MEMS suppliers ride automotive safety wave

Suppliers of MEMS-based devices rode a safety sensing wave in 2014 to reach record turnover in automotive applications, according to analysis from IHS, the global source of critical information and insight.

Mandated safety systems such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) – which attained full implementation in new vehicles in major automotive markets last year – are currently driving revenues for MEMS sensors. Those players with strong positions in gyroscopes, accelerometers and pressure sensors needed in these systems grew as well, while companies in established areas like high-g accelerometers for frontal airbags and pressure sensors for side airbags also saw success.

Major suppliers of pressure sensors to engines similarly blossomed – for staple functions like manifold absolute air intake and altitude sensing – but also for fast-growing applications like vacuum brake boosting, gasoline direct injection and fuel system vapor pressure sensing.

Bosch was the overall number one MEMS supplier with US$790 million of devices sold last year, close to three times that of its nearest competitor, Sensata (US$268 million). Bosch has a portfolio of MEMS devices covering pressure, flow, accelerometers and gyroscopes, and also has a leading position in more than 10 key applications. The company grew strongly in ESC and roll-over detection applications, and key engine measurements like manifold absolute pressure (MAP) and mass air flow on the air intake, vacuum brake booster pressure sensing and common rail diesel pressure measurement.

Compared to 2013, Sensata jumped to second place in 2014 ahead of Denso and Freescale, largely on strength in both safety and powertrain pressure sensors, but also through its acquisition of Schrader Electronics, which provides Sensata with a leading position among tire pressure-monitoring sensor suppliers.

While Sensata is dominant in TPMS and ESC pressure sensors, it also leads in harsh applications like exhaust gas pressure measurement. Freescale, on the other hand, is second to Bosch in airbag sensors and has made great strides in its supply of pressure sensors for TPMS applications.

Despite good results in 2014, Denso dropped two places compared to its overall second place in 2013, largely as a result of the weakened Yen. Denso excelled in MAP and barometric pressure measurement in 2014, but also ESC pressure and accelerometers. Denso has leadership in MEMS-based air conditioning sensing and pressure sensors for continuous variable transmission systems, and is also a supplier of exhaust pressure sensors to a major European OEM.

Secure in its fifth place, Analog Devices was again well positioned with its high-g accelerometers and gyroscopes in safety sensing, e.g. for airbag and ESC vehicle dynamics systems, respectively.

The next three players in the top 10, in order, Infineon, Murata and Panasonic, likewise have key sensors to offer for safety. Infineon is among the leading suppliers of pressure sensors to TPMS systems, while Murata and Panasonic serve ESC with gyroscope and accelerometers to major Tier Ones.

The top 10 represents 78 percent of the automotive MEMS market volume, which reached $2.6 billion in 2014. By 2021, this market will grow to $3.4 billion, a CAGR of 3.4 percent, given expected growth for four main sensors — pressure, flow, gyroscopes and accelerometers.  In addition, night-vision microbolometers from FLIR and ULIS and humidity sensors from companies like Sensirion and E+E Elektronik for window defogging will also add to the diversity of the mix in 2021.


DLP chips from Texas Instruments for advanced infotainment displays will similarly bolster the market further in future. More details can be found in the IHS Technology H1 2015 report on Automotive MEMS.

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