MEMS: A tale of two tough markets

An article written by Ed Sperling, from SEMICONDUCTOR ENGINEERING. First in a series: Investments and challenges increase across the board, but for different reasons. Profits temper investments. The MEMS market is growing rapidly, profits not so much.

In most market segments, this would be a signal that more automation and standardization are required. But in the microelectromechanical systems world, fixes aren’t so simple.

And even where something can be automated, that automation doesn’t work all the time. In fact, while MEMS devices are extremely difficult to design, build and manufacture, the business side of the market is arguably even tougher to manage.

MEMS devices are created through a combination of electrical and mechanical engineering. Included in this category are inertial sensors, such as gyroscopes and accelerometers, both of which are present in almost every mobile device to detect motion. The combination of MEMS devices is how Google’s Waze, a popular peer-to-peer GPS application, can tell if you’re stuck in traffic or moving, how fast you’re moving, and when you’re likely to arrive at your destination given current traffic conditions. There also are compasses, vibration sensors, as well as capacitive touch sensors for security.

Billions of these tiny units are sold each year, with no end in sight for increases in volume. But every MEMS maker complains that ASPs have fallen faster than sales volumes have increased. Downward price pressure has dominated this market for nearly a decade, since smartphones began replacing feature phones…. Full article.


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