Tag: mems

MEMS market to reach $6 billion by 2016

The market for MEMS, or micro electro mechanical systems, is expected to race past the $6 billion mark as early as 2016, according to a report.

Juniper Research, which wrote the report, says that inertial sensor adoption – including accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers – have all found their place in the market thanks to advanced gaming and navigation applications. Because of the demand, they have become necessary in all smartphones and tablets.

The development of MEMS sensors will eventually be an “important differentiator” for mobile manufacturers in the future, because the build and quality of the devices will enable different capabilities and functions.

Juniper divides MEMS into three different categories in its report, those already deployed, like accelerometers and gyroscopes, MEMS which are currently being deployed, like displays, RF devices, pressure sensors and microphones, and future applications like joysticks, temperature sensors, speakers and pico projectors.

Author Nitin Bhas said that there are “lots of additional functionalities that smartphones and tablets will pick up over time and those capabilities have already started to appear, such as stabilisation control”.

Vendors will begin using high quality audio input and integrating multiple microphones, which should push the number of MEMS microphones in mobile devices to reach past the 2 billion mark in 2016.

Juniper also says that manufacturers have been ramping their production in RF MEMS, which signifies that they will soon be found in “most products” designed for use in the wireless market.

TechEye will be heading to MEMS Executive Congress Europe this March to cover the opportunities in the industry.  

Microtweezers make complex MEMS devices easier

As components get smaller and smaller, MEMS devices are increasingly found everywhere in the electronics industry, like accelerometers and gyroscopes which fit in your smartphone.

Researchers are creating even more intricate MEMS systems, with silicon based devices used for applications such as detecting chemical on an atomic scale being discussed by scientists at the University of Purdue.

As the stubby-fingered Lego enthusiasts among us will know, manipulating tiny components is difficult to do with finesse.

To upon the doors to MEMS devices of much greater complexity, Purdue researchers have developed, and provisionally patented, a set of ‘microtweezers’ that can build tiny structures such as those hidden in your iPhone or in your car.

MEMS components could be used to create devices by being individually manipulated with the silicon prongs of the microtweezers.

So far, the team has managed to manipulate polystyrene spheres measuring 40 micrometres, which we can imagine would make Hasbro’s Operation a breeze.  However, the researchers claim it is as simple as selecting a melon at the supermarket.

While there have been other attempts to create working microtweezers, the researchers believe they have distinct advantages in that no electrical power source is needed, and Purdue’s is considerably easier to manufacture and function.  The tool also involves only one movable ‘spring’ piece, rather than a complex set of components.

The team believes that it could also be possible to study individual stem cells in isolation by separating from the large groups that they are currently able to be view.  Furthermore, there are potential applications in precision printing of chemical or protein dots, or conversely coated in chemicals to attract specific materials to the microtweezers.

Piezoelectric thin film paves the way for ultrafast printing

Japanese engineers say they have created a piezoelectric thin film that could enable a new generation of high speed printing.

Researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Kyoto University and others claim that for the first time they have achieved a switching time of 200 nanoseconds to power ultrafast MEMS printing.

Analysing the structural changes when a high speed electric current is applied to ferroelectric thin film, a type of piezoelectric, they found that they were able to cause a switching time they claim is a world record.

Piezoelectric thin films are able to provide the power for incredibly high resolution MEMS inkjet printers that can print staggeringly quickly.

The researchers say that switching time cannot be controlled adequately with the current generation of piezoelectric thin films and are hoping that their development can lead to greater industrial applications and higher performance products.

This will allow higher speed “fine printing” with a smaller quantity of ink than is possible with conventional technology, with the minute MEMS devices responsible for ink coating in ink jet printers.

According to the researchers, increased performance in MEMS devices will also provide benefits in the automotive world, with more accurate control over fuel consumption in engines by applying the technology to ceramic parts which control fuel use efficiency.

ST Micro talks up tiny gyroscope

ST Micro claims come up with the smallest three axis digital output gyroscope on the market. As usual with MEMS the product’s name isn’t very catchy – the L3G3200D – but it does mean dinkier electronics.

