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Our History: Fairchild Imaging

Awardee Story Our History: Fairchild Imaging

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Nearly 100 years ago, American scientist and industrialist Sherman Fairchild invented and developed a novel camera shutter/lens system and associated timing mechanism that enabled accurate aerial photography for the first time. He parlayed that success into the development of several aircraft companies as well as the Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp. In 1957, Fairchild provided the venture capital to a group of engineers to start Fairchild Semiconductor in California. This was the beginning of "Silicon Valley" as it has come to be known.

Building on initial work being done at Bell Labs, a group of engineers began to develop the CCD concept within the Fairchild Semiconductor R&D building in Palo Alto, CA. The first commercially available CCD was produced in 1970. Soon thereafter, a contract was signed to provide the military with the first solid state television compatible image sensor. It was to be mounted into a cockpit television system (CTVS). With this early success, the CCD group was broken out into a separate division from the rest of the R&D group. This group produced many of the first image sensors used in both commercial and military applications.

In 1979, Fairchild Semiconductor was purchased by Schlumberger Ltd. A re-organization was completed in 1982 and the CCD Imaging group was combined with another Fairchild company in Syosset, New York to become Fairchild Weston Systems. The entire company was subsequently acquired by Loral Corp in 1989. It was at this time that the CCD image sensor group from Ford Aerospace became part of the company and was brought into the group. 1996 saw the acquisition by Lockheed Martin followed by the acquisition by BAE Systems in 2000. In 2001, a management buyout supported by investment from the Carlyle Group was completed and an independent Fairchild Imaging was born. The company was re-acquired by BAE Systems in 2011.

Throughout its' history Fairchild Imaging has continued to operate at the forefront of imaging technology. Linear CCD sensors were used in numerous applications including fax, copy and telecine (film to television conversion) machines as well as aerial reconnaissance and satellite imaging. Area CCD sensors were used in applications such as television, professional photography, mammographic screening and intraoral dental x-ray imaging. Backside imaging technology was also developed for these area sensors and were used on the NASA Deep Impact program as well as for scientific imaging applications. TDI CCD sensors were developed for industrial inspection such as letter scanners for all US Post Offices, automated food inspection systems and satellite imaging.

In 2003 Fairchild Imaging began leveraging the image sensor knowledge base, developed through years of CCD innovation, into in the development of CMOS image sensors. This culminated in the introduction of scientific CMOS (sCMOS) image sensors that quickly became the industry standard for high performance image sensors with their ability to simultaneously deliver on many key performance metrics that previously involved design tradeoffs.
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