enhance our product offering and deliver on the market’s demand for slimmer actuators. The fact that CML’s SMA technology overcomes the issue of magnetic interference is particularly attractive, especially as we expect an increase in the number of handsets that incorporate dual camera modules.”
About New Shicoh: New Shicoh develops and manufactures miniaturised vibration, autofocus, fan and linear motors for cameras in mobile phones and other devices. New Shicoh’s key customers are Chinese Tier 1 handset vendors and include Huawei, Xiaomi and Vivo. Its production capacity currently sits at 25 million units per month. New Shicoh is continuously developing relationships with global and domestic Chinese camera module integrators, with the aim to establish itself as one of the world’s leading professional actuator manufacturers.
About CML: Cambridge Mechatronics is a high technology design and engineering company based in Cambridge, UK. CML specialises in developing cutting edge shape memory alloy technology. Products are taken from concept to mass production through technology licensing or partnerships with global manufacturing corporations.
CML Opens Office In Shanghai
Monday, September 3rd 2018
CML are pleased to announce the opening of our new office in Shanghai. The Shanghai office is staffed by a multidisciplinary team who provide both sales and technical support to CML’s network of actuator manufacturer licensees, camera module integrators and handset vendors. The opening of a base in Shanghai means that CML now has four offices located in the Greater China region, having already established offices in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Taipei.
Edwin Shiu, General Manager of CML’s Greater China Operations, commented: “Shanghai is an important region for the manufacture of compact camera components. Our licensee Billu is based in the area, as are camera module integrators Sunny Optical and Q Technology.
The need to increase our presence in Greater China is driven by increasing demand for CML’s technology in the region. CML’s SMA technology allows actuator manufacturers to broaden their product range and offers Chinese compact camera module makers greater access to domestic supply chains. With the leading Chinese handset vendors continuing to show growth in shipment volumes, we expect to see increasing shipment volumes across the domestic supply chain.”
Smartphone Camera Module Maker Experiences Margin Squeeze
Monday, August 20th 2018
Major producers of smartphone compact camera modules recently announced their interim results for the first half of 2018. Of particular interest was Sunny Optical’s announcement. Sunny Optical is one of the world’s largest producers of compact camera modules, which make up 77% of the company’s overall revenues. Although Sunny’s camera module business segment experienced revenue growth of 14.6% compared to H1 2017, it suffered a fall in gross margin from 12.7% to 9.4% in the same period.
Post release of their H1 2018 results, Sunny have experienced a 28% reduction in their share price. Analysts report that the main driver of the poor results was a squeeze on margins caused largely by rising component costs. Around 50% of Sunny’s cost of sales are imported. For high end camera modules, key components including lens actuators and image sensors are typically imported from Japanese and Korean companies. The weakness of Renminbi in the first half of 2018 has contributed to the rising component costs.
CML’s SMA actuator products are simpler to manufacture than the incumbent VCM technology, whose largest suppliers are from Japan and Korea. As a result CML has been successful in establishing partnerships and licence agreements with Chinese actuator makers. This has allowed them to expand their product offering, particularly with respect to OIS actuators, and offer domestic supply chains for Chinese compact camera module makers.
Allowing Chinese suppliers to provide high end lens actuators offers protection to Chinese supply chains from unpredictable exchange rate volatility and their impact on financial performance. CML considers this a further substantial benefit from a licence to its SMA technology, in addition to the miniaturisation and performance advantages.
Huawei Moves Into Second Position
Monday, August 6th 2018
According to reports from IDC and Canalys, Huawei have surpassed Apple to move into second position based on global market share of smartphone handset sales. Huawei’s market share increased to 15.8% – a record high for the company – as it delivered shipments of 54 million units in 2Q18. This represents an impressive year-on-year growth of 40.9%.
Huawei’s volume growth has been driven by a combination of strong performance of its latest flagships – the P20 and P20 Pro – and increased sales outside China of its mid-to-low tier Honor branded smartphones. At the flagship end Huawei has accelerated its adoption of new technologies, particularly regarding imaging with the P20 Pro featuring the world’s first triple camera.
The report by IDC also shows growth for the other leading Chinese smartphone vendors, with Xiaomi experiencing a 48.8% year-on-year growth. CML expects that the leading Chinese smartphone vendors will continue to consolidate their positions and display year-on-year growth. CML has been successful in growing its activity with Chinese handset vendors, camera integrators and actuator makers. CML is set to benefit from the increased interest from the Chinese supply chain for smartphone cameras.
The Triple Camera Trend
Wednesday, July 18th 2018
By Dominic Webber, CML’s Marketing Director
Sharp and Samsung released the first camera phones in 2000 with 0.11 Megapixels and 0.35 Megapixels respectively. The Sony Ericsson Z1010 was the first selfie camera phone, launched in 2003 with 0.3 Megapixels. Over time, sensor resolutions continued to steadily rise – 2, 3, 5 and 8 Megapixels – with the Nokia Pureview 808 hitting 41 Megapixels in 2012. Autofocus (AF) functionality is now included in almost all smartphones and Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) features in premium models by the major brands.
The first dual camera phone was introduced by hTC in their Evo 3D model in 2011. Dual cameras have been added to both premium and mainstream devices by almost all major smartphone brands, including dual selfie cameras. Their popularity is driven by the ability to deliver enhanced image quality and new features, such as genuine optical zoom, Bokeh for background blurring in portraits, and 3D mapping for applications such as Augmented Reality.
Huawei’s P20 Pro contains the first triple camera, and the technical media reports rumours that the other top two brands, Samsung and Apple, will release triple camera handsets next year. Therefore it is expected that the whole industry will follow suit in time. Some industry players are now beginning to talk about quad cameras.
A consequence of adding more camera modules to a compact area is that the issue of magnetic interference with other components becomes more prevalent. The current actuator technology, voice coil motor, uses magnets to generate a driving force. CML’s shape memory alloy (SMA) actuator technology does not contain magnets and therefore does not interfere with other key smartphone components.
A further implication of using dual, triple, or even quad cameras is that they increase the size of the much bemoaned camera bump. I recently posted an article explaining how CML’s actuator technology can significantly reduce camera thickness, which could potentially allow smartphone vendors to remove the unsightly and impractical camera bump.
Triple cameras could rise in popularity at a similar rate to that experienced by dual cameras and, although we may need to wait until 2019 to see whether triple cameras take hold, it appears as though the trend to add more cameras to smartphones has yet to reach a limit – which is good news for CML.
MWC Shanghai Round Up
Wednesday, July 4th 2018
We were pleased to be invited to be a speaker at MWC Shanghai 2018 last week. It was, as always, interesting to witness cutting edge mobile technologies in action. Although the future of 5G was the dominant topic at the event, there were also some imaging developments that were noteworthy.
Interest in 3D sensing, and its application in smartphones, continues to intensify with Vivo demonstrating its Time of Flight 3D sensing technology. The technology features industry-leading performance with regards to the depth of information that it captures from its subject, which improves the accuracy of the 3D model. Vivo also claim that their technology can enable 3D mapping at a distance of up to three meters from the phone. These enhancements, coupled with AI technology, open up the potential for a broader application of 3D sensing beyond facial recognition, including using full-body scans to try on clothes virtually and 3D modelling.