The device is only 3 x 3.5 x 1 mm, and the company claims it’s a robust little machine that is immune to mechanical stress and copes well with temperatures, having an extended range between -40°C and 85°C.

It also features power down and sleep modes to avoid draining batteries on the next wave of devices, and operates with any supply voltage between 2.4 to 3.6V.

The gyroscope has a 16-bit data output for interrupt and data-ready lines as well as integrating low and high pass filters with user selectable bandwidth, ST says. 

This sort of thing is aimed squarely at manufacturers who want motion sensing capabilities in their electronics and ST predicts this one will be found in next generation smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices.

ST has samples available now at $2.53 in quantities of 1,000.

Auto market pushes pressure sensors to most used MEMS

Pressure sensors will lead the charge for MEMS, penned in to become the top device as soon as 2014, according to analysts at IHS.

This is because of their increasing adoption in the automotive, medical and industrial segments. As the automotive industry managed to bounce back from the last recession, pressure senor MEMS generated $1.22 billion in revenue, up 26 percent from 2009. 

In fact the automative sector is the largest area for MEMS pressure sensors, holding the lion’s share at 72 percent. Then medical electronics has 11 percent and the industrial segment has 10 percent. The rest is made up of consumer electronics and military-aerospace applications, reports IHS. 

Car makers need MEMS sensors because they’re vital  in brake and tire pressure monitors, which tend to help the passenger avoid getting mangled in car crashes. Similarly, aircraft tend to use the pressure sensors to monitor critical components like the engines, as well as altitude air pressure. 

MEMS pressure sensors are membrane elements that deflect under pressure, says IHS, which can be measured by piezoresistive sensing or by a change in distance between two plates, through capacitive sensing. 

Next year won’t be as strong with only a 6.6 percent boost in market share. But double digit growth is expected for 2012. When 2014 rolls around, revenue for MEMS pressure sensors should sit at roughly $1.85 billion, according to IHS.

Although accelerometers and gyroscopes have flooded the market, IHS senior MEMS analyst Richard Dixon believes they will become the top MEMS device in revenue in just three years. This will be thanks to very steady market expansion, he says.

MEMS pressure sensors have a wide variety of uses, and so the price will vary with that. High-value industrial and medical uses can see the sensors cost up to tens of dollars, while specialised applications such as for aircraft hydraulics or air data measurements can reach as high as hundreds of dollars a piece. 

China becomes largest auto MEMS market

It is China which has become the largest market for sales in automotive MEMS, reaching $194.3 million for 2010 and should hit $387.9 million in 2015.

That means a compound annual growth rate in the five year period up to 2015 of 14.8 percent, which analysts at IHS claim is impressively higher than the worldwide 9.0 percent average.

The number of sensors per verhicle in China should be 10 by 2015, thanks to the increasing addition of airbags and tire-pressure monitoring systems, the latter often making us of 4.2 MEMS units in a car. China’s efforts to look at reducing carbon emissions are a factor, too, when the sale of basic engine sensors picks up.

Tire pressure monitoring systems will be heavily adopted by China including in high end vehicles, according to IHS.

Altogether, IHS claims China will be number three. The USA and Europe will hold pole and second position, respectively. Japan is just behind China.

One company which is managing to capitalise on the opportunity in MEMS is Infineon. Its CEO recently stated how important the MEMS industry is for Infineon and wants its chip designs to feature even more predominantly in vehicles and machinery.  A deal between Infineon and Analog Devices Inc. helped further MEMS when they agreed to work together to provide sensors and semiconductors for airbag hardware design.

The lion’s share of MEMS in China, though, is German Bosch GmbH. It has a deal with Freescale for airbags.

MEMS market booms on back of tablets and mobiles

While the PC market bombs, the influx of shiny rectangles into people’s homes has meant that the market for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) has rocketed.

As well as the boom in tablets, the MEMS market has reached record levels with more of the public upgrading to smartphones, according to market research firm IHS.

