A Good Time for Innovation

Yole looks for a wide range of MEMS-based products to be introduced this year.

Despite the current economic situation, a piece of good news is that innovation will not come to a halt in 2009: we expect that this will be one of the greatest years ever for new product introductions.

The MEMS market in general is still very fragmented in terms of companies and products.

This is one of the reasons why the MEMS business is less affected by the current economic crisis than the semiconductor industry: 2008 has been stable compared to 2007, with B$6.8 in revenue. Yole predicts that 2009 will be also very stable and that recovery is likely to appear from 2010.

Fig.1 Accelerometers account for the biggest MEMS application segment for thick SOI wafer consumption. (Courtesy: Yole)

The mobile phone market with over 1 billion devices sold per year is certainly the most attractive market in terms of volume for any semiconductor device manufacturer, including MEMS. The smart phone segment, which is emerging as the most eager to integrate new functions, represents over 100 million devices. As such, it offers the greatest opportunities for new product introductions.

Accelerometers for motion sensing and gyroscopes for image stability in camera modules currently represent the highest growth opportunities. The use of the SOI substrates in these applications is already well established in key products (from Freescale and STM for example).

SOI-based MEMS use thick SOI wafers. (The other major market is in power devices, which accounts for about two-thirds of the thick SOI wafers used.) The consumption of these wafers for MEMS indicates that market sector remains in a steady growth phase. Well over 80% of the thick SOI wafers used for MEMS are used for accelerometers and gyroscopes (see Figure 1).

RF MEMS antenna matching for the mobile phone market is another opportunity, as is silicon-based autofocus for turning high-end mobile phones into cameras.

There will certainly be even more innovations over a wide range of applications. MEMS are gaining market share on existing technologies, bringing lower costs, more integration, and new functionality.

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