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MEMS revenues fall on price pressure

Posted: 01 Aug 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? Yole? price pressure? diversification?

The MEMS business grew by 10.4 per cent in 2013, reaching $12 billion at the end of the year. The expansion stemmed from the burgeoning MEMS market for consumer application, according to Yole Dveloppement. This trend, however, will experience a slowdown as strong price pressure is projected to bring down prices by 7 per cent per year.

"If we look at the top MEMS players, we see that STMicroelectronics, while still producing at high volume, is struggling to stop the decrease of the price of its own products," said Dr Eric Mounier, senior technology & market analyst for MEMS devices & technologies at Yole.

The price decrease is despite STMicroelectronics' impressive growth over the last several years, recording $1 billion sales in 2012the first MEMS firm to do so.

Meanwhile, Texas Instruments' DLP sales are flat, since pico projection applications take long to catch on at least for consumer applicationsresulting in a sluggish professional/commercial projection market growth.

Major inkjet heads player Hewlett-Packard has also seen its sales decline, as have most other inkjet heads companies.

Another characterisation of the current MEMS industry is the fact that there is limited new, big companies entering the business. Newcomers have opted for a fabless model instead to minimise their infrastructure investments. mCube is one example of such company.

Major MEMS companies have adopted more than one way to defend themselves against the persistent price pressure, including diversification, infrastructure sharing, and outsource manufacturing.

MEMS product portfolio diversification appears to be a common strategy, employed by STMicroelectronics, Robert Bosch, and now InvenSense, which acquired two companies to stake a broader claim to indoor and outdoor navigation market (see InvenSense rigs up motion processing ICs with Movea, TPI).

Meanwhile, while Knowles is benefiting from the microphone business' growth, this market could level off in the future as with other MEMS devices (see Knowles, Infineon hold the upper hand in MEMS microphone, so product diversification could be an option for them as well.

Another strategy is sharing production infrastructure between multiple markets. Robert Bosch's MEMS automotive business compensates for the low margin in its consumer activity. STMicroelectronics has also entered the automotive business, but with only modest success thus far.

Finally, with outsourcing its manufacturing, InvenSense has shown impressive growth. Its cost structure is less compared with other MEMS manufacturers since InvenSense is fabless. The market is also requiring increasingly complex sensing functions, where software has become a critical part of the sensing module, especially for combos. The aim of this approach is to deliver functions and not devices, and InvenSense's acquisition of Movea in July 2014 confirms this trend.

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