Revenues for mobile and consumer MEMS are expected to hit $2.25 billion this year, meaning a record growth rate of 37 percent.  This beats last year’s record 27 percent growth to $1.64 billion revenues.

By 2015 revenues will have grown to $4.54 billion, based on a compound annual growth rate of 22.5 percent.

And with MEMS products providing much of the fancy features of smartphones and tablets, the market will ride the wave of popularity of these devices.  For example MEMS products can mean accelerometers and gyroscopes for motion sensors. Or even the microphones and acoustic wave filters that enable wireless internet connections.

Interestingly MEMS equipment are only set to get more and more sophisticated as thermopiles, varactors, timing devices, pressure sensors for indoor navigation, radio frequency MEMS switches and other fancy systems are miniaturised for mobile use.

Thermopiles for example will help to monitor in close proximity to a phone or tablet case to monitor heat from the processor, meaning greater control over optimal performance.  Texas Instrument introduced such a device in May.

A MEMS joystick using optical and magnetic sensors is expected to find its way into gamer’s hands soon enough too.

According to IHS iSuppli the most compelling MEMS device is the three-axis gyroscope found in the like of the iPhone 4, Galaxy SII and many tablets. This can be used alongside an accelerometer and digital compass to allow for a new generation of motion sensor that could see augmented reality really take hold.

Revenue for the three-axis gyroscope will see a massive jump to $420 million, from $127 million last year, having also seen good uptake in the PlayStation move controller. 

The market for gyroscopes overall will account for the second largest segment of the MEMS market, behind accelerometers, which allow the simple genius rotating a mobile display’s orientation from landscape to portrait.

Overall it will be smartphones which see the biggest application of MEMS, with revenues in handsets set to reach $1.21 billion.

Gaming comes in a distance in second place, with $221.49 revenues, with tablets accounting for $158.64 million this year.

However tablet MEMS growth is expected to shoot up rapidly, having already jumped 331 percent from just $36.83 last year.

Gaming applications will see a decline on the other hand.  This is due to the influx of casual gaming, but should pick up again when more gaming devices arrive utilising MEMS .  Whether Nintendo will help out with its rather insane looking Wii update is yet to be seen, but 2013 to 2015 is expected to see growth return to this segment.

All other minor MEMS segments are expected to see growth to some degree such as cameras, MP3 players ebooks, and TechEye’s favourite MEMS segment, toy helicopters, apparently.

STMicro tops MEMS revenue, again

STMicroelectronics continues to top the charts as the biggest foundry manufacturer of microelectromechanical system (MEMS) sensors, beating the second place competition, Texas Instruments, with five times as much in revenue.

It has been leading the MEMS foundry market for four years now, and is the only company to achieve revenue in the hundreds of millions. The reason for its success? HP’s printers. Inkjet wafers accounted for the majority of its revenue in MEMS.

Despite some trouble in inkjet production, STMicro has managed to win contracts from other manufacturers like Kodak – as well as using its track record to run production lines in bio MEMS, including insulin pumps with Switzerland’s Debiotech.

Analyst outfit IHS iSuppli, which follows the MEMS market closely, reports STMicro brought in an estimated MEMS foundry service revenue of $228.6 million – compared to second place TI’s $47.4 million – in 2010 alone. Together with IDS MEMS production, the third, fourth and fifth spots were taken by Sensonor, Sony and SMI respectively.

Sony has performed well, growing 51.2 percent in MEMS market revenue – down mainly to Knowles Electronics, its biggest client.

Texas Instruments’ main problem has been in Lexmark’s shrinking inkjet business, TI’s main customer. However, IHS iSuppli says the company will grab some revenue share back following a consumer MEMS manufacturing agreement with a top 15 company in the inkjet business. 

MEMS industry recovers from Japanese trauma

Although the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were successful in damaging supply chains and some technology components, the global microelectromechanical system (MEMS) industry has dusted itself off and kick started again.  