CML believes there will be continued demand for increasingly sophisticated 3D sensing technologies and is developing new solutions which will improve the resolution of 3D sensing modules.
Imaging technology was also central and addressed in the speaker session of Li Changzhu, Vice President of Handset Business for Huawei Consumer Business Group. Mr. Changzhu highlighted the importance of AI to deliver the high image quality seen in Huawei’s P20 and P20 Pro handsets. He added that camera improvements continue to be key for Huawei and that their vision is to deliver the performance of a professional camera in a mobile phone.
At CML we are conscious of the need and desire to continue to improve camera quality. We have accordingly optimised our actuators to provide the enhancements that the market demands.
Friday, June 22nd 2018
By Dominic Webber, CML’s Marketing Director
There is a constant drive by the major smartphone brands to maximise the size of the display without increasing the overall height and width of the handset, so that the phone is practical to handle and carry around. Bezel-less displays are becoming a key differentiator of premium smartphones. However, as the display size increases and bezels become smaller or disappear entirely, smartphone manufacturers need to determine where to place the ‘selfie camera’, which usually appears above the display.
Many brands have added ‘notches’ to the top of the display to house the camera while still providing useful display area either side of the notch. Xiaomi, with their Mix2 smartphone, moved the selfie camera from the top bezel to the bottom one. In handsets recently launched by Vivo and Oppo, a novel alternative approach has been revealed, called ‘pop-up’ cameras.
Vivo’s Nex selfie camera rises in a block-shaped frame when the camera is activated, and retracts back into the handset when not in use. The Oppo Find X selfie camera slides up from inside a wide section of the handset body. Many websites are inviting consumers’ opinions on their preference. This is likely to be quite a personal view due to the various pros and cons. However, one aspect that both designs have in common is that pop-up cameras move the camera bulk and launch mechanism elsewhere, increasing the overall handset thickness. Both the Nex and Find X handsets are around fifteen percent thicker than the manufacturers’ other premium range models, despite slim handsets being a popular requirement for high-end products.
The pop-up camera cannot use the current approach of bump-outs in the casework to allow for relatively thick cameras that are built using conventional optics and actuator technology. The pop-up mechanism simply wouldn’t work, it would be stuck in the casework. As described in a recent article I posted, CML’s technology can significantly reduce camera thickness, allowing a pop-up mechanism without compromising the handset thickness and styling. So we will watch with interest whether the pop-up camera becomes a long-term trend, and to determine its impact on the ongoing drive for ever thinner cameras.
Tuesday, June 12th 2018
In June, CML will be attending the following events. If you would like to arrange a meeting with us at any of the events please contact us using firstname.lastname@example.org.
CML will attend CES Asia in Shanghai from 13 to 15 June. The CES Asia conference covers consumer technology in the Asian market and focuses on transformative technologies such as 5G, augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, vehicle technology and wearables.
Eurohaptics 2018 will be held in Pisa and runs from 13 to 16 June. The conference provides researchers from industry and academia with an opportunity to present new developments covering all aspects of haptics – including consumer electronics, medical applications, human machine interactions and virtual reality.
CML will be part of an industry panel discussion at the event.
ACTUATOR 2018 is a major event in the field of miniaturised drives which is held in Bremen from 25 to 27 June. The conference focuses on new actuator technology and innovative products, including smart materials.
Over 60,000 people are expected to attend MWC Shanghai 2018, which showcases cutting-edge products and services from across the mobile eco-system. MWC Shanghai 2018 will be held from 27 to 29 June.
CML will present a session entitled “The application of smart materials to deliver next generation device user experiences” which will cover how the smart material Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) is being deployed to improve key components for next generation smartphones and wearables.
How to Remove the Annoying Camera Bump from Smartphones
Wednesday, June 6th 2018
By Dominic Webber, CML’s Marketing Director
An interesting piece from Mashable on the ‘bump’ in smartphones caused by the thickness of most cameras.
The bump is not just aesthetically displeasing, but also gives rise to practical issues – for instance when the handset is on a flat surface, such as a desk or table, this causes the phone to rock as you touch the screen to type or navigate, causing errors and irritation.
So why is there a bump in the first place? It arises from the competing consumer demand for slim handsets on the one hand and improved camera quality on the other. In order to deliver upgraded camera specifications, larger components are necessary such as image sensors with more megapixels, lenses with larger apertures and lens actuators with greater driving power and axes of motion.
At CML we recognise that the camera bump is a key issue for smartphone designers in this highly competitive market. So CML has leveraged its shape memory alloy (SMA) platform technology to address this industry issue.
The camera bump arises from two factors – firstly, the thickness of the actuator that moves the lens to keep the image in focus and remove blur caused by handshake, and secondly the height of the lens that guides the light accurately onto the image sensor.
For the first issue, SMA actuators are more than one millimetre thinner than those using the incumbent voice coil motor (VCM) technology.
If SMA addresses the camera bump being caused by the first issue of the actuator, then the lens thickness may still cause a bump as the next weakest link in the chain. Currently smartphone camera lenses are made from plastic. In contrast, professional handheld camera lenses are made from glass, as it is a higher quality and more powerful material to guide light. Glass lenses are being developed by smartphone lens companies to provide improved performance and in parallel reduce the thickness of the lens.
A complication of using glass lenses is that they are much heavier than their plastic equivalent. The incumbent VCM actuators are lower force than CML’s SMA actuators and the additional weight of glass lenses compromises the performance of VCM actuators, to the point where there is an overall reduction in camera performance and functionality. CML have demonstrated that our SMA actuators can move glass lenses without any impact on actuator performance.
CML’s manufacturing partners have already shipped SMA actuators in mass production under licence from us for numerous devices, addressing other major industry issues such as mechanical impact resistance and power consumption. We are currently working on projects to deliver market-leading miniaturisation to remove the camera bump (for good) and look forward to sharing the details shortly when these products are available in the open market.
CML Attends Huawei UK Partner Convention
Thursday, May 17th 2018
Huawei will today host its annual UK Partner Convention to share its vision and business strategy over the coming years with partners across the UK. The event brings together senior management from across Huawei’s leading partners with the theme of this year’s convention being “Partnering for Smarter Connections – Investing in the UK’s potential”. CML will be represented at the convention by Managing Director, Andrew Osmant, and Marketing Director, Dominic Webber.
Sonim Selects SMA OIS for its Ultra-Rugged Smartphone
Monday, May 14th 2018
The Sonim XP8, which incorporates CML’s SMA driven optical image stabilisation (OIS) actuator (the “4-wire actuator”), is now available to purchase. Sonim designs handsets specifically for workers in demanding and hazardous environments, such as those working in construction and first responders, and it is said that the XP8 will be the world’s toughest, most reliable smartphone. The camera module for the XP8 is built by Sunny Optical, with the 4-wire actuator being manufactured by CML licensee Billu.
Peter Liu, Sonim’s Senior Vice President of Operations and General Manager of China said: “OIS makes an obvious improvement to the quality of pictures, particularly in low light, and therefore features in state of the art smartphone cameras. Sonim’s phones are subject to the world’s most arduous conditions and consequently we need the most dependable components for our handsets. CML’s 4-wire actuator provided the best OIS actuator reliability results.”
Cerberus Wu, Sunny's Senior Marketing Director added: “We are delighted that Sonim have chosen SMA actuators to provide OIS in the XP8. We believe that SMA actuators are a highly innovative technology with a number of different benefits and as a result are increasing our SMA product offering.”
