High-Value MEMS to Preserve Stable Growth

16 September 2013

The market this year for high-value microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors looks set to continue the stable growth exhibited in 2012 as revenue expands 6.3 percent by year-end, according to a new report from IHS Inc., a leading global source of critical information and insight.

Revenue for high-value MEMS will amount to $1.60 billion at the close of 2013, up from $1.50 billion last year. The increase this year of roughly $100 million in revenue parallels the uptick in 2012 when revenue rose from $1.41 billion in 2011. Performance in 2013 is commendable considering the depressed state of most markets in the industrial segment, and is a result of balancing forces from growing areas like oil and gas discovery as well as the civil aerospace sector, both of which deploy MEMS inertial and pressure sensors.

Another $130 million increase is projected in 2014, after which the market begins to accelerate, adding $170 million in 2016 and again in 2017. By 2017, the high-value MEMS market will be worth some $2.21 billion, equivalent to a healthy five-year compound annual growth rate of 8 percent.

High-value MEMS sensors are characterized by elevated average selling prices, which can run up to the tens of thousands of dollars. The market is highly fragmented and serves more than 100 different applications with 21 devices, leaving adequate room for the coexistence of various large, medium and myriad small integrating companies buying MEMS semiconductors that then turn them into packaged sensors.

As a result, the Top 10 suppliers of high-value MEMS accounts for a smaller percentage of the total compared to other markets or industries-just above 42 percent in this case. Nonetheless, the premium that MEMS sensors generally commands in high-value MEMS means the segment can feed well over 120 recognized companies.  

Test and measurement applications will make up the majority of high-value MEMS sales by the time the year is over, accounting for one-quarter of industry revenue. Together with the three other segments of military and civil aerospace, medical electronics and industrial applications, the four categories will represent nearly 80 percent of total high-value MEMS revenue in 2013.

One other segment-building and home control-is small at present with less than 10 percent share of revenue, but rapid growth will cause revenue to double in the next five years. Among the notable applications for building and home control are the automation of smart buildings, security cameras, remote temperature sensing, seismic monitoring and gas metering.

The leading high-value MEMS device this year will continue to be pressure sensors, having overtaken wafer probe cards used in semiconductor wafer measurement. Pressure sensors are used in many applications-from automotive racing to industrial process monitoring, disposable blood sensors used during operations, engine and air data in aircraft, and hydraulics in ships.  

Also important as a high-value MEMS device this year are microbolometers-tiny arrays of heat-detecting sensors sensitive to infrared radiation that are used in firefighting, law enforcement and surveillance systems. Completing the list of significant devices are accelerometers and inkjet print heads. 

Among companies, the key players include California-based FormFactor; Micronics of Japan; Honeywell from New Jersey and General Electric from New York-both making pressure sensor among others; and infrared-camera maker FLIR Systems from Oregon.

Japan's Epson is particularly strong because of its print head business, while Ulis of France and Raytheon from Massachusetts are prominent in microbolometers.

Rounding out the rest of the important high-value MEMS players are Murata-originally VTI of Finland-and Analog Devices from Massachusetts, both of which supply inertial sensors.

Read more >> A few bright spots in a dark industrial market

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