However, according to IHS iSuppli it got off relatively easily in the first place, with problems only with demand and not on supply. It added that in fact manufacturers of finished electronic products had “been more severely impacted than the component suppliers.”

For those not in the know, MEMS devices are found in gadgets and electricals such as smartphones and tablets.  They can also be used in automotive, medical and aerospace sectors.

Nine of the top 50 MEMS manufacturers are Japanese, with companies in this region selling around $1.38 billion worth of MEMS products last year. To put this into perspective this number was around 21.3 percent of the global market. Japanese firms Canon, Panasonic, Epson and Denso all rank among the Top 20 in the global MEMS space.

And it doesn’t end there with IHS iSuppli claiming that around 32.5 percent of MEMS sensors and actuators in value were processed—either partly or entirely—in Japanese facilities in 2010. This in turn led to high revenues for these companies.

However, it’s not just Japanese companies making parts in the country, with other firms including  Freescale Semiconductor, Knowles Electronics, Goodrich Corp. and Texas Instruments all setting up shop here too. If the effects of the quake had hit MEMS then of course these would have been affected.

Thankfully the damage was not as severe as initially feared due to geography and the fact that most MEMS fabs and foundries are located in southern Honshu, away from the disaster-devastated northern section of the island.

Unlike many industries which had kept their supply tight, those in the MEMS industry had  been “employing multiple fabrication plants for manufacturing before the quake and tsunami occurred, reducing the impact of supply disruptions caused by damage to a specific factory.”

That said, not everyone came off unscathed with three of the 22 most important fabs claimed to have had “sustained direct damage.”

IHS iSuppli research found that although 19 fabs potentially could be affected by the same logistical and power issues impacting all Japanese industries in the calamity’s aftermath, only three belonging to Freescale, Canon and Texas Instruments were hurt.

Freescale as a result has decided to close its 150-millimeter (mm) fab in Sendai, near the quake’s epicentre, and focus efforts on accelerating the transfer of MEMS production to its 200-mm Oak III fab in Texas. Canon, which makes printers and MEMS print heads in the city of Fukushima, site of the nuclear meltdown, also stopped production “after significant damage to the company’s plant”. However, it managed to repair the damage very quickly, with the plant completely operational again by the first week of April.

Texas Instruments’ Miho fab northeast of Tokyo  is also said to be up and running properly by the middle of  July following repairs on brickwork, water and electricity.

New MEMS market to grow rapidly in 2011

A segment of the microelectromechanical system (MEMS) market, which goes by the name of “new MEMS” will see a huge growth spurt of 157.4 percent this year.

According to IHS iSuppli, the growth in this market, which is specifically for consumer electronics and mobile handsets, will help the whole of the MEMS industry to grow. And it’s all about the money – predictions that revenue this year, for new consumer electronic and mobile MEMS devices will reach $457.3 million, a huge jump from the $177.6 million total in 2010.

Although the new MEMS category, which caters for devices such as 3-axis gyroscopes and pico projectors, did not even exist until 2007, it has grown at a rapid pace. By 2014, it’s thought that new MEMS will generate revenue of $1.4 billion.

The reason why this technology has done so well is because it’s right at the heart of many upcoming technologies, from motion controlled video games, tablet navigation systems, and tiny projectors embedded in smart phones.

“This is driving fast revenue growth both for the new MEMS themselves and for the overall MEMS market,” the company said.

By contrast, “old MEMS”  is predicted to  grow by just 10.4 percent this year.

That said, with older products such as accelerometers and single- or dual-axis gyroscopes in its stable, established MEMS will continue to produce a bigger revenue overall.

Meanwhile, expansion rates for new consumer electronics and mobile MEMS will accumulate to 31 to 62 percent from 2012 to 2014.

By 2014 it is also thought this new segment will account for 39.5 percent of the overall revenue, which is a huge step up from its 0.2 percent share in 2007 when the segment only earned $2.4 million.

Star players in the new segment include 3-axis gyroscopes, which appear in the likes of the iPhone 4 and Move remote controller for the PlayStation 3.