Jianhua Wang, President of Billu said: “The inclusion of the 4-wire actuator in the Sonim XP8 is another exciting development for SMA actuators. We believe that the penetration of SMA into the actuator market will continue to accelerate and have already made further investment in SMA actuator technology.”
Andy Osmant, Managing Director of CML commented: “We are very pleased that Sonim selected our SMA 4-wire actuator for the XP8 camera and this is a testament to the durability of SMA actuators. We believe that this is another positive step towards widespread adoption of our SMA technology.”
Haptics Market Expected to Continue to Grow
Wednesday, April 25th 2018
A report by Market Research Future forecasts that the global haptic technology market will to grow to $22bn by 2023, with a CAGR of 16% between 2017 and 2023. Haptics covers devices that interact with the sense of touch and has a wide range of applications including consumer electronics, gaming, home appliances, automotive and medical devices. Adoption of haptics technology in consumer electronics devices such as smartphones and tablets is expected to be a key factor in driving growth in the short term as vendors of such items look to haptics to provide product differentiation.
The key barriers restraining the growth of the haptic market are high cost, form factor and high power consumption. To overcome these barriers CML has developed SMA actuator designs that are compact, non-magnetic, low power, easy to manufacture and highly suited to automated production processes. CML believes that these factors, combined with the ability to customise the tactile sensation according to users’ preference, make its technology applicable across the range of haptic applications.
CML Presents at IDTechEx Show!
Friday, April 13th 2018
Over 2,500 people attended the IDTechEx Show! held in Berlin on 11th and 12th of April at which CML’s Head of New Products Dr Andrea Cantone presented. IDTechEx provides independent market research and business intelligence to clients in over 80 countries and the IDTechEx Show! is the world’s largest end-user focused event on emerging technologies.
Dr Cantone presented on the latest developments in the application of our platform SMA technology to haptic devices in a session entitled ‘Human Machine Interaction (HMI) Innovations for Consumer Electronics: Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) The Future Of Haptics’. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the presentation or having further discussions on SMA’s role in haptic devices please contact Dr Cantone at email@example.com.
CML Signs License Agreement for the First 8-Wire Combined AF+OIS Actuator with Billu
Thursday, April 12th 2018
We are pleased to announce that Shanghai B.L Electronics Co Ltd (Billu) has signed an agreement to licence the use of CML’s patented SMA technology to manufacture an 8-wire combined autofocus (AF) and optical image stabilisation (OIS) actuator (the “8-wire actuator”). This agreement represents a further development in CML’s relationship with Billu, who already have a licence with CML to manufacture CML’s SMA AF and SMA OIS actuators. The licence agreement for the 8-wire actuator is the sixth licensing agreement that CML has signed for the use of its SMA technologies in miniature camera modules.
Andy Osmant, Managing Director of CML commented: “We are delighted to continue the development of our outstanding partnership with Billu, with whom the technology transfer for our SMA AF and SMA OIS actuators is progressing well. We believe that the 8-wire actuator design is a simple structure that could offer AF and OIS functions at a comparable size and cost to a voice coil motor AF only actuator. CML believes that the 8-wire actuator technology will accelerate market adoption of OIS in smartphone camera modules.”
Jianhua Wang, President of Billu said: “We believe that SMA actuators – with their capability for miniaturisation, power efficiency and cost reduction – have an exciting future. The licence agreement for the 8-wire actuator expands our offering of SMA products and allows us to produce further innovative devices for our customers. In particular, we believe the 8-wire actuator will enable OIS to penetrate the mid-range smartphone segment, thereby increasing our market presence.”
About Billu: Billu designs and manufactures actuators, which are widely used in cameras for mobile phones, medical devices, industrial equipment and wearable smart devices. Billu's customer base includes Xiaomi, Sunny Optical, Meizu and TCL. Production capacity at its primary facility in Shanghai is currently twenty million units per month, placing Billu in the top three Chinese domestic smartphone actuator vendors.
About CML: Cambridge Mechatronics is a high technology design and engineering company based in Cambridge, UK. CML specialises in developing cutting edge shape memory alloy technology. Products are taken from concept to mass production through technology licensing or partnerships with global manufacturing corporations.
Adoption of OLED Displays in Smartphones
Monday, April 9th 2018
In recent years most smartphones have featured LCD displays, although flagship handsets are now adopting OLED panels as their choice display technology. TrendForce predicts that the penetration rate of OLED panel in smartphones will reach 46% by 2021.
OLED panels are self-emitting and therefore, unlike LCD displays, do not require a backlight. The lack of a backlight means that OLED panels can be made thinner than LCD displays, which allows smartphone vendors to be more flexible over the thickness of handsets. Another key factor currently contributing to the thickness of the handset is the camera, with many smartphones featuring a rear camera bump as a design compromise. SMA actuators are lower height than the VCM actuators currently used in smartphone cameras. CML believes that its SMA actuator technology would assist in facilitating the smartphone thickness reduction enabled by the adoption of OLED panels.
A further benefit of OLED panels over LCD displays is that OLED panels are bendable. This would allow smartphone vendors to develop handsets with folding displays which enable the user to switch between a compact phone sized screen and a wider screen closer to that of a tablet. The incorporation of foldable displays is likely to result in handsets consisting of two halves and would be a significant change in design form. CML believes that its low height SMA actuator designs would support smartphone vendors in ensuring that foldable handsets do not become considerably thicker than current smartphones by reducing the height of the camera.
Miniature Camera Market’s Continued Growth
Monday, March 26th 2018
Sunny Optical, listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and one of the world’s largest producers of compact camera modules, announced their results for the year to 31 December 2017, showing substantial year on year growth in profit. Sunny Optical reported year on year profit growth of 128% with revenue increasing by 53%. The upsurge in profit was driven by strong year on year increases in shipment volume of handset lens sets, vehicle lens sets and handset camera modules, up 60%, 41% and 20% respectively. This growth has been underpinned by sales into the Chinese smartphone market, with the top four Chinese smartphone vendors – Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and Vivo – all displaying double digit increases in handset volumes and experiencing an enlargement of their market share compared to 2016.
Handset related products continued to form the focus of Sunny Optical’s business and accounted for 85% of revenue, up from 83% in 2016, providing further evidence that the upgrading of camera specifications has become the main driver of replacement demand for new handsets. CML believes that cameras will continue to be a key differentiator in the smartphone market and that our unique technologies can deliver further enhancements to smartphone vendors.
Geoff McFarland Joins CML Board
Wednesday, March 14th 2018
CML is delighted to welcome Geoff McFarland to its board as a non-executive director.
Geoff is Group Engineering Director and has been a board member at Renishaw Plc since 2002, where he heads the group engineering function and for which he is also responsible for group IP and patents.
Geoff is a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering and is a member of the Institute of Physics with BEng and DEng engineering degrees. He is a visiting professor at the University of Bath and an honorary professor at Heriot-Watt University.
Martin Knight, Executive Chairman of CML, commented: “We are very excited at Geoff McFarland’s appointment. He brings a wealth of very relevant experience to CML - in particular his knowledge about the creation and exploitation of intellectual property, allied to his understanding of high precision manufacturing, will be most valuable to CML as it develops its platform technologies."
