Sony is working around the clock to keep up with the demand for its image sensors, Bloomberg reported on Monday, but it’s still not enough. According to the report, Sony is running its image sensor manufacturing business 24/7 straight through the holidays in an effort to keep on top of demand. As well, Sony is building a new facility in Nagasaki to expand its production capacity.
The Nagasaki manufacturing plant won’t go live until April 2021, meaning Sony’s current operations will remain strained for the foreseeable future. Sony Semiconductor head Terushi Shimizu recently said in an interview that the company is having to apologize to customers for its inability to keep up with image sensor demand.
As well, Shimizu said during the interview, the company has seen such huge growth in demand for its image sensors that the new Nagasaki facility may not be adequate enough once it goes online in 2021.
The rise of double- and triple-camera modules on flagship smartphones is driving this demand, the report claims. Whereas smartphone manufacturers previously needed one image sensor per handset, these same companies are now ordering two or more sensors for each unit (of select models), meaning that Sony has seen demand for its sensors increase even as the overall smartphone market’s growth begins to falter.
Falling only behind the PlayStation, Sony’s semiconductor business has become its most profitable business with image sensors accounting for the majority of the revenue. The company is investing in the semiconductor business to expand capacity, also eyeing new generations of image sensors for budding technologies, including ones involving AR and 3D sensing.
Sony remains in competition with Samsung, which has seen demand for its own image sensors likewise increase. In 2018, Korean publication ETnews reported that Samsung Electronics had announced a plan to increase its image sensor production capacity with the goal of overtaking Sony in this market. Whether it will be able to do that remains to be seen.