Lyon, France – Inertial sensors represent the largest MEMS market, accounting for more than $3.5 billion in 2012, according to Yole Développement and System Plus Consulting. A new report from the research firms finds that combination devices including accelerometer/gyroscope combos, e-compass and 9-axis sensors will drive future growth as standalone inertial devices (1- to 3-axis accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers) continue to mature and find fewer homes in consumer applications.
Technological advances in the inertial MEMS sensor market have been largely driven by the consumer market, according to the report's analysts. However, these devices -- standalone MEMS sensors and inertial combo sensors (a combination of several inertial sensors in a single package) -- also are used in many automotive applications including ESC and rollover safety features.
The report, “Inertial MEMS Manufacturing Trends 2014," looks at the differences in cost, size, packaging, and structure of the different inertial MEMS devices. The report finds that technological developments are motivated by several market drivers. In one example, strong price pressure on component manufacturers by integrators of consumer products has resulted in the reduction of die size to lower manufacturing costs and change the manufacturing platform. Other industry requirements driving advances include low-power consumption for mobile applications, better performance and higher integration of functionalities, according to the report.
One interesting trend noted is the industry's move to complete integration of 9+ axis sensors and platform standardization. This is in contrast to increasing the number of axis for standalone components while decreasing size, which was the norm over the past several years.
The analysts said they "haven’t seen many disruptive approaches reach the market, " with the exception of Qualtré's BAW-based inertial sensors. The industry is also making a big move to develop standardized platforms. Two examples cited are Teledyne DALSA's generic platform for accelerometers and gyroscopes, and STMicroelectronics' THELMA process.
A more novel approach comes from CEA-LETI’s M&NEMS platform, which will use silicon nanogauges for detection in its accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. The technology will allow for the integration of 9-axis sensors with a small form factor. The process is expected to reach production via Tronics Microsystems within the next few years, according to the report.
Companies also are working on innovation throughout the manufacturing process from front-end to back-end processing, and packaging issues to achieve high integration required by advanced inertial combo devices, said analysts. As part of the report, the research firms reverse engineered 46 inertial MEMS components including accelerometers, gyros and combo devices. It also provides a reverse costing simulation of the MEMS, ASIC and packaging parts of these devices (as shown in the example diagram).
The analysis finds that sensor die size has stabilized over the past few years, while prices continue to drop. The research firm expects the inertial sensor market to reach nearly 1,000K 8" equivalent wafers by 2018.