With 14% market growth from 2017-2022, MEMS remain the backbone of the sensor industry
Bright new market perspectives for MEMS and SensorS
We have entered a time when MEMS and semiconductor-based sensors, combined with increasing processing power, will bring exciting new applications such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), autonomous vehicles, 3D sensing, and 5G communications.
A wide range of semiconductor-based sensors and actuators will be critical for the realization of these future smart systems. The list includes imagers, magnetic sensors, chemical sensors, biometric sensors, optical sensors, radio-frequency (RF) devices and MEMS. We have estimated that the market for MEMS and sensor devices will grow from $38B in 2016 to $66B in 2021, which is an impressive 12% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). In volume, the number of sensors and actuators including surface acoustic wave (SAW) and bulk acoustic wave (BAW) filters, oscillators, ink-jet heads, micro mirrors, and microfluidic devices will jump from 65 billion units to almost 138 billion units in 2021.
In this buoyant market, MEMS technology still has the lion’s share. MEMS comprises 30% of the value of the total sensor and actuator market in 2016 and will grow at 14% CAGR (Figure 1). Among diverse MEMS devices, RF MEMS, oscillators, silicon microfluidics and environmental MEMS will have impressive growth.
Piezoelectric MEMS are also gaining momentum. Indeed, piezo thin-films offer new advantages, both in manufacturing and in enabling uses such as smaller, lower-power consumption printing actuators to increase resolution and provide better grayscale drop size control. Thin-film lead zirconate titanate (PZT) is currently the material of choice for the piezo-ejection process. New foundry-offered services from companies like STMicroelectronics and Rohm could also deliver PZT fingerprint sensing. Thin-film PZT is already the choice for piezo MEMS fingerprint sensors manufactured by Qualcomm.
New MEMS devices are on the way, also enabled by piezo technology. In accelerometers, microphones and pressure sensors, MEMS offers advantages over traditional technology in terms of smaller size, batch processing, high performance and electronic integration. Now the same should occur with MEMS micro-speakers based on PZT piezoelectric material, which could be the next disruptive technology in this industry. It could halve power consumption compared to voice-coil actuator speakers for portable and headphone applications. Manufactured in large volumes, they could provide a 40 to 80 percent cost reduction.
But MEMS is not the only sensing technology. More demand is coming for optical sensors for 3D Imaging and Sensing such as time-of-flight sensing and LIDAR. For decades, 3D imaging and sensing has been implemented solely in high-end markets, featuring in medical, industrial and defense applications. But the volume of 3D imaging and sensing devices manufactured is set to take off in 2017, propelled by initial entry into the smartphone market. Further into the future this increase in volume will also be supported by computing, wearable and automotive applications.
RF MEMS, oscillators, microfluidics and gas sensors are the new drivers of growth
RF MEMS including BAW filters and switches are boosting MEMS revenues, with an outstanding expected $10B revenues in 2022 (figure 2) at the module level, where inclusion of many devices explains the high market value.
BAW filters, duplexers and multiplexers capture most of the RF MEMS market. And today, new frequency bands are being added to support Long-Term Evolution wireless communication standards, while Carrier Aggregation specifies stringent requirements. Filters will therefore be the strongest growing market among RF Front-End components for mobile handsets.
MEMS antenna tuners are gaining market share through players such as Cavendish Kinetics, with its low-loss MEMS-based switch. The technology was implemented in the low-band tuner for the Samsung S8 in the fourth quarter of 2016, and Cavendish also had over 40 smartphone design successes at the end of 2016.
RF MEMS switch technology is estimated to take off in 2019 and will slowly grow in the high-end antenna switch market.
MEMS oscillators and resonators are estimated to surpass the billion unit mark in 2022 thanks to increasing penetration in the general timing market. This is mainly thanks to two major players: SiTime, which is leading the way; and Discera. MEMS timing is already used in a myriad of applications and is well suited for connected Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices thanks to its dynamic performance, small size and low power consumption.
Silicon microfluidics is another device class with high market value CAGR, which is set to reach 20% from 2017-2022. Next-Generation DNA Sequencing is driving the use of silicon in medical applications. The new series of Ion Torrent silicon DNA sequencing chip has arrived on the market, generating much more data than the previous model thanks to its larger die size. This segment is very dynamic with several players working on silicon DNA sequencing chips. Illumina has announced the Firefly semiconductor sequencing system for 2018. Nabsys and Genapsys are in development. Other companies include Pacific Biosciences and Oxford Nanopore.
Environmental MEMS, including gas sensors and chemical combination sensors, is the third application with a CAGR for its segment value greater than the general MEMS market, at 16%. With air quality becoming a health issue worldwide and the possible integration of gas sensors in wearable and IoT devices, these sensors have a bright future.
Everything looks good - so where is the problem?
The MEMS and Sensor market is growing and new applications are arriving. However, MEMS companies and MEMS foundries are struggling to grow. Notable exceptions are RF companies such as Broadcom or Qorvo, as shown in figure 3. We are now at the end of a cycle of rapid growth where smartphones have been the application with the highest demand for MEMS. The next phase – driven by robotics, autonomous cars, and smart-everything will certainly come, but will take a few years to absorb an equivalent number of MEMS devices as the smartphone industry did.
Meanwhile, in order to secure more market volume, MEMS manufacturers have entered into a fierce price war that in turn has reduced their margins.
Future differentiation between MEMS players will come from functions and intelligence that will be added to the sensors. For example, the integration of digital signal processing close as possible to the MEMS chip in Knowles’ latest microphone allows more functionalities, such as noise cancellation, at the package level. This is a smart strategic choice to add value, increase price and keep the control of these functionalities in-house at the MEMS vendor.
- Overall sensor forecasts in value and units for markets including MEMS, SAW Filters, CMOS Image Sensors, Magnetic Sensors, Gas Sensors, Fingerprint Sensors and Optical Sensors including Ambient Light Sensors, Proximity Sensors, Red-Green-Blue Sensors and Time-of-Flight Sensors
- Global sensor and actuator manufacturer ranking
- MEMS market evolution compared to integrated circuits
- New major trends and evolutions for the MEMS market and industry
- Updated market forecast up to 2022 in value, units and wafers
- New MEMS player/MEMS foundry ranking for 2016
- Updated information by MEMS device and application
Objectives of the Report
This report’s objectives are to:
- Understanding of MEMS, sensor and actuator markets and applications
- MEMS and sensor player dynamics
- Market data on MEMS in $M, units and wafers for 2016–2022
- Identifying future MEMS devices
- Presenting MEMS game changers and industry trends
- MEMS Applications overview for automotive, consumer, defense and aeronautics, medical, industrial and telecommunications
- MEMS financial analysis
- MEMS in China update