MWC Sees Cameras Central to Smartphone Marketing and New Design Form Factors
Monday, March 5th 2018
More than 107,000 attendees walked through the doors at Fira Gran Via to join the Mobile World Congress (MWC) exhibition in Barcelona from 26 February to 1 March. Professionals from 205 countries and territories were present, and the event was covered by approximately 3,500 members of the international press and media. More than 2,400 companies showcased cutting-edge products and services across 120,000 square metres of exhibition and hospitality space.
Handset vendors continue to showcase camera specifications as a key tool to market their latest products. Almost all brands’ premium devices contained dual main cameras to enhance the photographic experience, and some mainstream models also benefitting from their addition. Samsung’s S9 and S9+ models were both launched at MWC 2018, the latter with dual OIS cameras. Samsung’s S9+ now joins Apple’s iPhone X as the only two handsets offering OIS functionality in both the wide angle and zoom camera, as the top two global brands seek to push the limits of imaging experience. The industry’s other major brands are expected to follow suit in the future.
Possibly, in answer to the question of what will be coming next - although Huawei announced no new smartphones at MWC, there were numerous advertisement hoardings and displays preparing the market for the launch of their P20 handset model in Paris on 27 March. Although still open to some interpretation, the implication of Huawei’s marketing is that the P20 will contain triple rear cameras, powered with Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms.
Other smartphone makers seeking to challenge convention were Nokia and ZTE with novel device form factors. Nokia stimulated the global media with the re-release of the 8110 ‘banana-phone’ with a slider to protect the keypad and move the microphone into position during calls. More boldly, ZTE release its Axon M handset with dual screens, to double the available display size to make messaging an easier task and improving the movie viewing experience. It remains to be seen whether this will set a trend in the other major players and see the launch of several new multi-screen devices in the future.
CML Awarded Grant to Develop Medical Robotics with University of Leeds
Friday, January 26th 2018
CML has been awarded a grant with the Science and Technologies Of Robotics in Medicine (STORM) lab at the University of Leeds, to explore the use of its platform technologies in medical robots.
The STORM lab was founded by Professor Pietro Valdastri to develop a range of surgical robotic devices, with particular focus on medical capsule robots, robotic endoscopy, affordable medical devices and autonomy in robotic surgery.
Shape Memory Alloy has already been used extensively in medical devices, principally because it is bio-compatible, small and lightweight. CML’s platform technology allows this material to be controlled with very high precision in a compact design without the need for expensive sensors, which has the potential to transform existing applications of the material as well as generating novel applications.
Andrea Cantone, Business Development Manager at CML said “We are delighted to be working with the STORM lab and look forward to developing a long-standing and productive partnership with the University of Leeds.”
3D Sensing at CES
Tuesday, January 16th 2018
This year’s annual CES show was held in Las Vegas between 9th and 12th of January. The CES show is used to showcase upcoming products and to gauge interest in concept products by most of the world’s largest technology companies.
From CML’s point of view, the most interesting feature from the show was in the world of virtual and augmented reality. Several companies announced new models of virtual reality headsets with many including cameras on the outside of the headset. Currently, virtual reality headsets feature internal cameras as they are required to track eye position in order to deliver an immersive 3D experience to the user.
The addition of external cameras to headsets enables augmented reality functionality. Augmented reality is a special effect that superimposes digital images over real ones and enables users to extend the virtual reality experience to their real world environment. CML believes that the growing popularity of augmented reality will result in increased adoption of the technology in smartphones and will create a demand for more sophisticated content.
Although augmented reality content already exists in smartphones, its applications remain relatively narrow and primitive. The demand for more sophisticated content will require significant enhancements in the quality of 3D sensing modules and in particular the quality of the depth map used to generate the 3D model.
At present, 3D sensing is being used in the front facing camera in the form of facial recognition. However, users have expressed concerns over the current level of accuracy and failure rate. CML is developing new solutions which will enhance the accuracy of 3D sensing modules, therefore reducing the failure rate and delivering the improvement in the security of facial recognition applications that the market demands.
CML also believes that the demand for more advanced and varied augmented reality content will result in its inclusion into the main rear facing camera of smartphones. Rear facing 3D sensing requires a higher range and accuracy than its front facing counterpart. This is because rear facing 3D sensing needs to deal with a far greater variety of target scenes. CML is working on a variant of its front facing 3D sensing solution to deliver the considerable enhancements required to facilitate rear facing 3D sensing and deliver a high quality, reliable augmented reality experience.
CML Agree Licence with SAE
Friday, December 15th 2017
We are pleased to announce that SAE Magnetics (HK) Ltd (SAE) has signed an agreement to licence the use of Cambridge Mechatronics Ltd (CML) patented technologies covering shape memory alloy (SMA) actuated autofocus (AF) and optical image stabilization (OIS) technologies. This represents the fifth major licensing agreement that CML has agreed for the use of these technologies in miniature camera modules.
Andy Osmant, Managing Director of CML said: “We are delighted that our SMA actuator designs have been licensed by such an outstanding supplier of high quality products to the Chinese smartphone market. This agreement is a positive step towards the widespread adoption of our SMA technology.”
Hong Tian, Chairman and CEO of SAE said: “Innovation is key to the future success of SAE and we believe our partnership with CML will allow us to offer our customers a wide range of actuator products based on this exciting new technology.”
About SAE: SAE are a world leading manufacturer of magnetic recording heads. It uses its core competence in ultra-precision manufacturing to deliver a wide range of products to high tech industries.
About CML: Cambridge Mechatronics Ltd is a high technology design and engineering company based in Cambridge, specializing in developing cutting edge shape memory alloy technology.
CML win EPSRC grant with University of Birmingham
Wednesday, December 6th 2017
CML has been awarded funding to develop a novel cystoscope with the University of Birmingham from the EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account: Follow on Fund. The project entitled “Innovative Devices for Endoscopic Bladder Cancer Surgery” commences in February 2018 and runs for a year..
CML will be collaborating with Professor Duncan Shepherd and Dr Naomi Green (Department of Mechanical Engineering) on the mechanical design of the device, in consultation with Mr Rik Bryan and Mr Prashant Patel (Institute for Cancer and Genomic Services), and Dr Thomas Clutton-Brock (Institute of Clinical Sciences), who bring their extensive experience and knowledge to the clinical side of the project.
CML will work use its expertise in the design and control of SMA actuators to develop a device that is aimed to provide better post-surgical removal and containment of tumour material, which it is hoped will reduce recurrence of the disease and the need for repeat surgery.
Cambridge Mechatronics Win Techworks Company of the Year Award
Friday, November 24th 2017
Cambridge Mechatronics Ltd was named company of the year at yesterday’s inaugural TechWorks Awards.
On presenting the award, event compere Rory Cellan-Jones (BBC technology correspondent) said: “The team at CML is highly multidisciplinary, covering materials, mechanical, electronic and software capabilities.”
“The company has successfully qualified their actuators for use in one of the world’s top three smartphone brands.”
“Crucially, however, they also have a diverse applications portfolio that extends into the drones and wearables markets, with development activities for haptics and medical applications underway.”
Andy Osmant managing director of CML said: "We are delighted that our progress has been recognised in this way. It is a fitting tribute to our skilled and talented team who have worked hard to get our innovative technology adopted by some of the world’s most successful companies"
About Techworks: TechWorks is an industry association set up by the UK ‘deep tech’ community with the ambition to harness our fantastic engineering and innovation to develop the UK’s position as a global technology super-power.
