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Car MEMS market rebounds

Posted: 26 Nov 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:automotive? MEMS? sensors? market report?

The market for automotive MEMS sensors will be bigger that ever in in 2010, iSuppli reported, with shipments of automotive MEMS sensors reaching 662.3 million units in 2010, up 32.1 percent from 501.2 million units in 2009.

The trend is driven by the rebound in automotive production and inventory rebuilding. However, growth is expected to slow in 2011 with shipments anticipated to climb only 7.3 percent. But production will pick up again in 2012, and growth rates will end up above 13 percent by 2014.

The use of sensors in passenger cars to comply with mandated safety technologies is a key engine of automotive MEMS growth. This includes electronic stability control (ESC) and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS).

The United States and Europe have led the adoption of legislation on such safety systems and countries, such as Australia and Canada, have followed suit. Similar mandates are now being adopted in South Korea and are expected in Japan, accelerating overall adoption rates worldwide. The extra opportunity from both ESC and TPMS for automotive MEMS suppliers to Japan and Korea will correspond to additional revenue of some $120 million in those regions alone for the next five years, iSuppli said.

China will also account for a large portion of the automotive MEMS action. Compared to U.S. or European vehicles, the electronics content of low- and mid-range vehicles in China is about 50 percent or less, but sensor penetration will steadily increase, first in powertrain applications in order to reduce carbon emissions that choke Chinese cities and afterward as safety sensors for additional airbags and ESC systems.

Among the new applications providing suppliers greater production opportunities for automotive MEMS sensors, the most prominent include usage of gas sensors to control air quality in the cabin; IR thermopiles to monitor temperature; microbolometers to aid night-vision systems and MEMS oscillators to boost rear-view cameras.

Sensor fusion
Ultimately sensor fusion could limit the cumulative sales opportunity for MEMS.

"Sensor fusion uses existing sensor signals and adds application algorithms to augment existing systems, such as ESC with features like hill-start-assist functionality, for instance," explained Richard Dixon, senior analyst, iSuppli. "This is a bane for sensor suppliers, which must rely on opportunities that involve standalone systems to provide additional sensors."

Other applications that will propagate the use of sensors include passenger protection systems that detect impacts by means of either accelerometers or pressure sensors located in the front bumper; as well as stop-start systems that need pressure--and other non-MEMS based measurements to supply critical data when a vehicle�s engine is turned off at a junction, Dixon said.

iSuppli also notes that some consumer-oriented MEMS sensor suppliers are making inroads into the automotive market, widening the pool of players participating in the space.

In particular STMicroelectronics, the leading MEMS supplier for consumer and mobile application and which so far has targeted non-safety critical applications in automotive such as car alarms and navigation, has now entered the airbag market with a high-g accelerometer. STM is expected to leverage its significant manufacturing economies of scale, which likely will lead to additional price pressures and new cost structures in the industry.

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