Hot on the trail of Sony’s F3, NXCAM 35, and new >4K camera sensors, we fly one and a half hours south from Tokyo to Sony’s Image Sensor Fab Factory in Kumamoto. A short, 15 minute drive from the airport through fields of green tea that look like rows of pixels, we arrive at two massive buildings over 42,000 square meters (10.3 acres) in size. About 3,000 Sony employees work here.
It’s the water–among many other things. Rain and water runoff from nearby Mt. Aso (the largest active volcano in Japan and one of the largest in the world–1592 m) provides a very pure source of water used in the manufacturing of sensors that use silicon wafers 99.99999% pure. So, we’re under the volcano with very pure water and a highly skilled, high tech labor force.
It begins with a single silicon ingot, 300 mm in diameter–one crystal. It’s sliced, cleaned, and processed in this fully automated facility. The size of the sensor determines how many can be produced on one wafer. Production goes from wafer to testing, assembly and shipment. It can take up to 90 days for a sensor to be made.