Very strong MEMS growth expected: Analysts weigh in

(July 14, 2010) — At SEMICON West 2010, top analysts from Yole and iSuppli discuss the market for MEMS devices; outsourcing MEMS foundries; and the relationship between manufacturing processes, cost, and MEMS adoption. Chief editor Pete Singer summarizes the findings.

The market for MEMS devices is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years, moving from around $6.5B in 2009 to more than $16B in 2015, according to Jean Christophe Eloy, founder and CEO of Yole Developpement. Eloy provided his forecast at Semicon West during an “extreme electronics” XPOT focused on opportunities in MEMS, new applications, integrated functions and faster time to market. The number of units is expected to grow from 3.2 billion in 2009 to 10 billion in 2015.

iSuppli Corp. also issued a rosy forecast for the MEMS market, projecting MEMS revenue to reach $6.54 billion, up 11.1% from $5.88 billion last year. The market will continue to expand through 2014, when it will have grown another $3.3 billion to hit $9.8 billion — equivalent to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7% throughout the 2009-2014 period, according to iSuppli.

As a sign of MEMS demand, Eloy said that major systems companies with internal MEMS fabs, such as Delphi and Conti, are now looking to use external foundries.

He also said that there are many applications that are still emerging and are now in the R&D phase, including energy harvesting and MEMS speakers. “Many new startups are using foundries,” Eloy said. Other growing markets for MEMS include RFID, IR photodetectors, picoprojectors and auto focus technology. Digital compasses, microbolometers, microdisplays, micro fuel cells, oscillators, and microstructures (for watches, for example) were also named.

For 2011, MEMS displays will make a comeback, thanks not only to pico projectors but also to new types of MEMS flat-panel technologies for portable electronics, reports iSuppli. MEMS microphones and BAW filters will increase their penetration, while completely new types of MEMS actuators will bring significant additional revenue for switches or varicaps and autofocus for camera phones.

Eloy said the growth in MEMS is in part due to price decreases made possible by advancements in manufacturing technology. In 2000, typical accelerometer devices were 10mm2 in size, consumed 0.1 mW, cost more than $3.00, and were manufactured on 4” and 6” wafers. In 2010, devices measure about 2-3 mm2, consume 0.05mW and cost $0.7 and are manufactured on 6” and 8” wafers. By 2020, MEMS devices will measure 1-2mm2, consume less than 0.05mW, cost less than $0.4, and be manufactured mostly on 8” wafers. 3D integration will also be used at the 2020 node.

Click to Enlarge
The figure shows iSuppli’s MEMS revenue forecast from 2006 to 2014, with revenue dipping in 2008 and then bottoming out in 2009 as a result of the global recession.

The expected rise in MEMS revenue this year will mirror an equivalent increase in MEMS unit shipments, anticipated to reach 4.14 billion units, up from 3.44 billion units in 2009. Overall, MEMS shipments will log an impressive 19.5% CAGR to top 8.5 billion units by 2014, iSuppli data indicate.

“MEMS production is back on the fast track,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at iSuppli. “Beginning in September 2009, MEMS manufacturing began to grow at a rate that came close to the high-level mark set three years ago in 2007. In particular, the MEMS market is being fueled by the continuing might of MEMS applications for consumer electronic devices and mobile handsets. These two sectors bulldozed their way through the economic crisis, in the process cementing their status as the new locomotive for MEMS.” By 2014, Bouchaud said both sectors will generate $3.2 billion in value, accounting for 32% of total MEMS market revenues.

MEMS sensor production for automotive applications likewise remains high, with the market set to rebound in 2010 after a fall last year. Factors stimulating the growth of automotive MEMS include anticipated stronger shipments of cars from 2010 to 2014, mandates in the United States and Europe for vehicular safety systems, and continuing regulation in the reduction of harmful emissions.

Also enjoying robust growth is the high-value MEMS market for the industrial, medical and aerospace-defense sectors. With a projected CAGR of 13.7% from 2009 to 2014, the MEMS market for these segments will be worth $2.3 billion at the end of the forecast period, iSuppli data show.

Among MEMS devices, three segments will exceed the $1 billion mark this year, and two others will be close to joining that list by 2014.

Inkjet printheads will remain the dominant-selling MEMS device from now until the end of 2014, with revenue exceeding $2 billion that year. However, growth in this segment is stagnating and will experience dwindling shipments as the market transitions from disposable to permanent printheads, says iSuppli. Rounding out the top 5 — along with their projected revenue in 2014 — are accelerometers, in second place with $1.7 billion; pressure sensors, in third with $1.4 billion; gyroscopes, in fourth with $961 million; and optical MEMS for displays, in fifth with $940 million.

–Pete Singer, editor in chief, Small Times

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