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Jul 24th, 2014
Incredible trends in the inertial sensor fields...
Yole Développement (Yole) has teamed-up with System Plus Consulting (S+C) years ago in order to analyze the manufacturing and technology trends in the manufacturing of MEMS devices (among others) and also the impact of such changes in the production costs of MEMS devices.
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Inertial devices have been the most impacted business in terms of technology and cost evolution. 10 years ago, accelerometers were bulky devices using ceramic packages at more than $10 per axis. Now this is quite different…



Yole has updated its report on “Inertial Mems manufacturing and technology trends” in March 2014 in order to highlight such trends, and understand what could happen. But this field is an ever changing area. Both mCube, several months ago, and now, Bosch Sensortec with its BMA 355 WLCSP 3 axis accelerometer, have been able to push the limits of the miniaturization of such device to the limit of the comb drive detection principles: Bosch Sensortec device volume is 1.4mm3, “just” a 60% volume reduction compared to the standard 3 axis accelerometer devices available on the market. Just incredible… Bosch has been able to achieve such size reduction (and of course drastic production cost reduction also), by using TSV in the middle process approach (the TSV is in the ASIC), allowing to remove the substrate of the package, with WLCSP approach. Such TSV in the ASIC approach combined with WLCSP and Bosch MEMS design is providing a very competitive product to Bosch Sensortec.

Several months ago, mCube has released what was at that time the smallest 3 axis accelerometer (and one of the cheapest to produce). But the technologies used to achieve such size reduction and production costs decrease are totally different from Bosch Sensortec: the MEMSdie is manufactured with mCube 3D MEMS process which consists of building the MEMS die on top of the ASIC and using TSV to make the connections between the functions of the die. This process allows to remove bonding pads, simplifies the packaging and, combined with the eutectic bonding process of the cap on the MEMS structures, provides very low manufacturing costs.

Both devices have been analyzed in details by S+C (in addition to more than 50 Mems inertial sensors…) and the reverse engineering and reverse costing reports on these 2 devices are available now here.

So MEMS devices are moving to new price decrease and increased competition among the new companies. We can dream, that, with the combination of mCube approach and the one from Bosch Sensortec, you can even further decrease the size of the device and, as a result, decrease the manufacturing costs. When will we get a device below 1mm3 ? Let’s guess it will happen within the next 12 months… And new detection principles are about to reach the market (like the M&NEMS technology from Tronics and CEA/LETI, the 9 axis announced by mCube and several others) and will certainly also change the inertial MEMS paradigm.
Last but not least, the issue is the value of your product: 1 billion units at 15 cents means a $150M market… even with a nice EBITDA; this is becoming very small. The value of MEMS devices is moving from the device to the functions. The last acquisition of Movea by InvenSense, Xsens by Fairchild… are the signs that device makers have understood that the business trend of MEMS devices is now to sell functions to the customers, in order to move up again the value of the MEMS enabled functions…

Let’s see what the other companies in this inertial sensor business will do: More acquisitions of software companies, development of new detection principles, further scaling of the comb drive detection principles, combination of innovation in front end and back end to reduce die size. The options are limited. Yole and S+C will keep you informed on such changes! You will also find information about these trends in the "Status of the MEMS Industry 2014" report that Yole will release next week. Stay tuned!


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