Despite market saturation and stagnation saddling many business sectors, MEMS remains a shining star in the semiconductor industry. Opportunities in automotive, consumer electronics, mobile, medical are rising. What is supporting this industry growth? Who are the big players on the horizon?
SEMI spoke with Dimitrios Damianos, Technology Market Analyst, Photonics, Sensing and Display division at Yole Développement, about MEMS market dynamics and future trends. Damianos shared his views ahead of his presentation at SEMI MEMS & Imaging Sensors Summit, 25-27 September, 2019, at the WTC in Grenoble, France. Join us at the event to meet experts from Yole and many other key industry influencers. Registration is open.
SEMI: MEMS and sensors is one of the healthiest industries not only in Europe but globally. Despite a global economic slowdown, the MEMS and sensors is still growing. What is fueling this growth?
Damianos: The value of the global MEMS and sensor market will almost double from $48 billion in 2018 to $93 billion in 2024. In 2018 the MEMS and sensor market represented more than 10% of the total IC market, as more and more MEMS devices and sensors, such as MEMS, image sensors, and RF filters, are integrated in end products in consumer and automotive. In particular, the value of the MEMS-only market reached $11.6 billion in 2018, with consumer applications accounting for more than 60% of the total market. From 2019 to 2024 the MEMS market will grow 8.3% annually in value driven by pressure (for TPMS), RF (for V2X 5G communications), inertial (for ADAS) and future MEMS (such as pMUT for ultrasonic fingerprint) (Source: Status of the MEMS Industry report, Yole Développement, 2019).
SEMI: How are MEMS shaping the semiconductor industry today?
Damianos: MEMS have a make-smarter enabling capability. They are providing context for new applications and services in transportation, mobility, health, and security. Large companies such as Alibaba and Google are considering MEMS as a critical element in their business solution domains covering the upcoming smart home, smart campus, smart city and smart industry applications. MEMS have key features that correspond to these companies’ criteria for accuracy, small size (without performance degradation), low power and always on (e.g. microphones). Furthermore, with the advent of sensor fusion and edge computing, more sensor data can be processed, maximizing the qualitative and useful information about us and our surroundings. This has a huge impact in all markets, especially consumer.
SEMI: MEMS foundries performed well thanks to the boom in industrial and medical applications. Who are the big players right now?
Damianos: During 2018, all foundries saw their revenue increase. STMicroelectronics, Teledyne Dalsa, Silex, IMT, Micralyne and Philips Innovation Service are important MEMS foundry players that offer services for various MEMS devices used in medical and industrial markets, among others. On one hand, medical applications were driven mostly by microfluidics, flowmeters, pressure and inertial MEMS. On the other hand, industrial applications were driven by inkjet heads, microbolometers and pressure MEMS. The market prospect, however, is huge for RF MEMS and oscillators that will be used in next-generation 5G infrastructure.
SEMI: What is the current status of MEMS for automotive applications? What are the related market drivers?
Damianos: In automotive applications, accelerometers and pressure sensors still account for the lion’s share in units. Pressure sensors will grow at more than 8% with Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) implemented in Chinese vehicles in the near future. After 2019 and 2020, with the new Chinese standard, GB 2614, TPMS will become compulsory: 100% of all new vehicles will have TPMS. Also, automotive MEMS could grow quicker than the corresponding car market (currently at approximately 3%). The reason is a higher number of many different MEMS devices that are being integrated in cars, such as MEMS inertial measurement units (IMUs), TPMS, environmental MEMS for gas and particle monitoring in-cabin and microphones for hands-free voice commands.
SEMI: After years of decline, the inkjet heads industry is growing again. What other segments are benefiting from MEMS technology applications? Can you name two examples?
Damianos: RF MEMS (BAW filters) is also benefiting from applications in smartphones and will continue to benefit with the arrival of 5G. 5G means additional high frequency sub-6 GHz bands that can only be addressed by BAW filters. Moreover, new infrastructure approach using active antennas will create an expanding market for BAW.
Another segment is inertial sensors. Inertial MEMS already have a high potential in wellness and fitness wearables and are gaining support for medical wearable applications to monitor patient activity, with the aim to prevent seizure in cases of epilepsy and other mental disorders. Compared to other types of sensors, MEMS is the golden technology for inertial sensors integrated into medical wearables. They are used for rehabilitation systems, activity trackers and assistance living/fall detection. Specifically, the IMU market will continue to grow for consumer and automotive applications as their price and form factor continue to shrink and they replace traditional standalone MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes. However, the inertial sensor market will mostly grow for smartphone applications (mostly 6DOF, with 9DOF volumes being comparatively low).
SEMI: Give us one prediction about the opportunities offered by the MEMS technology.
Damianos: Sensor fusion is becoming more and more relevant since billions of MEMS sensors are made every year. The upcoming 5G revolution will make connectivity easier than ever, creating exponentially more data. To make these data meaningful, data processing is mandatory. Big data is an industry born of recent advancements in AI and machine learning, built upon and fueled by a wealth of new data from ever-expanding sensor applications. An upcoming trend is edge computing, with sensors and MEMS driving a new age of technology. Sensors are digitizing the human experience, and as the real and virtual worlds move closer together, it will be sensors that bind them, enabling new experiences for users everywhere. Running AI at the edge, coupled with sensor fusion, will open new applications for MEMS in audio, motion, olfactometry, and imaging. We also expect that new MEMS devices (microspeakers, ultrasonic fingerprint, pMUT) and piezoelectric MEMS technology could rejuvenate the MEMS market.
SEMI: What are your expectations for SEMI MEMS & Imaging Sensors Summit and why would you invite your peers to attend?
Damianos: SEMI is organizing another very successful event, gathering experts from the Imaging and MEMS industries. We are at a turning point of innovation, with many technological advancements in AI, IoT, AR/VR, biometrics, and other areas where Imaging and MEMS technologies are paramount. Yole is excited to hear the thoughts of many high-profile experts on existing activities and future prospects within their organizations. If you are too, then it is an event that you shouldn’t miss!
Dimitrios Damianos, Ph.D. is a Technology and Market Analyst in the Photonics, Sensing and Display division at Yole Développement (Yole). Damianos is a member of a Yole team that produces technology and market reports on the imaging industry including photonics and sensors. Damianos holds a MSc degree in Photonics from the University of Patras (Greece). After his research on theoretical and experimental quantum optics and laser light generation, Dimitrios pursued a Ph.D. in optical and electrical characterization of dielectric materials on silicon with applications in photovoltaics and image sensors, as well as SOI for microelectronics at Grenoble’s university (France). He has also authored and co-authored several scientific papers in international peer-reviewed journals.
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Serena Brischetto is a marketing and communications manager at SEMI Europe.