Thick SOI: MEMS Moves Up in $75M Materials Market

Market analysts at Yole look at the rapid growth of thick film SOI for MEMS applications.

While thin-film SOI applications (especially for microprocessors) dominate SOI markets, thick-film SOI applications account for more than 20% of the total SOI production. SOI is considered “thick” when the thickness of the top single-crystal silicon layer is 1µm or more.

The total thick SOI market reached $75 million in 2005. By 2009, we expect this market to grow by over 41%, reaching about $106 million. We see particularly strong growth in thick SOI-based MEMS and power devices.

For the MEMS industry, SOI provides a precise etch-stop solution, and enables exceptional control of the structure thickness. In the power devices field, SOI allows the insulation of different device cells for in-line IGBT modules and more generally for integrated IPM (Intelligent Power Modules).

MEMS Momentum

Power devices are the biggest market for thick SOI, especially for applications such as plasma TV, home appliances and motor control. Major players include NEC, Fuji Electric, Denso, STM, Toshiba, Philips, Hitachi and Analog Devices.

However, in terms of growth rates, SOI MEMS is coming up fast. In 2005, 27% of the thick market revenues were in SOI MEMS. By 2009, the MEMS share of thick SOI revenues will increase by over a third, accounting for over 36% of thick SOI revenues.

SOI-based MEMS manufacturers are geographically dispersed, with 30% each for the US and Europe, and about 40% for Asia. New initiatives from the world over are pushing this market ahead. Accelerometers, gyroscopes, RF and optical MEMS are the leading MEMS applications using thick-SOI substrates.

Recent announcements indicate new or expanded efforts. Freescale started SOI-based accelerometers production in the Tohoku (Japan) fab in 2005, and plans to launch the gyro, based on the same technology, by 2007. VTI is extending its fab. Analog Devices is still very active in the thick-SOI MEMS field, despite having sold the Irish subsidiary BCO. SMI, Bosch, Mitsubishi, Honeywell and Colibrys are other examples of some well-known MEMS players with strong R&D in thick SOI, which could help drive this market to new highs.

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