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MEMS & Sensors

Magnetic sensors have been historically dominated by Hall-effect technology. However, this situation has evolved over time, with increasing penetration of magnetoresisitive (xMR) technologies, namely anisotropic magnetoresistive (AMR), giant magnetoresistive (GMR), and more recently tunnel magnetoresistive (TMR).

Their growth comes at the expense of, or in combination with, Hall-effect technology. xMR technologies’ main advantage is better sensitivity and thus they are mainly used for e-compass and position measurement, especially for precise angles, according to the report Magnetic Sensor Market and Technologies 2017 from Yole Développement.

TDK was one of the first players to adopt TMR technology specifically in the automotive market, for angle sensing in steering systems. Therefore Yann De Charentenay, Yole Développement's expert has interviewed Julien Fabrègues, Marketing Group Leader within the Magnetic Sensors Business Group in TDK Corporation’s Sensor Systems Business Company, about his company and its technology. Read on to find out what he had to say.

Yann De Charentenay: Can you briefly introduce TDK, its history and magnetic sensor activity and the competitive advantage of your offering?

Julien Fabrègues: TDK Corporation is a leading electronics company based in Tokyo, Japan with more than $12 billion revenues in 2017. TDK's portfolio includes electronic components, modules and systems, sensors and sensor systems, power supplies, magnetic application products as well as energy devices, flash memory application devices, among others. TDK has set the focus for its future growth on three pillars: next-generation electronics components; power solutions; and sensors and actuators. The focus on sensors is clearly visible through TDK’s recent acquisitions of Tronics, Micronas and Chirp, all grouped under the Sensor Systems Business Company (SSBC) with the vision to become the world’s number one sensor solution provider.

 

TDKs sensor systems business company overview TDK's Sensor Systems Business Company overview - Courtesy of TDK


Regarding magnetic sensor activities, the new company combines expertise in Hall technology from TDK-Micronas and in magnetoresistive technology from TDK. Micronas was the first company to integrate Hall plates into CMOS technology and has shipped more than 4 billion Hall sensors, mostly in automotive, since then.
TDK's DNA is linked to magnetic technology as it was founded as the first company to commercialize ferrite material. After audio tape development, TDK has been very successful in the hard disk drive industry where it successively developed AMR, GMR and TMR technologies for heads. TDK is now building sensors based on a proven robust TMR technology for the automobile, industrial and consumer markets.
The combination of Hall and TMR technology gives the Magnetic Sensor Business Group a unique flexibility to develop solutions according to a wide range of customer requirements. That spans highly-cost driven applications to the most advanced performance requirements, as well as from pure sensor elements to system solutions including TDK's magnet expertise.

YDC: What are the main application fields targeted by TDK, and what are the market drivers for magnetic sensors in these applications?

JF: TDK targets automotive, industrial and information and communications technology (ICT)/internet of things (IOT) markets with its magnetic sensors. The focus was historically automotive, where global trends require more sensors and higher performance. These include autonomous driving, where sensor demand is increasing as the safety criteria is moving from fail-safe towards fail-operational systems and asking for more sensor redundancy. In car electrification, the electric engine is creating additional demand for sensors, in particular for current sensing, and thermal management. In CO2 reduction, increased demand for energy efficiency and CO2 reduction needs optimized sensor solutions, in particular in the powertrain for precise intake, turbocharging, exhaust recirculation and waste gates. In addition, the industrial market is offering an additional large potential, in particular in home automation and industry 4.0 domains. Finally, the ICT and IOT market reach is expanding quickly for us especially thanks to the low power and high performance capability of TMR.

YDC: TDK-Micronas is very famous in the automotive market. How do you differentiate from your competitors in this highly competitive industry?

JF: We have been focused on developing our technologies with this target in mind. With our in-house expertise for front-end wafer development, assembly and packaging as well as magnetic testing methodology, we are developing very robust sensors matching quality and cost requirements of this very demanding market. As I mentioned, TDK-Micronas has shipped over 4 billion Hall sensors to the industry and is recognized as a reliable partner, able to achieve zero defects per million quality levels and high levels of service as expected in the automotive environment, from logistics and long-term commitment to technical support.


