Consumer and medical markets are paving the way for micro-machined ultrasonic transducers

The use of ultrasound for industrial and medical applications has a long and colorful history. Starting in 1965, the commercial potential of ultrasound took off, particularly for medical uses. Today, many different industries benefit from the advancement of ultrasound technology.
The ultrasound industry is stable and mature, with key markets such as non-destructive testing, automotive and medical constantly delivering new technological developments. But new consumer markets such as fingerprint sensors for smartphones and gesture recognition are now looking at this technology, injecting vibrancy.

Yole Développement’s (Yole) describes in the “Ultrasound Sensing Technologies for Medical, Industrial and Consumer Applications” report how the ultrasonic transducer ecosystem will evolve, and how Micro-machined ultrasound transducer (MUT) technologies will rapidly penetrate the ultrasound market.

Ultrasound sensing PMUT CMUT technologies takeoff July2018(Source: Ultrasound Sensing Technologies for Medical, Industrial and Consumer Applications – Yole Développement, July 2018)


The main technology for ultrasonic sensing of the environment relies on bulk piezoelectric transducers made of lead zirconate titanate (PZT). However, a new revolution is about to take place in the ultrasound industry. Semiconductor micro-machined ultrasonic transducers (MUT) have arrived, either in the form of piezoelectric micro-machined ultrasonic transducers (PMUT) or capacitive micro-machined ultrasonic transducers (CMUT).
For decades, micro-machined ultrasonic transducers have been knocking at the door of mass-markets. At last, mass-market is about to happen and it’s because of four concurrent factors. Those are: new applications in the consumer and medical markets; technology readiness of CMUT and PMUT transducers; long term investments in the technologies; and readiness of the supply chain. This alignment of favorable factors has set the stage for micro-machined ultrasonic sensing’s arrival in several applications and markets.

In consumer applications, where major shipments are expected, PMUT is seen as a key technology in order to achieve integration, low price, and small size.

Fingerprint sensors have been massively adopted, and the volumes of sensors shipped into the consumer market have grown incredibly. At first, the sensors were a convenience and protection feature for unlocking phones. However, they are now shifting into a security feature for online identification and mobile payment in an increasing number of smartphones. Fingerprint sensing is becoming a mandatory feature on every new smartphone, adding a lot of value.
But here again the competition is tough, with other technologies such as optical fingerprint or face recognition.
The ultrasonic fingerprint sensing market was worth $102M in 2017 and is expecting to reach $2,158M in 2023, which represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 65%!


Ultrasound modules market forecast by segment by technology July2018(Source: Ultrasound Sensing Technologies for Medical, Industrial and Consumer Applications – Yole Développement, July 2018)

Ultrasound scanners could replace stethoscopes hanging around physicians’ necks – and that’s not far away!

Bulk piezoelectric is well-established in the medical ultrasound market and MUT technologies are not expected to replace current detector solutions even if some players, like Hitachi, Vermon, Verasonics and Kolo Medical are already selling medical ultrasound probes with CMUT transducers. Most probably these technologies will open up new markets and applications, such as portable and handheld systems.
The medical ultrasound market was shaken up 10 years ago with the arrival of lower cost, portable systems. We are now expecting a new disruption in the medical area with the availability of handheld ultrasound systems, with new applications and new users, including primary care physicians, paramedics and emergency physicians.
These ultraportable systems are using today bulk piezoelectric elements and are commercialized by companies such as Clarius, GE Healthcare, and Philips with a target price between $5,000 and $10,000.
But newcomers using CMUT, like Butterfly Network or PMUT, like eXo Imaging, are coming to the market with a target price of less than $2,000. This will undoubtedly disrupt the medical ultrasound market!
The total medical ultrasound market in 2017 is worth $7.7B at the system level, and with a CAGR for 2017-2023 of 5% is a mature market. The handheld ultrasound segment is only worth $388M in 2017, but we expect it to reach $1,588M in 2023 at the system level, a CAGR of 26%!


Micromachined ultrasound transducers have different origins but together they are poised to experience very high growth in the next 5 years!

CMUT technologies were driven by strong demand coming from medical imaging to get higher resolution and deeper views of organs during diagnostics. Stanford University was the first laboratory developing CMUT components about 15 years ago. In the meantime, several companies also developed CMUT transducers, including Philips, Micralyne, Silex, Tronics and Vermon.
Development of thin-film PZT capabilities for other applications in piezo-MEMS, such as microphones, inkjets and integrated passive devices, has accelerated the development of PMUT transducers. The first companies developing such capabilities started less than ten years ago and interest for PMUT has grown over the last five years.
Therefore, PMUT development is not at the same stage as for CMUT where we have already seen products on the market for a couple of years. However, we can expect PMUT to follow soon, with PMUT fingerprint ultrasonic sensors being integrated in the next Samsung Galaxy, as an example.
MUT transducers represent a very small part (less than 1%) of the number of transducers shipped in 2017 but we are expecting them to represent more than 31% of the shipment of ultrasound sensing modules by 2023.



Photo MarjorieVillien YOLE 2018

As a Technology & Market Analyst, Medical Imaging & Biophotonics, Dr. Marjorie Villien is member of the Life Sciences & Healthcare division at Yole Développement. She is a daily contributor to the development of medical technologies activities with a dedicated collection of market & technology reports as well as custom consulting projects.
As an example, Marjorie was involved in a project focused on videoscopy for endoscopy application, to understand the benefits of the CCD/CMOS solution and identify business opportunities. In parallel, she performed an analysis of the PET detectors technology to evaluate the impact of innovative Solid-State technologies on the evolution of the nuclear medicine industry.
After spending two years at Harvard, Marjorie served as a research scientist at INSERM in the field of medical imaging for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and cancers.
She has spoken in numerous international conferences and has authored or co-authored 11 papers and 1 patent.
Marjorie is daily exchanging with clinicians, researchers and industrial partners to understand technology issues and ensure the connection between R&D and applications.
Marjorie Villien graduated from Grenoble INP and holds a PhD in physics & medical imaging.



 Source: Yole Développement



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Ultrasound Sensing Technologies for Medical, Industrial and Consumer Applications

New applications along with manufacturing capabilities and technological readiness are driving the takeoff of micro-machined ultrasonic transducers. – Get more





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