iSuppli: Auto MEMS sensors to surge by 2012

Sept. 8, 2008 – New government mandates will help nearly double the global shipments of automotive microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) from 2006-2012 (a 12% CAGR), while sales surge to $2.1B (8% CAGR), according to data from iSuppli.

The automotive MEMS sensor segment consists of 26 applications spanning the chassis, power train, and body electronics, incorporating devices such as inertial sensors, pressure sensors, flow sensors, infrared sensors, and emerging sensors. These devices perform various safety, control, and environmental functions ranging from airbag collision detection to tire pressure monitoring to engine management.

In the US and Europe, chassis safety-related mandates require implementing electronic stability control (ESC) systems and tire-pressure monitors, which is driving rapid growth in the automotive MEMS sensor market, points out Richard Dixon, senior analyst for MEMS at iSuppli, in a statement. “Both applications significantly contribute to saving lives on the roads, and tire-pressure monitors also lower fuel consumption.”

Unit shipments for various MEMS sensors are expected to surge over the 2006-2012 forecast period: MEMS pressure sensors used in tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) more than quadrupling (~315%) to 179M units, MEMS inertial pressure in ESC systems to 158M units (17% CAGR). In fact, these applications will push automotive MEMS sensors to outgrow the overall automotive/car electronics segments, Dixon noted.

Automotive MEMS shipments by device type

(Source: iSuppli Corp.)

While the US has led the way in implementing TPMS and ESC systems, “sweeping proposals” have been popping up in Europe too, he noted, which is good news for suppliers. “Mandates support systems that require several MEMS sensors — four TPMS pressure sensors per car, a gyroscope with one of two low-g accelerometers in a cluster, and one or more brake pressure sensor per ESC system on average,” he said. “For accelerometers and gyroscopes, mandates will more than double the number of sensors required.”

Another market driver in Europe is coming in 2009 with new stricter emission-control regulations, which will boost demand for powertrain pressure sensors used for optimizing engine operation and reducing particle emissions in diesels, Dixon noted. Other healthy MEMS markets include high-g accelerometers for airbags.

“Mandates are reshaping the supply chain,” added Jérémie Bouchaud, principal analyst for MEMS at iSuppli. For ESC systems, “transitioning rapidly from an expensive option to a standard function in just a few years will create a space for newcomers and threaten established second-tier suppliers.” Also, government mandates will likely create a market for commoditization and thus increased competition and price erosion for MEMS sensors, since all suppliers must conform to the same specs and in a range that spans the least and most expensive vehicles available.


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