10 MEMS applications will top $100 million in 2017; thank mobile devices

May 24, 2012 — Mobile phones and tablet PCs each integrate about 5-10 micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) per device. These “New MEMS” — consumer and mobility use MEMS — will benefit from the growth in smartphones and tablets, which will hit 2.9 billion units in 2017, said Laurent Robin, Activity Leader, Inertial MEMS Devices & Technologies, Yole Développement.

“MEMS in cellphones and tablets will grow 19.8% to reach a $5.4 billion value in 2017,” said Robin. The MEMS industry will be largely impacted by global trends in mobile devices: connected devices, video and music consumption, social networking, diversity of users and usages, mobile advertising. This booming demand for smartphones and media tablets can be partly explained by the integration of MEMS sensors, which provide new functionalities, Yole notes.

Figure. Maturity of cell phone MEMS devices in 2012. SOURCE: MEMS for Cell phones & Tablets, Yole Développement, May 2012.

10 new MEMS applications will to be worth more than $100 million in 2017, versus 3 categories of MEMS devices in high-volume production today, Yole says. These include motion sensors, microphones, and BAW filters and duplexers.

Motion sensors include accelerometers, magnetometers and gyroscopes. They are the hottest market segment of MEMS currently, growing quickly with multiple business and technical evolutions. Combo sensors are being introduced, increasing MEMS integration and adding sensor fusion algorithms. Also read: Bosch Sensortec debuts 6DoF MEMS IMU with sensor fusion software

MEMS microphones are replacing electret condenser microphones (ECM), and are enabling new user functionality when multiple MEMS microphones are used per device.

BAW has been popular for many years, Band 2 in particular. New opportunities will appear with some of the bands that will be used in 4G standards

Novel applications will bring more MEMS opportunities in the market — pressure sensors + inertial sensors for location based services, RF MEMS switches for antenna tuning, oscillators to replace TCXO quartz oscillators and for resonators, MEMS auto-focus to replace voice-coil motor (VCM) technology, microdisplays, microspeakers, environmental sensors, touchscreen, joystick, etc., etc. Also read: MEMS alternatives for miniature auto-focus cameras

Top MEMS players have evolved as the market has grown — tripling from 2009 to 2011. STMicroelectronics (ST, STM) was #3 in cell phone applications in 2009 and is now by far the #1 supplier with $477 million cellphone and tablet revenue in 2011. ST dominates the MEMS accelerometer market and had an impressive start with MEMS gyroscopes. InvenSense is challenging ST, and the companies recently became involved in a legal dispute over patents.

ST will become a one-stop supplier as it expands into different MEMS architectures. It lists Apple, Samsung, Nokia, RIM, and HP among its clients. Other large players are very focused on their core markets: AKM is the #2 with $260 million sales of magnetometers for electronics compass solution, Avago is leading the BAW filters and duplexers market with $244 million sales, and Knowles is #4 with $233 million revenues from MEMS microphones.

Many start-ups are about to introduce disruptive technologies for emerging markets (RF MEMS switches and variable capacitors, scanning mirrors for picoprojectors, silicon timing devices, speakers, auto-focus) and current large markets (MCube for inertial sensors, 3S for microphones).

Large semiconductor companies are now eyeing MEMS as well: Fairchild and Maxim already made the move through acquisitions, and others should follow.

As new business models are developing, with some players specializing on a specific part of the value chain (MEMS manufacturing, signal processing) and others offering complete solutions (e.g. combo sensors that integrate MCU and software).

“MEMS for Cell Phones & Tablets” is a new report from Yole Développement, by Laurent Robin, head of MEMS & Sensors market research.

Companies cited in the report:

3M, 3S, AAC Acoustics, Acutronic, ADI, Aichi MI, AKM, Akustica, Amazon, Amkor, Anadigics, APM, Apple, ASE, ASG, ASMC, ASTRI, Asus, Atmel, Audience, AudioPixel, Avago, Bambook, Baolab, Barnes, & Noble, Bluechiip, Bosch Sensortec, BSAC, BSE, Btendo, Carsem, Casio Micronics, Cavendish Kinetics, CEA Leti, Cheng Uei Precision Industry Co, CSR, Dalsa, DelfMEMS, Discera, DXO, EoSemi, EpiCrystals, Fairchild, etc.

Yole Développement is a group of companies providing market research, technology analysis, strategy consulting, media, and finance services. Learn more at www.yole.fr.

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