About CML: Cambridge Mechatronics is a world-leader and pioneer in shape memory alloys, which it uses to create single-piece motors the size of a human hair and controlled to a precision of the wavelength of light.
CML to give keynote address at IDTechEx Conference
Thursday, November 9th 2017
We are pleased to announce that Dr Andrea Cantone (CML Business Development Manager) has been invited to give a keynote address at the IDTechEx Conference held in Santa Clara between November 15/16th 2017.
Dr Cantone will be speaking at the session entitled ‘Next Generation Human Machine Interaction (HMI): Touch Haptics’, where he will be introducing the latest developments and innovations in our award winning SMA haptics technology.
Within our intellectual property portfolio are a range of SMA driven haptic devices and designs, which utilise our expertise to give a natural, customisable and realistic tactile sensation in a miniature package.
SMA Actuators Capable of Driving Glass Lenses
Friday, November 3rd 2017
The drive to improve image quality in smartphone cameras has seen vendors invest in next generation glass lenses, e.g. the LG V30 is shipping with hybrid lenses. Glass offers an inherent advantage over plastic when used to make lenses as it has lower dispersion, higher refractive index and better scratch resistance. Dispersion is a mechanism that produces disruptive colour fringes, and a lower dispersion material will produce a lens that is optically purer and gives a clearer image. The higher refractive index of glass means that lenses can be made thinner than an equivalent plastic lens, leading to a thinner camera design.
A feature of glass is that it is significantly denser than plastic, and even though lenses can be made thinner, they have a higher mass than a plastic lens. The additional weight of these lenses compromises the performance of auto-focus and optical image stabilisation mechanism based on voice coil motors as the means to drive actuation.
In a recent news release CML stated that the use of heavier glass lenses should be well within the performance envelope of SMA based actuators and we are pleased to report that our expectations for high level operation have been confirmed.
We have taken SMA OIS actuators and characterised the image shake suppression performance, using our state of the art automated measurement equipment. The measurement was repeated for a range of lens masses including standard plastic lenses, current state of the art of hybrid glass lenses and significantly greater masses than are expected for next generation glass designs. We have demonstrated that image shake suppression levels were independent of the mass of the lens assembly and that CMLs SMA technology can overcome the limitations that VCM actuators have when driving heavier lenses.
Innovation Trends in the Smartphone Camera Market
Friday, October 20th 2017
The recent launch of new flagship smartphones confirmed that the camera remains the key means of differentiation between brands. All brands have innovated and there have been some common approaches to improving the camera functionality:
Wider Use of Dual Cameras
Dual cameras feature on nearly every flagship smartphone. Aside from the well-known Bokeh effect dual cameras provide better zoom, dynamic range and low-light performance than single aperture devices.
More Sensitive Image Sensors
The improvement in image sensors has shifted from increasing pixel count to making them more sensitive or providing them in pairs. Greater sensitivity improves low-light performance, whereas dual pixels provide improvements to dynamic range.
Faster Image Processing
Enhanced image processing capabilities are being used to combine several images to give better results or to recognise what is being photographed and set the camera accordingly.
Use of Glass and Hybrid Glass Lenses
As sensors improve the quality and size of lens elements is also improving. However, such lenses are heavier, and manipulating these lenses needs higher forces than currently employed.
Wider deployment of Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS)
Concomitant with the innovations above, OIS has been introduced more widely to take advantage of low-light performance or to facilitate the capture of multiple images. The first dual cameras with OIS have been introduced as well as OIS on a front facing camera.
CML believes that innovation in the smartphone camera market will continue. CML expects the number of cameras per smartphone to continue to increase and that OIS will feature on every lens. As smartphone form factors converge towards sleek feature free devices, the ability to deliver lens actuation in a compact low-profile design will become increasingly important. The move to heavier lenses is a challenge for most actuators, but is within the performance envelope of SMA.
Smartphone Camera Market Forecast to Continue Growth
Friday, October 13th 2017
A recent report from a business analyst of a leading investment bank* contains some illuminating forecasts for the smartphone camera market. The report predicts increasing adoption of dual cameras in the smartphone market and forecasts greater than 40% CAGR to 2020 for dual camera shipment for all but one of the major handset vendors, with an overall market shipment CAGR of 62%. The report expects near 100% adoption in the premium sector from the leading brands.
CML believes that the adoption of dual cameras in smartphone handsets will swiftly move from a means of differentiation to a technology that is required to satisfy customer expectations. CML therefore expects dual cameras to penetrate beyond the premium sector fuelling longer term unit growth.
*A detailed analysis of Sunny Optical can be obtained by contacting Deutsche Bank.
Prof. Peter Cawley Joins Advisory Board
Thursday, October 5th 2017
CML is delighted to announce that Professor Peter Cawley has joined Cambridge Mechatronics’ Advisory Board.
Peter is Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Imperial College, London. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. It is a rare honour for a scientist to be a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, which are the UK’s most prestigious bodies for the promotion of excellence in science and engineering.
Alongside his distinguished academic career, Peter has a strong track record of transferring the technology and innovation from his research into commercial activity, including leading two spin-out companies that have commercialised his intellectual property to financial success.
Martin Knight Executive Chairman of CML commented: “We are very pleased to be working with one of the UK’s most eminent mechanical engineers as we look to build more applications for our platform technologies.”
Sunny Comments on Billu's License Agreement with CML
Friday, September 22nd 2017
Sunny Optical, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of miniature cameras for smartphones, wearables and automotive have reacted positively to the recent announcement of CML's license agreement with actuator manufacturer Billu:
Cerberus Wu, Sunny's Senior Marketing Director said, ‘We are very pleased that Billu have reached an agreement to produce SMA actuators under license from CML. Sunny believes that SMA actuators have a bright future, because of their capability for miniaturisation, power efficiency and cost reduction. Sunny have a close working relationship with both CML and Billu and this partnership will enhance the range and value of the products we are able to offer our customers.’
Dominic Webber, CML's Director of Marketing commented, ‘CML is delighted with this endorsement and we look forward to continuing our strong relationships with both Sunny and Billu. The recent trend for the use of dual OIS cameras for premium handsets plays to the strength of SMA OIS actuators and we expect it to drive demand for actuators of this type. We are excited by the opportunities this partnership brings.’
About Sunny Optical: Sunny Optical are one of the world’s largest manufacturers of miniature cameras and supply cameras to a number of leading smartphone handset vendors.
About CML: Cambridge Mechatronics is a high technology design and engineering company based in Cambridge, specializing in developing cutting edge shape memory alloy technology.
The Future of the Smartphone Camera Market
Wednesday, September 13th 2017
Yesterday’s event to launch the iPhone X marked the end of the recent season of flagship smartphone launches by the industry's two largest smartphone vendors. The new devices give some insight into the future of the smartphone camera market.
Apple and Samsung have both introduced handsets with dual cameras with the OIS function on both apertures in an effort to widen the range of photographic techniques that can be used. It remains the case that the quality of the camera is used as a key means of product differentiation in the premium smartphone sector.
