Yole Développement (Yole) recently interviewed Physical Logic, an up-and-coming MEMS accelerometer player in the high-end inertial market. Yole’s latest report, High-End Gyroscopes, Accelerometers, and IMUs for Defense, Aerospace & Industrial (more), highlights MEMS technology’s penetration in this global market, which is estimated to reach $2.6B by 2019 with a growing demand for industrial applications. We invite you to discover Physical Logic’s history and strengths, and how the company envisions its future activities.
Yole Développement: Physical Logic is a player in the high-end accelerometer domain. Can you recap the company’s history?
Physical Logic was incorporated in 2004 with the objective to develop MEMS accelerometers for medical applications. In 2009, the company started focusing on navigation and began developing an adapted MEMS accelerometer. This is now the company’s focus, and only a few of our current activities are linked to medical applications. We now propose a family of open-loop MEMS accelerometers that are in mass production, targeted to fill the gap between current available open-loop MEMS accelerometers and mechanical accelerometers. New applications are steadily arriving, and in addition to our first family of products, Physical Logic is now in a sampling phase for Israeli customers interested in our closed-loop accelerometer, a very innovative product that will launch outside Israel in late 2016. This product aims to compete with mechanical accelerometers of similar precision.
YD: We observe only a few players in the high-end accelerometer market. Do you see a strong demand for these products?
When we look at our open-loop accelerometer, we see only a few companies with similar products that deliver very strong performance at high temperature (qualified for drilling applications at 120°C). And when we talk about Physical Logic’s closed-loop high sensitivity accelerometer, our device is really unique. The current market is very fragmented, with companies like Honeywell, Sagem/Colibrys, and many others. The top three main players have less than 35% of the total market, so there is room for Physical Logic to grow. One of our company’s biggest advantages is our supply-chain flexibility: front-end production is subcontracted to TowerJazz and the ASIC development and manufacturing, as well as packaging, is done jointly with qualified suppliers. The design and all the testing and qualification of the final product is done internally. This arrangement gives us a very strong competitive advantage in terms of price.
Physical Logic’s closed-loop high sensitivity accelerometer
(Courtesy of Physical Logic)
YD: What kind of applications are targeted? Stand-alone accelerometer? Integration for IMU system? What is your feeling about this market in terms of industrial applications and its evolution? What about microsatellites and the Google/Facebook drone project? Do you see a demand in this area?
Our customers are integrating our accelerometer into their inertial measurement unit (IMU), or into inertial navigation systems (INS). We’ve had discussions with several companies for autonomous vehicles, drones, and microsatellites, but these are just beginning. Right now, most of the volume applications are for navigation platforms, including seismic detection, vibration, and tilt sensing, either in the defense or industrial fields.
YD: What are the market needs in term of configuration: 1Axis accelerometer, 2-3Axis accelerometer, IMU, INS? What is the best configuration: 3x1Axis or 1x3Axis accelerometer, and why?
Currently, 90% of our customers’ demand is for 1Axis. However, we are receiving requests from customers to custom-design 2 and 3Axis for their systems. In our view, for high-accuracy tactical and navigation-grade accelerometers, the best combination would be 3x1Axis.
YD: Given that the lifecycle of industrial-grade sensors is much shorter than for military/space applications, what is the typical lifecycle of your product? Does this necessitate a different approach to the design and market applications?
The lifecycle of our products is long, according to military standards. However, we are using our platform technology to develop a “downgraded” version of our products for other markets with shorter lifecycles.
YD: Can you provide some details?
Shorter-lifecycle accelerometers may include cheaper package material and smaller MEMS devices. Shorter final tests will also contribute to product cost reduction. It should be said that our current accelerometers pass full acceptance tests in room conditions, under vibration, and over temperature cycles. Also, all of our open-loop and closed-loop accelerometers are sold with a very detailed acceptance test report.
YD: Do you envision enlarging your product portfolio with gyro, IMU-type devices?
We aspire to develop our own MEMS IMU based on the accelerometer we are manufacturing. We do not have any gyro development at the moment. Many customers are looking for IMU adapted to their personal usage (in specifications and price), so this is where we would like to go.
YD: It seems that the company is moving into new territory. What can we expect from Physical Logic in 2016 and 2017?
Right now we’re focused on a volume-production increase for our open-loop accelerometer. 2016 will be a year with multiple customers in volume production, while 2017 will see increased volume and also the launch of the closed-loop accelerometer outside Israel. We think that our new closed-loop accelerometer is a game-changing product, and we recently moved into new, more spacious facilities in order to expand production and achieve most of our development and manufacturing under one roof.
Discover the High-End Gyroscopes, Accelerometers, and IMUs for Defense, Aerospace & Industrial report
Defense applications still represent half of the market, while commercial aerospace and industrial applications are driving future growth. But MEMS will be a game-changer, leading to the emergence of many new applications requiring high performance, low-cost and small form factor.