MEMS usage sees sharp upturn

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  • Image: fiSuppliMEMS.xls
Image: fiSuppliMEMS.xls

The severe slump for microelectromechanical system (MEMS) automotive sensors is over, with solid growth expected through at least 2014. iSuppli Corp. predicts that the market for these sensors will grow nearly 20% this year, driven in part by increased regulations such as electronic stability control.

The industry slump in 2009 drove a 20% decline in silicon sensor shipments. But the rebound, coupled with an increase in sensors counts, is driving a solid resurgence. Global shipments of automotive MEMS sensors should grow 17.8% to 591.2 million units in 2010, iSuppli predicted.

Growth should remain strong, driven in part by regulations. The number of MEMS sensors now averages 8.12 per vehicle. That could rise to more than 11.5 by 2014.

Legislative mandates are a major driver. Electronic stability systems become obligatory in the U.S. by 2012 and in Europe by 2014, boosting the sale of gyroscopes and accelerometers. Europeans are also requiring tire-pressure-monitoring systems by 2014, helping increase pressure sensor shipments to 137.9 million by 2014, up from just 42.9 million in 2009.

The global push to conserve fuel is also helping boost pressure-sensor usage, since they help provide the input needed to burn fuel more efficiently. Pressure sensors are also an important aspect of stop/start, which may grow from about 1 million units to 13 million in five years, iSuppli said.

About 40% of the shipments will be in North America, with Europe accounting for about a third. China and Japan are the largest consumers of the remainder. While automakers are buying more sensors, they’re also moving toward multisensor packages such as gyroscopes and accelerometers that are combined on a printed circuit board.

The industry’s upturn is also putting pressure on suppliers of other components. iSuppli noted that lead times for MOSFETs (metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transducers), small signal transistors, bipolar power devices, and rectifiers are all seeing substantially longer lead times. Analog ICs are also seeing slower shipment times.

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