Electronics Production | April 07, 2011

Texas re-takes MEMS market leadership in 2010

Five years after losing its leadership position in the global market for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), Texas Instruments reclaimed the top spot in 2010 because of resurgent demand for the company’s Digital Light Processing (DLP) chips.
Texas Instruments in 2010 sold USD 793 million worth of MEMS, up an impressive 24.9% from $635 million in 2009. This allowed the company to surpass the previous leader Hewlett-Packard Co., whose sales were slightly down in 2010 at USD 782.1 million, compared to USD 784.5 million in 2009.

“Texas Instruments’ fortunes in the MEMS market have risen and fallen based on the success of its DLP technology,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst MEMS and sensors for IHS. “Until the year 2005, the company had built a leadership position in the MEMS market on the popularity of its DLP display technology in rear-projection television sets. However, the company fell from the top spot as demand and pricing for DLP chips dropped because of the disappearance of the rear-projection television market. Now with the rising demand for DLPs in front-projectors and pico projectors, Texas Instruments managed to reclaim the lead.”

© IHS iSuppli

The fall and rise of DLP

Having peaked at USD 920 million in 2004, Texas Instruments’ DLP revenue dropped by 31% during the next six years to dwindle to USD 635 million in 2009. The large size of the DLP market sapped the MEMS market’s growth during this period.

However, sales of DLP chips are on the rise again.

Much of the renewed demand is being driven by the front projector segment of the business and education markets, especially in China and India. In the front projector area, DLP is grabbing market share from liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. One advantage of DLP over LCD is capability to project 3D content which is a bonus for physics or biology presentations in the education segment.

Meanwhile, DLP is benefitting from the explosive growth of the pico projector market.

Pico projectors are front projectors weighing less than 2 pounds (about 0.9 kilograms) and sized at less than 60 cubic inches (about 983 cubic centimeters) without a battery pack. Despite their small sizes, pico projectors produce large displays, with some products capable of showing bright, 50-inch diagonal images on a wall or other surface using DLP technology.

This combination of small physical size and large image makes embedded pico projectors a perfect fit for space-constrained mobile devices, such as smart phones and netbook PCs.

Close to 1 million DLP pico projectors shipped in 2010.

Based on the popularity of these products, the recovery in DLP sales will continue during the coming years, with revenue exceeding USD 1 billion in 2013, up from USD 790 million in 2010.

Hewlett-Packard stagnates in 2010

Hewlett-Packard in 2010 dropped to second place after seeing its MEMS revenue decline by 0.3%. The stagnant performance was because of the weakness in the inkjet printhead segment, which contracted by 0.8% for the year. While HP’s shipments of inkjet printers were up again in 2010, revenues were down.

This is because of price erosion for the printheads, as well as Hewlett-Packard’s increasing use of permanent parts. Hewlett-Packard in 2005 began to transition away from disposable to permanent printheads. This resulted in lower shipments of MEMS disposable print nozzles as HP’s installed base for printers using disposable printheads is shrinking.

Bosch accelerates from accelerometer sales

The Bosch Group GmbH maintained its No. 3 ranking in the overall MEMS market and its leadership position in the sensor segment of the MEMS business. The company in 2010 reached USD 643 million in MEMS revenue, up 46% from USD 440 million in 2009.

Consumer MEMS revenue for Bosch Sensortec grew by 51% in 2010 to reach $120 million, up from USD 80 million in 2009, with accelerometers for cell phones being the main source of revenue in this area. As a result, Bosch remained the fastest-growing company in the consumer accelerometer area, ahead of all its competitors in the consumer MEMS segment. Competitors included ADI Inc., which expanded by 30%; Kionix Inc., which grew by 22%; and STMicroelectronics, which rose by 10%.

Bosch’s consumer growth should continue, as IHS believes that the company is preparing to launch a 3-axis gyroscope in 2011, even though it has not made any official comments on the matter.

Bosch’s automotive MEMS expansion

IHS estimates that Bosch’s automotive MEMS revenue grew by an impressive 45% in 2010 from USD 360 million to USD 523 million, compared to 32% for the rest of the automotive MEMS market. The company’s automotive MEMS sales benefited from factors including the rapid rebound in passenger car production, rising sales of luxury cars and strong demand for sensor-equipped cars in Germany. Other factors boosting Bosch’s performance included the company’s strong position in pressure sensors for manifold air pressure sensors in China and new government mandates for automotive safety systems that require sensors.

STMicroelectronics on the rise

STMicroelectronics is the fastest-growing company among the Top 10 MEMS suppliers in 2010, with its revenue increasing by 60%. The company remained the No. 1 supplier in the rapidly expanding market for consumer electronics and cell phone MEMS, at USD 354 million.

STMicroelectronics has shipped 50% of the consumer accelerometer demand during the last two years. Because of this, the company cannot reasonably expect to increase its share significantly in the future. As accelerometer revenue growth slows, STMicroelectronics has sought new growth drivers, investing heavily in gyroscope development in 2008 and 2009.

This paid off in 2010, as gyroscopes brought in USD 117 million of revenue for the company and contributed 85% of the revenue growth of STMicroelectronics in the consumer MEMS area. The company also has paved the way for its next growth drivers with MEMS microphones and MEMS pressure sensors for handsets and tablets, which should contribute to revenue from 2011.

For automotive, STMicroelectronics has started shipping low-g accelerometers while also introducing high-g accelerometers for airbags in 2010.
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