The introduction of face recognition by Apple also confirms a further trend: the number of optical devices per smartphone is increasing. Face recognition relies on 3D mapping technology, which requires the use of six optical devices. It is expected that other vendors will follow suit, and add devices to improve face recognition and augmented reality.
CML believes that innovation in the smartphone camera market will continue to fuel strong demand for new products. CML also believes that the increase in the number of OIS controlled cameras and other optical devices per smartphone means that the growth rate in the miniature camera market will outpace the growth in the smartphone market. This strong market demand is good news for CMLs core business.
CML Expands Premises in Response to Growth
Friday, September 8th 2017
CML has doubled the size of its premises to continue its growth after a series of recent business achievements:
- CML licensed actuators have passed the rigorous handset qualification programme of one of the top three global handset brands.
- CML has signed its fourth license deal for the production of its SMA actuators with a leading Chinese smartphone camera actuator manufacturer.
- The first product containing a CML licensed SMA actuator has been released in the wearables market sector.
- Good progress has been made in the haptics, medical and FMCG market sectors.
CML's need for increased office, laboratory, testing and administrative space is a reflection of the significant interest in CML's technology now being evidenced in the market. To cater for this, CML is also adding further top quality technical staff to its team of world class engineers, so that the future demands of the fast-paced, highly innovative smartphone market place are satisfied, without compromise to the excellent support it gives existing licensees.
CML Signs License Agreement with Leading Chinese Actuator Manufacturer
Thursday, August 31st 2017
Cambridge Mechatronics Ltd (CML) and Shanghai Billu Electronics Co Ltd (Billu) are pleased to announce a new patent licensing agreement covering the use of shape memory alloy (SMA) actuated autofocus (AF) and optical image stabilization (OIS) technologies. This represents the fourth major licensing agreement that CML has agreed for the use of this technology in miniature cameras aimed at the mobile device market.
Andy Osmant, Managing Director of CML said “This license agreement is further confirmation of the growth of SMA actuators in the miniature camera market, and is fitting testament to the quality of our designs and customer support. We are delighted to partner with Billu, who are a respected supplier of high quality products to a number of leading Chinese handset vendors.”
Jianhua Wang, President of Billu said “This is an outstanding partnership that allows us to create further innovative devices for our customers by adding SMA actuators to our product range. Billu endeavours to improve customer experience by delivering best quality products and first-class services to its clients.”
About Billu: Billu designs and manufactures actuators, which are widely used in cameras for mobile phones, medical devices, industrial equipment and wearable smart devices. Billu's customer base includes Huawei, Meizu and TCL. Production capacity at its primary facility in Shanghai is currently twenty million units per month, placing Billu in the top three domestic smartphone actuator vendors.
About CML: Cambridge Mechatronics is a high technology design and engineering company based in Cambridge, specializing in developing cutting edge shape memory alloy technology. Products are taken from concept to mass production through technology licensing or partnerships with global manufacturing corporations.
Lens Makers Put Miniature Camera Market Growth Into Focus
Wednesday, August 23rd 2017
Recent announcements by two large suppliers of optical components into the smartphone market confirm that the miniature camera market continues to grow at a healthy rate.
Sunny Optical, the largest manufacturer of smartphone camera lens in mainland China, reported half year results to the Hong Kong stock
exchange to show net profit for the six months was up 149% compared to same period last year.
Meanwhile world-leading lens manufacturer Largan Precision have announced that production of smartphone camera lens will begin this
quarter in a new $39 million facility. Manufacturing capacity has been increased to satisfy demand from smartphone vendors on the back of the wider adoption of dual camera units in the premium smartphone segment.
CML notes the strong growth of two of the world’s largest camera component manufactures. The number of miniature cameras per smartphone is increasing and therefore CML expects the growth trend in the miniature camera market to continue to outstrip the growth in the smartphone market.
First Wearable Device Released Containing CML Licensed Technology
Tuesday, August 15th 2017
CML is pleased to report the first use of its licensed SMA technology in a ‘wearable’ product. The Front Row wearable camera, launched today, contains CML’s unique patented shape memory alloy actuator technology. CML’s technology has been used to provide Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), removing the effects of handshake to give a significant improvement in the quality of image.
Analysts expect miniature cameras to feature in an increasing number of wearable devices and the market to grow rapidly. CML’s SMA technology is ideal for applications that require small, lightweight and precise actuation in a high value, low cost package and is therefore ideally suited for use in the wearables market.
More Evidence of Growth in Camera Market
Thursday, August 3rd 2017
Apple revealed that they had sold 41 million iPhones in the last quarter. Through a code release Apple also inadvertently revealed that the next iPhone will include facial recognition using an additional front facing infrared camera.
Sony’s consolidated financial results reported its highest-ever first-quarter operating profit. The profit surge has been driven by sales of Sony’s market leading image sensors, used in smartphone cameras. Sony are set to open additional production facilities that will increase image sensor manufacturing capacity by around 20%, reflecting confidence that the smartphone camera market will continue to grow.
CML thinks these announcements provide further evidence that the high demand for cameras in smartphones remains unabated. The leak that the next iPhone will include a second front camera – taking the number of cameras up to four per smartphone - is in line with most analyst’s view that the volumes for camera modules is set to continue to increase.
It is also noteworthy that camera module ASPs are increasing. In contrast to the view that margins in the smartphone market have been squeezed, particularly in China, the margins attached to smartphone cameras and the high quality optical components that differentiate one smartphone from another remain healthy.
CML Receives Grant to Begin Development of Surgical Instruments
Wednesday, July 26th 2017
Cambridge Mechatronics and the University of Birmingham have received a grant from the UK Government’s Medical Research Council under its “Proximity to Discovery” Programme to work together on the development of a new surgical instrument for bladder cancer surgery. As part of the project CML will contribute to the design of a novel surgical device that makes use of shape memory alloy (SMA) actuation.
Dr Andrea Cantone, CMLs business development manager said "SMA is already used extensively in medical procedures for passive devices such as stents and is already established as fully compatible with the human body. We believe our SMA control technology is ideally suited to the development of medical devices as it allows the design of the small, lightweight, precise and powerful actuated tools needed for modern surgical procedures. We are delighted to be working with the University of Birmingham and are confident that this will be a successful and long-lasting partnership”.
Smartphone Camera Market Set to Continue Growth
Thursday, July 20th 2017
A recent trading update by Sunny Optical, a large manufacturer of electronic equipment listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, gives hard evidence to the forecast by some analysts of significant growth in the smartphone camera market. Sunny Optical report year on year revenue growth of 77%, with profits up 126%, and position themselves as ideally placed to exploit the trend towards bezel free smartphone designs with high quality camera performance. Underlying these good results are strong sales of camera modules into the Chinese smartphone market, which have been driven by the launch of new models from the likes of Oppo, Xiaomi and Huawei all of which feature higher resolution and better quality dual cameras.
As cameras remain a key means of differentiation in the smartphone market, many analysts are expecting Sunny Optical to maintain high growth, predicting earnings CAGR of 45% for some years to come. CML shares the view that this market provides a significant opportunity and believes that our unique technologies will allow us to thrive in this environment.
Two New Advisory Board Appointments
Friday, June 30th 2017
CML is delighted to announce that Sam Kim and Jorgen Lantto have joined the Advisory Board of CML. Biographical details of both are included in the "Team" website section.
