Global society is currently impacted by huge megatrends that will shape tomorrow’s industry. These megatrends offer impressive business opportunities for electronics, especially sensors and MEMS.
Yole Développement (Yole) estimates that the total megatrend business impact on the MEMS, sensor, and actuator market will be US$82 billion by 2023. In its annual ‘Status of the MEMS Industry’ report, Yole highlights the industry’s evolution and points out the latest technology trends. Amongst the numerous news items, the radio-frequency (RF) and timing device market segments are maybe the most interesting to follow. Growth will continue for RF, announce Yole’s analysts, driven by an increasing number of filters and by the front-end module’s increasing value. It is likely that RF players will rank highest in the MEMS industry. The news from the timing side for oscillators and resonators is also very good and SiTime has been most impressive company, doubling its revenues. Timing MEMS are expected to be one of the fastest growing areas within all other MEMS and may even grow faster than RF MEMS.
Yole Développement’s Division Director, Power & Wireless, Claire Troadec, recently had the opportunity to talk with SiTime’s CEO, Rajesh Vashist. Read on to find out about SiTime’s success, vision of the industry and tomorrow’s applications.
Claire Troadec (CT): SiTime is one of the key MEMS & Sensor companies analyzed in Yole Développement’s annual report on the top MEMS manufacturers. SiTime has grown very impressively, according to Yole’s analysts. In the light of this can you introduce SiTime and its products to our readers?
Rajesh Vashist (RV): Timing is the heartbeat of all electronics. The market for timing devices is $6B, and growing at 3-5% annually. As fifth generation (5G) wireless Communications, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Automotive applications drive innovation and growth of the electronics industry, it will create a 200 billion unit opportunity for timing components in the next decade.
SiTime, a wholly owned subsidiary of MegaChips Corporation (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6875) and the leading provider of MEMS timing solutions, is in the leadership position to capture this large opportunity. We’ve shipped over a billion units to date, have over 90% share of the MEMS timing market, and are among the three fastest growing semiconductor companies. Our mission is to solve the most difficult timing problems for our customers in Communications-5G, Mobile-IoT, Automotive, and Industrial markets. We’re working closely with industry leaders such as Intel and Bosch to secure the future of the timing industry.
SiTime’s MEMS timing products, based on our game-changing MEMS and analog technologies, are revolutionizing the timing market by offering unique features, 30 times higher performance and reliability, and 50% smaller size. Our comprehensive oscillator portfolio is programmable, resulting in tens of millions of part numbers that are optimized for each customer’s exact needs. With our MEMS resonators, we uniquely offer our semiconductor customers the ability to integrate all timing into the processor and/or system-on-chip (SoC). For more information, please visit www.sitime.com.
CT: Please tell us about SiTime’s history?
RV: For the past 70 years, quartz crystal technology has been used for timing references. SiTime started operations in 2005 with a vision to siliconize the timing industry by offering ground-breaking silicon MEMS timing solutions. We introduced our first product in 2006, and since then, have continuously innovated in all aspects of our business. Today, we have a portfolio of over 70 product families that we sell to over 8,000 customers worldwide, through 60 channel partners. Recently, we have also expanded globally with the addition of development teams in Michigan, Netherlands, and Japan.
In 2014, SiTime was acquired for $200 million by MegaChips Corporation, a publicly-traded fabless semiconductor company based in Japan. This valuation was 10 times our revenue and was the largest premium paid for a private semiconductor company in that year. With SiTime, MegaChips is on its way to realize its mission of being a top fabless semiconductor company.
CT: What makes SiTime’s MEMS technology unique?
RV: Over the past decade, several leading companies have invested up to $500M to commercialize MEMS timing solutions. Today, SiTime has more than 90% of this market. We’ve shipped over a billion units with remarkably high quality of 2 defective parts per million (DPPM), something that cannot be achieved by legacy quartz technology.
SiTime’s success is in large part due to our people and highly-innovative company culture. We have the world’s largest and best team working on timing solutions. But what differentiates us is our focus and desire to create innovative products. We take a systems approach to innovation. In other words, we holistically optimize MEMS resonators, mixed-signal CMOS, and system level integration to deliver the best possible solution. This approach is very different from other timing companies, which typically outsource one or more of these functions.
Our MEMS technology is built on single-crystal silicon, which is one of the most predictable elements, and enables us to offer consistently high quality and short lead times. Our resonators are manufactured using our patented MEMS First™ process, which has delivered the highest performance and most reliable solutions in the timing industry.
CT: What do you think is driving growth at SiTime today?
RV: Due to the high demand for bandwidth, data, automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Communications-5G, Automotive, and IoT markets are driving innovation in electronics. In each of these markets, electronics are being used in new deployment scenarios. We expect that mission critical services such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) over 5G will be deployed in the next few years. Such applications need timing components that offer the highest in-system dynamic performance and reliability. SiTime’s MEMS timing devices provide this orders of magnitude better than legacy quartz-based devices, and that is why we are being selected by customers to solve such new, unique and stringent timing requirements.
CT: What have been the critical steps in development/manufacturing/business … to achieve SiTime’s current success?
RV: Continuous innovation across development, manufacturing, and business is the hallmark of SiTime’s success and has allowed us to deliver on our vision. Over the past decade, the key timing specifications of SiTime’s products have improved by 250 to 30,000 times, a rapid rate of innovation that has shattered the barriers of legacy quartz technology. And, to quote a famous singer, “We’ve only just begun.”
