Shape memory alloy applied to image stabilisation for smartphone cameras

January 13, 2015 // By Peter Clarke
Cambridge Mechatronics Ltd. (Cambridge, England) has announced that its shape memory alloy (SMA) technology used for low profile optical image stabilisation (OIS) has been designed into a smartphone.

CML's OIS actuators use SMA wire - a smart material that provides force and strain when heated with an electric current and is much lower in complexity than parts used in voice-coil motor (VCM) products.

The design win is in the InFocus M530, a 5.5-inch smartphone based around the MediaTek MT6595 processor. The 13-megapixel OIS camera is supplied by Foxconn and includes an SMA OIS actuator made by Hutchinson Technology, a manufacturing partner of CML.

This follows over three years of development at Cambridge Mechatronics facilities, resulting in more than 20 patents covering the design of smart metal micro actuators, precision control algorithms and drive electronics. Hutchinson and Foxconn are in full mass production of SMA OIS actuators and cameras respectively in their manufacturing facilities in the US and China, CML said.

The M530 has a retail price of NT$7998 NTD (New Taiwan Dollars: about US$250). Benchmarks of the M530 camera demonstrate shake suppression comparable to flagship OIS handsets from the leading worldwide and Chinese brands, said CML. Gartner analysts forecast the size of the mobile device market to be over 2.1 billion units in 2015.

The company, which was founded as 1 Ltd. by Tony Hooley of Cavendish Laboratories at Cambridge University in the 1990s, signed up Warren East, formerly CEO of ARM Holdings plc, as an adviser to the board in 2014.