Varioptic and Dow collaborate on 'next generation' lenses

OPTICS.ORG, OCTOBER 12, 2OO6
Partners to co-research and develop liquid lenses; Varioptic launches improved autofocus model; mass production commences in China.
Varioptic and Dow Chemical have agreed to jointly work on new developments in the field of electrowetting technology for liquid lenses. The partnership is aiming to “significantly improve” optical, chemical and physical performance of Varioptic’s liquid lenses and broaden the range of applications.
“Varioptic has considerable experience in the development of proprietary materials for liquid lens applications and progress has been made in the design of reliable liquid formulations for mobile phone camera modules,” said Paul Morris, director of Dow Venture Capital. “As Varioptic proceeds from autofocus to other applications, such as microzoom, the requirements become more challenging.
“Dow’s capability in high throughput screening is a powerful tool in optimizing electrowetting performance for these requirements. Varioptic’s technology can become a major component in the evolution of mobile phones”.
Jean-Christophe Robert, CTO of Varioptic, added, “The market for optical solutions in mobile phones and PDAs is poised for exponential growth, and this partnership will help accelerate the development of numerous applications. Combining our expertise will open up new opportunities so we are looking forward to working with Dow.”
Varioptic extends its portfolio of autofocus solutions
In response to the growing market for small reliable but inexpensive autofocus optics, Varioptic has extended the range of its Arctic variable focus lenses. The SMIA-compliant Arctic 416 allows camera module and camera phone manufacturers to develop higher resolution sensors and to produce “DSC-like” quality pictures. Key features include: greater accuracy; unmatched response time; and a sharper and crisper focus in under 500 ms. Samples are available now and mass production will start in December 2006.
Liquid lenses go into mass production
In a related development, Varioptic and imaging systems company Creative Sensor, recently agreed a deal for the mass-production of liquid lenses in China.
Varioptic and Creative Sensor will cooperate to build the first mass production line for liquid lenses in Creative Sensor’s manufacturing site in Wuxi, China, which will begin operations by the end of 2006. The first phase of co-operation is targeted to produce 100,000 liquid lenses per month, ramping to higher volume in 2007.
“This is a significant step in our development,” said Etienne Paillard of Varioptic. “Creative Sensor’s impressive record of supplying imaging systems to companies such as H-P and Epson and its capabilities to scale production rapidly are exactly what we look for in a partner. Our [joint] objective is to become the leading global supplier of liquid lenses for mobile devices.”
Doris Hsu, president of Creative Sensor added: “This cooperation is important for us, too. The potential demand of liquid lens for mobile devices looks positive. It’s great that Creative Sensor can partner with Varioptic, the world pioneer of this technology, to build the world’s first mass production line for liquid lenses in China.”
About the author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org and Optics & Laser Europe.

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