Innovation has also been prevalent in our go-to-market strategy. Not only do we have a worldwide network of sales representatives and distribution partners, but we’ve partnered with over 30 quartz companies to resell our MEMS timing products, thus expanding our customer base and ensuring worldwide availability of our products.
At every stage of the company’s life, we’ve innovated to reach newer and ever-greater heights.
CT: Please tell our readers what SiTime’s views are on current applications for resonators? What will tomorrow’s applications be?
RV: SiTime’s timing products are currently used in over 200 applications in all major market segments. We expect that Communications-5G, Automotive and Mobile-IoT electronics will drive more stringent timing requirements, and that’s where SiTime solutions will see rapid adoption.
The Comms-5G market is expected to have capital expenditures of up to $2 trillion by 2023. Our precision products are being designed into 5G networks where timing and synchronization is essential to the entire system – from the backhaul to the fronthaul. Additionally, the 5G radio is expected to cover several hundreds of meters, while 4G radios covered several kilometers. Hence, 5G equipment will be deployed in uncontrolled environments such as on buildings, street lamps, traffic lights, etc., and the electronics will be subject to harsh environmental stressors such as vibration, shock, high temperature and rapid temperature change. If timing is not reliable, mission critical services will be shut down. The resiliency of SiTime’s MEMS timing will provide reliable performance in such 5G deployments, and ensure that carriers are able to offer new and essential services. As a result of our unique benefits, SiTime is collaborating with Intel to deliver solutions for 5G.
The same need for reliability and dynamic performance is driving the use of MEMS timing solutions in automotive, where systems operate in challenging environments. Our products are used in ADAS computing, camera sensors, and precision Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). Automation is accelerating the use of timing devices in vehicles, which currently use 30 to 50 in today’s models, and is quickly scaling up in number.
In Mobile-IoT applications, our miniaturized products which are up to 50% smaller than competing solutions, are used in smartphones, portable medical devices, fitness trackers, and many other systems that require small size, low-power, and reliable timing. In addition, SiTime’s products can enable the low-power and 10-year battery life that is required by most Mobile-IoT electronics.
CT: How do you see the evolution of SiTime’s activities for the next 5 years? What are the next steps?
RV: SiTime is growing at a much faster rate than the overall timing market, or for that matter, the semiconductor market. The capabilities of our team and technology enable an almost limitless vision of what we can build, which shapes our product strategy to provide unique value for our customers. We will remain focused on timing over the next few years and plan to release new, innovative solutions that set new performance benchmarks and offer unique value to the Communications-5G, Automotive and Mobile-IoT markets.
For example, our precision Elite TCXO products already deliver oven-controlled crystal oscillator (OCXO) level performance, and this is an area that we will continue to focus on.
CT: Is there anything else you would like to share with i-Micronews’ readers?
RV: As the analysts at Yole Développement have cited in reports, there are many players in the MEMS industry, however there are only a few winners. For example in MEMS microphones and gyroscopes, the top two to four players take 80% of the market. In the area of timing, SiTime is in a leadership position, and owns over 90% of the market. The future is bright, both for MEMS timing and for SiTime.
 Source : Status of the MEMS Industry Report, Yole Développement, May 2018
Rajesh Vashist, CEO of SiTime, is passionate about building great companies. He joined SiTime in 2007, a year before the financial crisis. He led the company through the Great Recession and oversaw the company’s growth from a pre-revenue startup into a successful public company. SiTime’s acquisition by MegaChips (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6875) was the largest acquisition in 2014 of a venture-backed semiconductor company, with a 10 times revenue valuation. At SiTime, Rajesh has built a culture of innovation where employees routinely create exceptional products.
Prior to SiTime, Rajesh was the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Ikanos Communications where he led the organization from a pre-revenue startup into a successful public company; he served as a General Manager at Adaptec, a storage company acquired by PMC-Sierra; and he held various general management and marketing positions at Rightworks, an ERP software company; Vitelic Semiconductor; and Samsung Semiconductor. Rajesh holds a BS degree in engineering from REC/NIT Rourkela in India and an MBA from Marquette University.
Claire Troadec is Director of the Power & Wireless Division at Yole Développement (Yole), part of Yole Group of Companies. These activities are covering power electronics, batteries & energy management, compound semiconductors and emerging materials and RF electronics.
Based on her valuable experience in the semiconductor industry, Claire is managing the expansion of the technical and market expertise of Power & Wireless team. Daily interactions with leading companies allow these analysts to collect a large amount of data and cross their vision of market segments’ evolution and technology breakthroughs.
In addition, Claire’s mission is focused on the management of business relationships with leading companies of this sector and the development of market research and strategy consulting activities inside the Yole group.
Claire Troadec holds a Master’s degree in Applied Physics specializing in Microelectronics from INSA (Rennes, France). She then joined NXP Semiconductors, and worked for 7 years as a complementary metal-on-silicon oxide semiconductor (CMOS) process integration engineer at the IMEC R&D facility. During this time, she oversaw the isolation and performance boosting of CMOS technology node devices from 90 nm down to 45 nm. She has authored or co-authored seven US patents and nine international publications in the semiconductor field and managed her own distribution company before joining Yole Développement in 2013.
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