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MEMS & Sensors

By far the biggest magnetic sensor business is automotive. According to Yole Développement’s recent report, Magnetic Sensor Market and Technology 2017, automotive accounts for more than 50% of the magnetic sensor market’s $1.646B value. Today, the average internal combustion engine (ICE) car uses 20 - 30 magnetic sensors, a number that rises to as many as 35 in hybrid cars, which require additional current sensors.

Magnetic sensors are used for position and speed sensing, switching, and current sensing, and have the advantage of being contactless and thus very robust. Magnetic sensors’ already-significant contribution to car electrification will continue in the coming years in both powertrain and auxiliary brushless motors, and as reliability requirements increase for autonomous cars.

“Industrial and other applications” comprise a second market for magnetic sensors, one which includes industrial plants, transportation, homes, appliances, and consumer electronics. This market is very fragmented, with smaller volumes and more dedicated products than in automotive, which thus command a higher-price.Nevertheless, many of the same trends in automotive will drive this second market’s growth. Also, the transition to brushless motors and IoT are boosting the market by providing intelligence and connectivity to objects either for “industry 4.0” or for consumer smart homes. Therefore we expect this business to show double digit growth, the highest of any magnetic sensor market.

The electronic compass (“ecompass”) market is stabilizing after several years of volatility caused by rapid price erosion and smartphone market saturation. eEcompasses using 3D magnetic sensors equip a majority of smartphones, giving pedestrians precise directions in digital maps. Also, for the last few years ecompasses have supplemented GPS when satellite signals are unavailable.

With the aforementioned stabilization comes renewed market growth thanks to new applications like wearables, and robots/drones, but growth will be moderate compared to other markets: 7% annually, reaching $2.5B in 2022.
Though each magnetic sensor market has some unique players, there is some overlap:

  • Allegro Microsystems, an almost pure magnetic sensor player,, leads the automotive business. It is challenged by large, automotive-focused semiconductor groups, namely Infineon, NXP, Melexis, and TDK. These five players account for more than 90% of the automotive market.
  • AKM dominates the ecompass business, with its main competitors being other Japanese players like Yamaha and Alps. However, new entrants from the US and Taiwan (i.ee. MEMSIC, Isentek, and Voltafield) have gained significant market share thanks to aggressive pricing that’s below $0.10 per device.
  • AKM and Allegro are also players in the “industrial and other applications” segment. Therefore they benefit from economies of scale, and their devices provide the high reliability this market demands. As mentioned earlier, this market is very fragmented, with a mix of industrial-focused companies like Honeywell and Diodes, along with various automotive or ecompass-focused companies.

As the presence of magnetoresistive (xMR) technologies grows, the technological landscape becomes increasingly complex. These xMR technologies include anisotropic magnetoresistive (AMR), giant magnetoresistive (GMR), and, more recently, tunnel magnetoresistive (TMR). Their growth comes at the expense of, or in combination with, existing Hall Effect technology. Since xMR technologies’ main advantage is better sensitivity, they are mainly used for ecompass and position measurement, especially for precise angles.

Most big Hall players have introduced xMR technologies into their product portfolios and intend to grow this business: a partial list of these players includes AKM, Infineon, Allegro, Melexis, TDK, Diodes, and Honeywell. With this in mind, we expect xMR technologies to increase their market share from 27% to 31% over the years 2016 - 2022.

xMR adoption is slow because it is generally adopted only for new applications or projects. Given this slow adoption rate, and given that Hall technology is still very effective, especially for its cost, Hall will remain the preferred option for many applications.

Manufacturing strategies used to develop xMR technologies include internal production (Infineon, Allegro, TDK, and Honeywell) outsourcing (Melexis and Analog Devices) and IP licensing agreements, such as NXP’s deal with Crocus Technology.

Source: Yole Développement

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