Electronics and Semiconductors

Is MEMS Packaging and Testing the Next Opportunity for OSATs?

16 January 2018

More than half of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) packaging today is currently performed by outsourced semiconductor assembly and test companies (OSATs), and Yole Développement (Yole) estimates OSATs’ market share will continue to grow in the next five years. The MEMS volume augmentation, especially for RF applications, is making the MEMS business more and more attractive for OSATs, which have started to offer a wider range of packaging solutions and tests in accordance with automotive standards.

In the era of smart devices, sensing is essential as devices become substitutes for human beings. People are surrounded by sensors, relying on them for safety, entertainment, food production, transportation, etc. Whether sensors are used in smartphones, in cars or in aircraft, there are two major challenges beyond their original function: integration and reliability.

MEMS technologies have enabled high-performing, miniaturized, cost-effective and reliable sensors, many of which are designed to withstand high temperatures and harsh environments. The diversity of MEMS devices and the different technologies involved in their manufacture have led to a complex but sustainable supply chain from design to testing involving foundries, OSATs and MEMS vendors. The MEMS packaging business is organized around five main families: inertial MEMS, environmental MEMS, optical MEMS, acoustic MEMS and RF MEMS.

If the land grid array (LGA) package remains the most commonly used platform, the trend toward sensor fusion and the aggregation of several sensors in one device will increase use of system-in-package (SiP) and hybrid package platforms. An example is the recent Invensense/TDK launch of a 7-axis sensor combining an accelerometer, gyroscope and pressure sensor.

Originally, MEMS devices were packaged and tested by integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) or MEMS vendors. OSATs have been garnering an increasing market share since their entry into the MEMS packaging business, and their next opportunity is expected to be MEMS testing, a realm retained by IDMs for confidentiality reasons. In some cases, it makes sense economically to perform packaging at OSATs’ facilities when logic and MEMS dies are sourced from several suppliers.

Source: Yole Développement Source: Yole Développement

Yole estimates that the MEMS packaging market (including MEMS-based RF devices) will grow from a market value of $2.56 billion in 2016 to $6.46 billion in 2022, translating into a 16.7 percent CAGR over this period. This doubling of the market is a significant opportunity from which OSATs will benefit the most, based on Yole estimates. In a recent @Micronews interview, Alan Evans, MEMS Business Development/Technical Program Manager at Unisem Group — a Malaysian OSAT ranked by Yole at no. 6 in the MEMS packaging business — explained that the standardization of some MEMS packages fosters the outsourcing to IDMs or OSATs as the volume of dies packaged at OSATs, leveraged by their different customers, enables better cost-competitive packaging solutions.

The question remains whether the same trend will be followed in MEMS testing, as tests can represent between 30 and 90 percent of final component price depending on the end application. Some OSATs are targeting this as a new business opportunity, including Amkor Technology, which recently announced its MEMS testing capabilities.

The automotive market, which is currently undergoing a transition with the development of smart vehicles, poses opportunity as well as challenges for sensors vendors. The lifetime of automotive sensors is expected to be 10 years compared to three to four years for smartphones. There can be a trade-off between reliability and cost for infotainment devices in cars but this is not the case for safety devices, which require more testing, burn-in testing and finished package inspection. Equipment suppliers, MEMS and MEMS package designers and OSATs are working closely to enable cost-effective testing solutions.

Yole’s analysts will attend NEPCON Japan: IC & Sensor Packaging Technology Expo next week. Emilie Jolivet, Technology & Market Analyst, will be presenting a relevant presentation entitled “MEMS sensor and IC Advanced Package: How Automotive and AI Will Challenge the Packaging Business” on January 17 at 9:30 a.m., Session ISP-1. In her presentation, Emilie will offer an overview of the advanced packaging industry, with a special focus on packaging and testing for MEMS devices as well as challenges in the automotive industry. The company invites you to meet its experts at booth E71-103, in the Automotive World exhibition area, in parallel with NEPCON Japan.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com

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