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Quake leaves digital compass fabs undamaged

Posted: 29 Mar 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:digital compass? ICs? Japan quake?

The catastrophic earthquake that shook Japan on March 11 did not in any way affect digital compass chipmakers based there, according to IHS iSuppli. With the world's four largest manufacturers headquartered in the country, Japan accounts for 97 percent of global production of digital compass ICs.

The market research firm has identified the world's top four digital compass suppliers as Japanese firms AKM Semiconductor, Yamaha, Aichi Steel and Alps.

Nonetheless, supplies could be constrained just because the market is expanding so rapidly with the inclusion of these devices in smartphones, tablet and other computers.

Global demand for digital compasses increased to 263 million units in 2010, up 354 percent from 58 million in 2009. By 2015, shipments will rise to 1.28 billion, according to IHS iSuppli.

"Digital compass usage is rising rapidly, with the device becoming a standard feature in tablets and in cellphones equipped with the GPS feature," said Jeremie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS. "These devices were employed in Apple Inc.'s iPhone 3 and iPhone 4, and can be found in virtually every Android phone. The compass also is a mandatory hardware feature for devices using Microsoft Corp.'s Mobile Windows 7. Likewise, digital compasses are starting to find their way into gamingfor example, in the Move controller and the upcoming Sony PSP 2 from Sony Corp."

AKM's main fab is located on Kyushu island and far to the south of the quake's epicenter. It produces electronic compasses for the iPad 2 tablet and has not been damaged, iSuppli said.

No. 2 supplier Yamaha said its plant manufacturing digital compasses also was undamaged by the quake and is not experiencing the power outages plaguing companies in other parts of the country, according to the market researcher.

No. 3 supplier Aichi Steel operates its digital compass fab in Aichi Ken near Nagoya. The company said this facility has suffered no damage and that there has been no delay in shipments.

Fourth-ranked supplier Alps said that although its compass fab is located in Nagaoka, near the earthquake zone, the facility is operating normally, again according to iSuppli.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times

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