Sam Kim was for many years until 2014, the President of ARM Korea. ARM is well known as the global leader in semiconductor IP business for mobile markets. Martin Knight, Chairman of CML, commenting on his appointment, said:" Sam's experience of commercial activity in S Korea , and particularly in the mobile space, will be most valuable to CML as we grow our business in S Korea."
Jorgen Lantto, as the former CTO and CEO of Fingerprint Card Sa(FPC), brings a wealth of relevant experience to CML: not only in the high tech end of the smartphone market , but also in managing the explosive growth of FPC from a small hardware engineering business to one which had a dominant and highly profitable position in the smartphone market, particularly in China. Martin Knight, Chairman of CML, commented: " Jorgen's understanding of how to manage a business in a period of extreme sales and profits growth , in precisely the market in which CML is operating, will be extremely helpful to CML."
Martin Knight added: "CML is looking forward with great pleasure to working closely with Sam and Jorgen as we seek to grow CML' s activity at the heart of the smartphone market"
CML Opens Three Offices in the Greater China Region
Thursday, June 29th 2017
Due to CML’s rapidly escalating customer activity in the Greater China market, CML has opened three additional offices located in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Taipei with commercial staff, project managers and engineers, to provide local promotion, sales and technical support for our smartphone camera and haptics products.
“CML recognises the importance of local representation to react quickly and efficiently to customer requests and ensure smooth
information flow. For our products and markets, we need to be in the hub of smartphone and device component development and commerce, hence the selection of the locations of our three new sites”, remarked CML’s Director of Marketing, Dominic Webber. “We have ensured excellent staff have been recruited into our new offices to ensure high quality support and relationship management. We are planning for these offices to grow in size and also open additional facilities throughout this year and the next.”
The General Manager of CML Greater China, Edwin Shiu, commented, “In the highly competitive China smartphone and device market,
genuinely new and breakthrough technologies that can offer a refined user experience, yet still allow miniaturisation and aggressive pricing are highly valued by the industry’s leading brands. CML’s SMA technology has been exceptionally well received by this market, leading to multiple follow-on projects and new enquiries, which are ideally supported in close proximity to the customer sites.”
In order to contact CML Greater China directly by email, please click here.
CML Wins Wearable Haptics Product Award at IDTechEx Conference
Thursday, May 11th 2017
On 10 May, CML presented its new haptics product at Wearable Europe, a conference event as part of the IDTechEx Show! in Berlin. The conference focuses on wearable technologies, applications, and their commercialisation and looks at the capabilities offered by new technologies. It is aimed at the full ecosystem from fashion brands to material providers.
Fifty guests presented at Wearable Europe and CML was shortlisted as one of five keynote speakers. Two companies were honoured for their great achievements in developing and commercialising wearable technology. The judges of the awards were Ms Heidi Dohse from Google and Mr Ben Cooper from VF Corporation.
Mr. Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx presented CML with the award for Best New Material or Component Development. Collecting the award for CML was Dr Andrea Cantone, Business Development Manager and remarked,
"We are delighted to have received the IDTechEx Best New Material or Component Development award. There is no better recognition for Cambridge Mechatronics' innovation in the wearable market than one given by a leading research institution such as IDTechEx and their industry experts."
“The judges were particularly impressed with CML’s approach of delivering natural, localised haptic feedback with a miniature form factor – key for the wearable product segment. In combination with the ability to customise the sensation according to users’ preference made CML’s SMA haptics solution the clear winner for this product category,” said Mr Das of IDTechEx.
After establishing itself as a provider of precision SMA actuator platform technology and delivering products in the smartphone and drone camera markets, CML is now launching its new designs for next generation haptics experiences.
CML to Present Keynote Haptics Speech at IDTechEx Conference
Thursday, May 4th 2017
IDTechEx provides independent market research and business intelligence to clients in over 80 countries, and will be hosting the IDTechEx Show! from the 10th to the 11th of May in Berlin. It is the world's largest end-user focused event on emerging technologies and covers wearables, printed electronics, sensors, Internet of Things, 3D printing, graphene, energy storage, electric vehicles and energy harvesting.
Part of the IDTechEx Show! is Wearable Europe – a conference and exhibition focusing on wearable technologies, applications, and their commercialisation. The event looks at the capabilities offered by new technologies and is aimed at the full ecosystem from fashion brands to material providers. Fifty guests will present at Wearable Europe and CML has been shortlisted as one of five keynote speakers.
After establishing itself as a provider of precision SMA actuator platform technology and delivering products in the smartphone and drone camera markets, CML is now launching a new design for a next generation haptic experience. Conventional products provide the user with a feedback sensation by shaking the entire device (smartphone or wearable), resulting in an unnatural effect. CML's solution creates a more sophisticated and nuanced experience by providing a localised feeling. SMA can create strong forces in a limited space without the use of magnetic parts, thus preventing compromise to antennae, audio speakers or NFC components' performance.
During the talk, CML will explain SMA actuator characteristics, its advantages when applied to haptics and how we are taking this technology to the mass market.
CML Shareholder Presentations 28 & 29 March 2017
Thursday, March 30th 2017
Shareholder presentations were made in Cambridge and London on 28 and 29 March. The slides used in these presentations are available to CML shareholders on our website secure portal. Please login to download and view them.
Join Us At Mobile World Congress
Thursday, February 23rd 2017
CML will be attending the Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona. It is the world’s largest gathering of the mobile industry.
We’ll be there to reveal to current and prospective customers, partners and other members of the mobile ecosystem:
- our latest patented innovations in smartphone cameras
- cameras in other mobile devices
- advanced technology for additional applications, such as haptics.
Kindly contact us if interested in arranging a meeting there.
Drones: flying high in the consumer market
Tuesday, February 14th 2017
The value of the drone market is rising fast. According to Goldman Sachs, it will be cumulatively worth $100 billion by 2020.
There are many potential applications for drones. Investment in them by the military and security forces is rising, while in the commercial market, usage of drones in construction, surveying, and oil pipe inspection, for example, is growing too.
Next-generation consumer drones
Photography and videography are thought to be the key applications for next-generation drones. Mainstream consumer usage is the dream, but safety concerns may prevent very early adoption. However, drones seem to be here to stay, and in increasing numbers.
To expand usage, with flight times of up to half an hour and travelling at speeds of at least 30mph to 40 mph, they will need to be safe and robust, as well as capable of being accurate in navigation to avoid buildings, trees, pylons and other flying objects. They will also need to be small and lightweight with high-precision performance.
Offering exactly these features, CML’s unique smart material technology will shortly ship in high-end consumer drones available to the global market. “We see drones as one of the most exciting new major emerging product trends," commented CML's marketing director Dominic Webber. "We’re delighted to be integral to the development of key components in this high profile segment.”
Innovation And An Invitation: Improving Health and Quality of Life for Diabetics
Thursday, February 2nd 2017
CML will be at the 10th International Conference on Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes (ATTD), 15 to 18 February.
Worldwide, an estimated 415 million people are suffering from diabetes, a life-long condition that can result in serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage. That total is projected to rise to 642 million by 2040, meaning that one in 10 adults would be diabetic.
Trillion dollar industry
Such a prevalence of disease demands a lot of money spent on treating it. The estimated global healthcare expenditure on diabetes treatment in 2015 came to $935 billion.
