Analyst: MEMS sensor/actuator growth taking off

Mar. 28, 2008 – After growing at a 9% CAGR over the past five years, demand for MEMS-based semiconductor sensors and actuators is expected to accelerate to 19% CAGR through 2012, as emerging MEMS technologies find traction in new markets and applications, according to a report by IC Insights. The firm projects MEMS sensors/actuator sales will increase to $9.7B by 2012, vs. $4.1B in 2007.

MEMS-based devices account for roughly 80% of the current $5B market for semiconductor sensors/actuators, including pressure sensors, accelerometers, gyroscope chips, solid-state microphones, silicon MEMS oscillators, and a broad range of actuators (e.g., inkjet nozzles, micromirror display devices, biochips, and RF filters/surface-acoustic-wave components), the firm points out, in a statement.

Historically MEMS devices have relied heavily on adoption in the automotive market, but significant growth will come as new high-volume applications emerge in consumer products, cell phones, and other portable systems, the firm points out. Video-game controllers use low-cost accelerometers and gyroscopes to replace joysticks and buttons; cell phones and portable music players use accelerometers for “shake control” to recognize sudden movements as user inputs; and some portable systems use accelerometers to detect when a unit is dropped and take steps to protect the hard-disk drive from damage.

Growth in unit shipments is expected to increase at a 27% clip through 2012 to 4.3B devices, vs. 1.3B units shipped in 2007. Growth in sensor/actuator shipments will trail slightly (23% CAGR), but a lot more of them — 12.1B devices in 2012 vs. 4.3B in 2007, with total market value reaching $11.9B (counting all types of technologies), the firm points out.

MEMS-based actuators accounted for 54% of the $5.1B overall sensor/actuator market in 2007. Narrowing the view by product, actuator sales are forecast to grow nearly 20% CAGR in 2007-2012 to $6.8B (vs. $2.8B in 2007). The acceleration/yaw-sensor category, boosted by consumer and portable applications, should be slightly better than that, reaching $2.0B in 2012, vs. $811M in 2007.


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