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AKM keeps top spot in magnetic sensor market

Posted: 14 Aug 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:magnetic sensor? this multiaxis format? 3-D magnetic compasses?

Asahi Kasei Microsystems (AKM) has proven to be a leader in the semiconductor magnetic sensor market for the third year in a row in 2011, claiming almost one-quarter of the industry's total revenue of $1.5 billion.

AKM earned an estimated revenue of $372 million last year, a significant 24 percent increase from $300 million in 2012, according to an IHS iSuppli Magnetic Sensor report. AKM shares in 2011 totaled to 25 percent of the magnetic sensor market.

"A large part of the company's revenue growth last year was from Hall-based 3-D magnetic compasses used in cellphones and tablets," said IHS senior analyst for MEMS & sensors Richard Dixon, Ph.D.

However, rivalry in the compass space may be heating up in the form of 6-axis compasses. Such were bulky and had limited demand and competition compared to 3-axis discrete devices. But Bosch of Germany and Freescale Semiconductor Inc of the US have recently come up with compact 3x3mm versions. This could increase the competitive pressure on AKM as original equipment manufacturers adopt this multiaxis format, according to IHS.

Second place went to Allegro MicroSystems of Massachusetts who posted a 2011 revenue of $302 million, 14 percent higher from their $264 million in 2010. In 2011, Allegro consciously strayed from the low-cost consumer sensor market served by the likes of AKM and focused on higher-value products like sensors for the automotive space.

Third place was bagged by Infineon Technologies AG of Germany, which earned $188 million, seeing a 33 percent growth from the 2010 revenue of $142 million. This brought Infineon to an advantage over previous number 3, Micronas. Infineon has developed in several areas including wheel-speed sensing and torque sensors for automotive steering applications. Next year, the Swiss company is set to introduce a new current-sensing palette and higher integrated packages with magnets included for speed sensing, in addition to anisotropic magneto-resistive (AMR) technology for angle sensing.

Micronas who went down a notch saw a 5 percent rise in magnetic sensor revenue to $150 million, up from the previous $143 million. The weak year of Micronas was due to the loss of a deal contracted by Denso, an important customer, following the March earthquake-tsunami in Japan.

The number five spot was claimed by Melexis NV of Belgium who experienced a 5 percent boost from $107 million to $112 million. Melexis continues to be a leader in acceleration-pedal-position sensing and is a major presence in sensors for measuring currents.

The rest of the list included NXP Semiconductors of Netherlands (6th place, with $96 million in revenue), Aichi Steel Corp. of Japan (7th, with $40 million), AMS AG of Austria and Memsic Inc. of Massachusetts (tied in 8th, with $29 million) and Diodes Inc. of Texas (10th, with $24 million).

Companies who took the biggest leaps include Memsic, growing a 1,340 percent and Aichi Steel with an upsurge of 122 percent.

Figure: Top 10 Suppliers of Magnetic Sensors by Revenue
Source: IHS iSuppli Research, August 2012.

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