Most diabetics need regular injections of insulin. Yet current insulin delivery devices do not offer a satisfactory balance of size, weight, cost and dosing accuracy. Users claim their pumps, pens or syringes are indiscreet, too bulky or uncomfortable to live with.
Equally, most devices that offer both convenience and advanced functionality are prohibitively costly for healthcare providers and insurance policies, both in developed and developing nations.
Revolutionary insulin delivery
To help overcome these blocks – and positively impact the lives of diabetics everywhere – CML is now developing revolutionary next-generation insulin delivery devices. Our unique smart material platform technology allows us to create miniaturised lightweight products for this market at a low cost.
What’s more, our products offer as much precision in insulin delivery – a requirement recognised as critical to managing diabetes – compared even to the most sophisticated of products currently available.
We will be discussing our transformative plans and developments with pharmaceuticals manufacturers and device makers at ATTD 2017 in Paris. If you’d like to arrange a meeting with us there, please contact us to agree a convenient time.
Trend Prediction: Dual and Selfie OIS Cameras
Tuesday, January 24th 2017
TechSpot blogger Tim Schiesser recently posted a very detailed description of his dream smartphone for 2017. He covers all the key features, including display, body, processor, cameras, battery and software.
What really caught our eye was Tim's wish for OIS functionality in both the main dual cameras and the selfie camera. Why? To improve low-light performance, traditionally the weak point of smartphone cameras.
Were Tim’s wish granted widely in premium handsets, it would represent a potential tripling of the overall market size in this segment, to over a billion units per annum – great news for OIS actuator suppliers.
To quote Tim’s wishlist:
- Both rear cameras will feature optical image stabilization to improve low light performance. Both will also be capable of shooting 4K video at 30 FPS, alongside 1080p at 120 FPS and 720p at 240 FPS, with high quality stereo audio.
- The wide angle camera will use an f/1.9 lens, while the zoom camera will use an f/2.2 lens as increasing the aperture of this 72mm lens any further would have led to a larger-than-reasonable camera module.
- The front camera will be another Sony IMX260, this time paired with an f/1.7 24mm lens and OIS.
- The ideal smartphone won’t be the first handset with OIS for its front facing camera (the HTC 10 included this feature), but it’s a smart inclusion that helps deliver the best low light selfies. Again, this sensor would pack 4K video recording.
We understand smartphone makers have already recognised the benefits and demand for dual OIS cameras but hit development issues with conventional products due to magnetic interference between the cameras and also with other critical components – such as loudspeakers and antennae – that compromised picture quality, audio and signal strength.
This is partly why CML SMA OIS products aren’t made with magnets, and simply don’t suffer these issues. Ever.
Camera technology pioneers hTC and Sony are the only smartphone makers so far to have launched selfie OIS cameras. As most major brands continue to increase camera resolutions and specifications, we predict that the selfie OIS will be a significant consumer trend soon.
Monday, January 9th 2017
Amidst CML’s customer meetings, four thousand exhibitors and one hundred and eighty thousand attendees, we reviewed the most popular technology areas of CES, Las Vegas. There were three key product groups attracting the most viewers and interest, and each had increased their occupied floor space significantly since last year.
Drones were on display from twenty six exhibitors with applications ranging from sports coverage to search and rescue. The US market for drones is expected to double this year.
Augmented reality joined virtual reality to double its exhibition size since 2016. Products ranged from glasses to headsets and crash helmets, offering experiences as varied as gaming, shopping and foreign travel.
Nearly one hundred and fifty exhibitors and nine car manufacturers populated the twenty thousand square metres assigned to vehicle technology. Overriding themes were Artificial Intelligence (AI) and autonomy with a number of concept self-driving cars.
CML welcomes the significant investment in these next generation products as they are key target applications for our smart metal platform technology. We look forward to sharing news of our latest projects and partners soon.
CML Licensee TDK Corporation to Acquire Gyroscope Supplier InvenSense
Friday, December 23rd 2016
TDK and InvenSense have entered into a definitive agreement wherein TDK agrees to acquire all outstanding InvenSense shares for a total acquisition price of US$1.3 billion. InvenSense is one of the world’s leading gyroscope manufacturers, with its products used in current and next generation smartphone OIS camera modules. Read more here.
Cambridge Mechatronics at CES, Las Vegas
Tuesday, December 20th 2016
Cambridge Mechatronics will be attending CES, held in Las Vegas from 5 to 8 January 2017. Please contact us if you would like to arrange a meeting. firstname.lastname@example.org
CML to Present at Renesas DevCon China Event
Monday, October 24th 2016
Renesas Electronics Corporation is a world-leading supplier of microcontrollers, analogue power devices and SoC products. On October 27, it will hold the Renesas Electronics Worldwide Developers Conference, gathering together its key customers, partners and developers at the Sheraton Shenzhen Futian hotel.
As part of the event, there will keynote speeches from senior Renesas executives and presentations covering the different major business areas of automotive, industrial, consumer electronics, office automation, and information and communication technology (ICT).
Renesas is one of the three major vendors supplying the leading smartphone brands with OIS camera controller and driver chips. Its products are qualified for use with CML’s SMA OIS actuators and as such, CML has been invited by Renesas to deliver one of the twenty event presentations. CML’s Director of Marketing – Dominic Webber – will discuss its SMA camera products, advantages and roadmap to an audience of smartphone industry professionals.
Renesas Senior Marketing Manager and event co-organiser, Angus Chan remarked, ”We much appreciate CML’s participance in this major Renesas event. CML’s unique SMA OIS solution delivers key advantages to the smartphone camera market and we highly value the strength of our partnership.”
TDK Corporation Announces Completion of Acquisition of CML OIS Licensee
Thursday, October 6th 2016
TDK Corporation (“TDK”, TSE: 6762, Representative Director and President: Shigenao Ishiguro) today announced that TDK had completed its acquisition of Hutchinson Technology Incorporated (“HTI”), a global supplier of critical precision component technologies. Under the terms of the merger agreement, each outstanding share of common stock of HTI was cancelled and converted into the right to receive $4.00 per share, without interest. HTI’s common stock (NASDAQ: HTCH) has ceased trading on the NASDAQ Global Select Market. Nixon Peabody LLP acted as legal advisor to TDK on the transaction and Janes Capital Partners acted as TDK’s financial advisor. HTI was represented on the transaction by its legal advisor, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, and its financial advisor, BofA Merrill Lynch.
Corporate giant TDK nears completion of acquisition of CML OIS licensee
Wednesday, September 28th 2016
With a workforce exceeding ninety thousand and facilities spanning thirty countries, TDK Corporation is a major supplier of key, high value smartphone components, including camera actuators, to the leading smartphone brands. TDK also supplies products into the automotive, industrial equipment and energy sectors, and is planning new businesses in wearables and healthcare.
In November 2015, TDK announced the planned acquisition of CML SMA OIS licensee Hutchinson Technology Incorporated.
Hutchinson today announced that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has granted early termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended with respect to the proposed merger of HTI with and into a wholly owned subsidiary of TDK Corporation.
The early termination of the waiting period under the HSR Act satisfies one of the remaining conditions to the closing of the pending merger. The merger is currently expected to close no later than October 5, 2016, and remains subject to other customary closing conditions set forth in the merger agreement.
Details of Hutchinson’s SMA OIS products manufactured under license from CML may be found here.