TDK Micronas RD manufacturing site TDK-Micronas R&D and manufacturing site in Freiburg, Germany - Courtesy of TDK

YDC: How do you expect the magnetic sensor market to grow for each category of sensors, including speed, switches, current and position, and what are the drivers behind that growth?

JF: I believe the market will continue to growth with dual-digit compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in number of units, and 6% to 8% in value. Current sensing and position sensing, especially motor position sensing, are the fastest growing applications.

YDC: TDK also introduced a magnetic sensor into the 9-axis compass from InvenSense, which it has recently acquired. Does this use the TDK TMR technology? Does TDK intend to become a leader in the consumer e-compass business?

JF: The 9-axis compass from InvenSense was developed a few years ago, before the acquisition. However this is TDK’s strategy to create synergies and to develop advanced combo sensors, leveraging the different technologies within SSBC.

YDC: Do you expect to participate in magnetic sensors market consolidation in the automotive, industrial, and consumer segments?

JF: As I mentioned, TDK's SSBC vision is to become the world’s number one sensor solution provider. TDK is very active, as demonstrated by the recent acquisition of Chirp. Regarding magnetic sensors, further acquisitions are always possible but we are already well set up to become world leader.

YDC: TDK focuses on Hall technology, and has recently introduced TMR. How do you foresee adoption of TMR in automotive?

JF: TDK was the first company to launch TMR in production for automotive applications because its technology is unique concerning robustness and stability over device lifetimes. This is now proven in highly critical applications at major tier-one vehicle component suppliers. With this base, the deployment and larger adoption of TMR in automotive comes as good evidence of its capabilities, especially for high performance, high safety critical applications.


MSBG automotive technology focus TDKMSBG automotive technology focus – TDK’s combined technology portfolio enables new applications and offers more flexibility to our customers - Courtesy of TDK


YDC: What are your technological strengths, and the main technological trends you are following?

JF: For sure, our main strength is the diversity of our magnetic sensing technology with Hall and TMR. TDK has also developed AMR and GMR technology but we believe that TMR will overtake those technologies. On that basis, we can develop solutions from a simple Hall switch to solutions combining multiple sensing elements and diverse technologies. I would also like to point out also our extended application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design capability following the acquisition of ICsense. Upcoming magnetic sensors no longer only require signal processing for temperature compensation. They need a real companion ASIC to handle functional safety, more complex diagnosis and data transmission via digital protocols, or even complex processing to segregate disturbing magnetic stray fields. Finally, our customers are very busy and increasingly need a complete and ready-to-implement solution. We now have access to additional resources and expertise within TDK to offer the right solutions including TDK's magnets and passive components.

YDC: What do you think about xMR technologies’ growing adoption? Will they take market share from Hall sensors?

JF: I believe that Hall will still be growing in the market overall but this technology will lose market share to TMR, especially in the ICT market.


Interviewee:

Julien Fabrègues holds a master’s degree in Computer Science and Electronics, specialized in System-On-Chip architecture, from Polytechnic National Institute of Grenoble. He started his career with STMicroelectronics occupying various application and marketing positions with responsibility for automotive microcontrollers. He has been located in Grenoble, France, Detroit, USA, Milan, Italy, Prague, Czech Republic and Munich, Germany. He joined Micronas in Freiburg, Germany, in 2012 where he is now vice-president for marketing, promoting sensors and embedded motor controllers. He is also in charge of global marketing for the TDK’s Magnetic Sensor Business Group.

 

Interviewer:

Photo YannDeCharentenay YOLE 2018Yann de Charentenay works as a Technology & Market Analyst for Yole Développement (Yole). As part of the Photonics, Sensing & Display division, Yann is strongly involved in the technology & market analysis of the applications of disruptive technologies and components: memory, MEMS and sensors... Yann is daily contributing to the development of Yole’s activities with a dedicated collection of market & technology reports as well as custom consulting projects.
Prior his mission at Yole, Yann was engaged as a marketing engineer at the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA, France) as well as a consultant at Algoe (France). He has spoken in numerous international conferences and has authored or co-authored numerous press articles.
Yann is graduated from the University of Compiegne (France) with a master degree in innovation management. He is also graduated from INP Phelma (Grenoble, France) with a master degree in materials science.

 

Sources:  TDK Micronas -   Yole Développement

 

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