Sensor competition, actuator recovery impact supplier ranking

Stiff competition in sensors for high-volume design wins and a recovery in actuator growth shuffled the ranking of suppliers in the $9.2 billion market for sensors and actuators in 2014, according to IC Insights’ new 2015 O-S-D Report—A Market Analysis and Forecast for Optoelectronics, Sensors/Actuators, and Discretes. The new O-S-D Report says the overall trend in sensors and actuators is for the largest suppliers to keep getting bigger, gaining marketshare because more high-volume applications—such as smartphones and the huge potential of the Internet of Things (IoT)—and automotive systems require well-established track records for quality, long-term reliability, and on-time delivery of semiconductors.

Sensor leader Robert Bosch in Germany extended its lead in this market with a 16 percent sales increase in 2014 to nearly $1.2 billion. The German company became the first sensor maker to reach $1.0 billion in 2013 when its sales climbed 29 percent, reflecting continued strong growth in its automotive base and expansion into high-volume consumer and mobile applications. Bosch’s marketshare in sensor-only sales grew to 20 percent in 2014 from 18 percent in 2013 and 15 percent in 2012, according to the 10th edition of IC Insights’ annual O-S-D Report.

Meanwhile, STMicroelectronics saw its sensor/actuator sales volume fall 19 percent in 2014 to $630 million, which caused it to drop to fourth place among the market’s top suppliers from second in 2013. ST’s drop was partly caused by marketshare gains by Bosch and U.S.-based InvenSense, which climbed from 14th in 2013 to ninth in the 2014 sensor/actuator ranking with a 33 percent increase in sensor sales to $332 million last year. Bosch and InvenSense sensors—which are made with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology—have knocked ST’s MEMS-based sensors from a number of high-volume smartphones, including Apple’s newest iPhone handsets.

ST’s drop in sensor revenues and modest sales increases in MEMS-based actuators at Texas Instruments (micro-mirror devices for digital projectors and displays) and Hewlett-Packard (mostly inkjet-printer nozzle devices) moved TI and HP up one position in IC Insights’ 2014 ranking to second and third place, respectively (as shown in Figure 1). Infineon remained in fifth place in the sensors/actuator ranking with an 8 percent sales increase to $520 million last year. The 2015 O-S-D Report provides top 10 rankings of suppliers in sensors/actuators, optoelectronics, and discrete semiconductors in addition to a top 30 O-S-D list of companies, based on combined revenue in optoelectronics, sensors/actuators and discretes.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The new O-S-D Report forecasts worldwide sensor sales to increase 7 percent in 2015 to reach a record-high $6.1 billion after growing 5 percent in 2014 to $5.7 billion and rising just 3 percent in 2013.  Total actuator sales are expected to increase 7 percent in 2015 to $3.7 billion, which will tie the record high set in 2011. Actuator sales fell 10 percent in 2012 and dropped another 4 percent in 2013 before recovering in 2014 with a 7 percent increase to $3.5 billion.  MEMS technology was used in about 34 percent of the 11.1 billion sensors shipped in 2014 and essentially all of the 999 million actuators sold last year, based on an analysis in the new O-S-D Report.  Tiny MEMS structures are used in these devices to perform transducer functions (i.e., detecting and measuring changes around sensors for inputs in electronic systems, and initiating physical actions in actuators from electronic signals).


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