Electronics Production | February 02, 2009

Popular consumer & mobile products fuel MEMS boom

From the gyroscope in your PlayStation 3 game controller, to the accelerometer in your iPhone, Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) are making major inroads in the consumer- and mobile-electronics worlds, causing market revenue in this area to nearly triple from 2006 to 2012, according to iSuppli.
Global revenue from shipments of MEMS for consumer and mobile electronics is expected to rise to $2.6 billion in 2012, up from $1.1 billion in 2006. Figure 1 attached presents iSuppli’s forecast of global MEMS revenue for consumer and mobile applications.

Consumer electronics devices consume MEMS
Shipment revenue for MEMS in consumer electronics devices will increase to $1.1 billion in 2012, up from $699.9 million in 2006. Products in this segment consist of game controllers, digital still cameras, camcorders, MP3 players, personal navigation devices, remote controllers, rear-projection televisions, mini stand alone projectors, sports equipment, white goods, toys, headsets and USB sticks.

The major area driving growth will be video-game console controllers, an area that will grow to $240.6 million in 2012, up from $28.1 million in 2006.

“From the late 1990s until the end of 2006, the market for video-game MEMS made little progress,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst, MEMS, for iSuppli. “However, the arrival of the Nintendo Wii showed how MEMS motion sensors can enhance or even be essential to the gaming experience. By the end of 2006, MEMS sensors also were being employed in the Sony PlayStation 3. The inclusion of MEMS in two of the three major gaming consoles is causing this market to expand.”

With the Wii attracting entirely new groups of users, Microsoft Corp. has softened its opposition to MEMS accelerometers and during the 2008 Christmas season began rolling out and promoting MEMS-equipped Xbox 360 accessories for games like such as Lips and Guitar Hero.

Mobile handsets accelerate accelerometer demand
“Despite the overall electronics downturn, the MEMS market began accelerating in 2008, mainly due to an explosion in demand for accelerometers in mobile handsets,” Bouchaud said. “Penetration of accelerometers in new mobile phones rose to 10 percent in 2008, up from 3 percent in 2007.”

iSuppli predicts mobile handsets will remain the market’s main driver until 2012, not only for accelerometers but also for other devices like Radio Frequency (RF) MEMS filters, actuators for zoom and autofocus, radio frequency MEMS switches, pressure sensors, gyroscopes and pico projectors.”

Global revenue from shipments of all types of MEMS for mobile handsets and smart phones will increase to $1.3 billion by the end of 2012, rising at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 34.4 percent from $296.8 million in 2007.

Notebook freefall spurs rising MEMS shipments
Looking at another type of popular product, notebook PCs, MEMS accelerometers are increasingly being employed to detect freefall and quickly park the heads of the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) to protect it from damage. Until this year, such systems mainly were used in professional notebooks. However, the system is being employed in consumer systems starting in 2009.

iSuppli predicts the market for notebook PC MEMS—also including microphones and pressure sensors—will rise to $185.9 million in 2012, up from $37.6 million in 2006.

STMicroelectronics takes consumer/mobile MEMS lead

STMicroelectronics took the lead in the global consumer/mobile MEMS market in 2008, rising from second place to displace the former No.-1 player, Texas Instruments Inc. The company’s share of global consumer/mobile MEMS revenue rose to 18 percent in 2008, up from 9.7 percent in 2007. Figure 2 presents iSuppli’s ranking of the Top-15 suppliers of MEMS in order of revenue.

In 2008 STMicroelectronics more than doubled its revenue from accelerometers, gyroscopes and pressure sensors for consumer and mobile applications, exceeding $200 million in 2008.

Other MEMS suppliers worth noting include Epson Toyocom, which experienced an 75 percent increase in MEMS sales due to its new-generation gyroscope for gaming and navigation applications. Likewise, Bosch Sensortec’s revenue exploded by 167.3 percent in 2008, driven by strong sales in mobile handsets. Kionix, whose sales grew by 29.9 percent in 2008, has now expanded to 120 employees. Finally, startup Invensense only began shipping its MEMS products in 2007 and already exceeded $40 million in revenue in 2008.

Image Source: MEMX
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