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News Article

MEMS Based Modules

Jean Christophe Eloy of Yole Développement discusses the state of the MEMS industry for 2005 and highlights key areas for 2006 with a focus on the change from MEMS devices to MEMS modules that integrate into the electronics world.

The MEMS industry has seen several important developments in 2005 with continued growth in applications that are booming (Si microphone, TPMS, 2D and 3D accelerometer ...) with more than 100% growth compared to 2004. Other applications have stabilized before new growth (the DLP business from TI has decreased by 8%, due to price reduction and inventory adjustment)

  • Development of consumer applications
  • Strong development of contract manufacturers and foundries business with more than 35% growth 
  • Strong M&A activities with the creation of important players (acquisition by Schneider Electric of BEI Technologies, including Systron Donner, acquisition by Honeywell of First Technology, series of acquisitions for Measurement Specialities ...) 
  • Changes in policy of several key players (introduction of permanent ink jet head by HP) YOLE Développement has estimated the MEMS market at $ 5.1 B, with an AGR expected at 15% in the next 4 years.

One of the key trends impacting the industry is the offering of function over device by manufacturers to add value to modular embedded MEMS. Companies like SiTime, Honeywell, Bosch, SonionMEMS, Akustica ... as well as new companies like Silicon Clocks, Perpetuum, Silmach ... are promoting such innovative offers. YOLE Développement have identified more than 20 new start-ups worldwide which are developing the latest in devices with the same targets: Using MEMS technologies to replace non silicon devices. Components like quartz oscillator, loudspeakers, microphone, motion sensing ... currently using non-silicon may be replaced by MEMS based devices.

The levels of integration may differ: today, Knowles Acoustics products integrate microphone sensors with ASIC in order to deliver an analogue or digital signal. The objective of Knowles Acoustics is to start with this first product and then integrate the amplifier chip, a controller and link software in order to deliver an acoustic module for conferencing functions in mobile devices. In this example the semiconductor infrastructure is used to offer a different cost structure compared to MEMS devices. SonionMEMS has a different approach: their device stacks 3 structures, including a MEMS membrane and an ASIC. Here, the MEMS infrastructure is used to deliver similar functionality. Another approach is Akustica: this company has announced its new product and is reviewed elsewhere in this magazine.

There are many examples of such innovation including a chemical sensor manufacturer named MICS (the company bought Motorola's chemical sensor business). They are proposing a chemical sensing device for automotive, building control and air quality applications.

The company initially proposed a sensor but integration difficulties meant the company now works directly with Tier 1 suppliers delivering packaged sensors plus electronics and software. The price is now 2.5 to 3 times more costly enabling a higher margin and direct access to the final customer. MICS, like the 3 other companies mentioned before, is reusing existing semiconductor and MEMS infrastructure to obtain access to the best wafer and processing capabilities. The design, surface functionalisation, packaging and test remains in-house. The same trends are being followed by SiTime, Invensense, and Discera ... All these new MEMS companies are fabless or fablight, focusing on design, packaging and test, reusing the MEMS and semiconductor infrastructures and delivering products with high levels of packaging and software ... in order to have access to Tier 1 suppliers or system suppliers directly. Such an approach is most welcome by system manufacturers who do not want to deal with the complexity of MEMS integration. The work is done by the MEMS manufacturers.

This new trend can rapidly change the way the MEMS industry is organised. It will bring increasing amounts of business to MEMS contract manufacturers and foundries but it may marginalize system manufacturers with integrated fabs, who are unable to maintain a competitive cost structure. The increased activities of Sony and DNP as MEMS foundries are key signs of evolution of the MEMS industry.

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