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Poor car sales drag magnetic sensor market

Posted: 15 Mar 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:magnetic sensor? MEMS? manufacturing? automation? automotive sales?

As a result of weak automotive sales and diminished industrial sector last year, the market for magnetic sensors experienced lower-than-expected growth. This is according to IHS that revealed the revenue for semiconductor-based magnetic sensor elements, ICs and switches only amounted to $1.57 billion last year.

While last year's takings represented a 6.4 per cent increase over 2011 revenue of $1.47 billion, growth in 2012 was much lower than the 44 per cent surge of 2010 and the 21 per cent hike of 2011. Double-digit expansion had initially been forecast for 2012, but a cooling in the magnetic sensors' most important market of automotive succeeded in shaving off growth points, resulting in the annual increase topping out in just the single digits.

A more optimistic outlook is in store this year in light of a projected eight per cent revenue increase to $1.7 billion. Two more years of expansion north of eight per cent will follow, before revenue growth moderates in 2016. By then, revenue will have crossed the $2 billion threshold.

"The less-than-stellar results of last year came on the heels of a weakened automotive sector, an area responsible for nearly half of all semiconductor magnetic sensor sales," said Richard Dixon, principal analyst for MEMS & Sensors at IHS. "While North America and the emerging countries in South America helped prop the automotive space with healthy sales, Chinaa major engine of automotive growthdid not perform as well, and conditions were also dismal in debt-laden Europe."

Another segment that suffered last year and contributing to woes was the industrial sector, where magnetic sensors are used in manufacturing and automation as well as in energy generation and distribution. The industrial market is not expected to recover until 2014.

The overall slower growth last year in both automotive and industrial was offset somewhat by a vibrant wireless and consumer sector, which saw magnetic sensors being increasingly deployed in devices such as handsets, tablets, game consoles, MP3 players and digital still cameras.

In particular, mobile handsets have proven to be a hotbed for new sensor implementations. For instance, the expanding use of dedicated optical image stabilisation modules in camera phones is benefiting linear Hall ICs. Many smartphones that suffer from image shake due to high megapixel count are, in fact, the happy recipients of image-stabilisation benefits made possible by magnetic sensors.

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