Electronics Technology


Drop in unit prices likely to boost commercialisation of MEMS

11 July 2007 Electronics Technology

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) require more complex fabrication than integrated circuits. MEMS technology successfully bridges the gap between electronic and mechanical systems to provide unique properties in a small package at a considerably lower cost.

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) require more complex fabrication than integrated circuits. MEMS technology successfully bridges the gap between electronic and mechanical systems to provide unique properties in a small package at a considerably lower cost.

MEMS inertial sensors have emerged as one of the leading areas in MEMS development, with numerous applications opening up, especially in the consumer electronics industry.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan into motion detection sensors delves into the emerging applications of MEMS inertial sensors in its two most promising markets, namely automotive and consumer electronics industries. It also looks at the most influential factors affecting the adoption of MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes, along with possible future trends.

"Due to their small size and reliability, MEMS accelerometers have entirely replaced the traditional crash sensor arrays in the automotive industry," says Frost & Sullivan research analyst, Prithvi Raj. "The steady adoption of MEMS inertial sensors is causing a significant reduction in unit costs, which in turn has further opened up the market to these sensors."

MEMS inertial sensors have evolved considerably over the years. From expensive devices that were highly complicated to design and fabricate, to the current low-cost, mass-produced, and highly efficient sensors, the technology has come a long way. Though relatively newer, MEMS gyroscopes show tremendous promise. While these devices are more complicated when compared to a typical accelerometer, the capabilities of these devices justify their marginally higher cost.

Although producing a MEMS sensor requires minimal costs, the costs involved in setting up a MEMS foundry remain extremely high. This represents a major challenge for newer and smaller companies entering the MEMS arena. In addition, due to the lack of an industry standard constituting the best design, the MEMS industry appears fractured by fierce competition wherein a number of research institutes and companies incorporate different design approaches. This adds to confusion amongst customers.

"Another related issue plaguing the set up of MEMS foundries is the 'one device one fabrication flow' approach," explains Raj. "This means that each type of MEMS device requires a specialised fabrication approach, and thus puts limits on the capabilities of smaller firms to expand their MEMS-based products."

The continued patronage of the automotive industry will likely boost advancements in MEMS technology. The automotive market has played a significant role in the MEMS-based inertial sensors market and this trend will likely continue for the next couple of years as an increasing number of car manufacturers look to improve the safety and navigational features of mid- to low-end vehicles. The automotive industry alone has a requirement of millions of accelerometers annually and this number continues to grow.

For more information contact Patrick Cairns, Frost & Sullivan Technical Insights, +27 (0)21 680 3274, patrick.cairns@frost.com, www.frost.com





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