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Feb 2nd, 2011
MEMS facts to watch in 2011!
For this first issue of MEMSTrends 2011, we would like to highlight what we think will be the most important MEMS areas to watch in 2011.
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First, as 2010 came to a close, we have identified first signals of what could be a re-org of the MEMS business and supply chain. This is just happening for the microphone business. If we look are the supply chain, we will see fragmentation of the activities with some processing wafers, others packaging the dies and finally a third player selling the microphones. This change could also impact other MEMS devices as well such as inertial. It means that, at the end, the sensor will not be sold by the one that make the MEMS, and this change will not concern only MEMS foundries.

Another point could be a MEMS company going IPO in 2011. There has been a lot of buzz about InvenSense IPO at the end of 2010 (which was postponed). While there are not so many MEMS companies that are likely to go IPO for 2011, we do believe another IPO could happen in 2011. On the M&A side, we believe more M&A are coming: end of December Dalsa has been acquired by Teledyne. This is the first starting point of a new wave of change of ownership for MEMS companies.

At the system level, multi-chip integration module is becoming increasingly used. This is particularly true for consumer applications for IMUs devices. In 2011, we will see as common the integration of accelerometers and gyroscopes and magnetometers as well. One likely evolution will be the integration of a pressure sensor, still for positioning applications (altimeter measurement for GPS). In general, inertial sensors will be again key growth areas for MEMS devices.

Another important fact is that 2011 could also be the year when RF MEMS switches will enter into volume production, specifically for cell phone applications. At the end of 2010, we have identified two players in qualification / pre-production with big plans for 2011.

Another topic is the growth for the uncooled IR applications. Uncooled IR players are struggling to get the cost down to enter the consumer applications. This is a challenging area for MEMS. Although microbolometers will be the dominant uncooled IR technology for the next years, we are far from a US$10 cost target. We see two approaches competing together. The microbolometers players, working hard on the design, materials and packaging side are trying to lower the cost. Big advantage is that resolution is good. On the other side, other approaches (e.g. using pyroelectric sensors) are being developed to increase the resolution while keeping very low cost. Through 2011, we believe some announcements could prove which way will be the best in efficiency/ cost effectiveness.

The optical MEMS market for fiber optic telecommunications will prove it is rising again. After a 10-year long cold winter, MEMS-based micro-mirrors are back on the scene for wavelength switching. For those of you who have known the 2000 Telecom Bubble Burst, this will be refreshing news!

On the manufacturing side, an interesting trend started a few years ago to achieve standardization of MEMS processing. The different approaches included both technology platforms and product platforms. Both aimed at developing custom-made standard MEMS manufacturing processes. An example is Dalsa with its technology platform. The objective will be for the foundries to lower the development time for new products, to decrease the time-to-market and of course to lower the cost. As second-source manufacturing partnership is still scare in MEMS, such approaches could open the way to standard MEMS processing.

In 2011, we also believe CMOS-MEMS will stay a niche technology as room temperature bonding will allow CMOS & IC interconnection without the CMOS constraints. Some MEMS will still use CMOS processes because of array structure (micro-mirrors) or because of the proximity between IC and MEMS (e.g. oscillators). But as an example, Microbolometers are today shifting from CMOS MEMS where MEMS is processed above the ROIC to wafer bonding approach.

On the material side, we also see two materials having more and more importance in the MEMS manufacturing. One is glass. Glass wafers are already used for capping and in some cases, with Through Glass Vias (TGV) for electrical interconnects. But glass wafers will gain more importance through microfluidics applications as well. Another material back on the MEMS scene is PZT. Piezo MEMS seem to have new interest and this is also largely because of new promising applications such as Wafer Level AutoFocus. On the European scene, new European projects are currently studying the different processing approaches for PZT thin films deposition.

To conclude, there will be many interesting stories to follow for 2011. Stay tune to our different MEMS Medias. This is Yole’s everyday goal to keep you aware of latest MEMS business evolution.

Eric Mounier, Project Manager, Yole Développement



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