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High-Performance MEMS Microphones Enable Improved Sound Quality at Reduced Size and Cost

STMicroelectronics (NYSE:STM) , the leading supplier of MEMS(1) for consumer and portable applications and the third largest MEMS manufacturer overall(2), has expanded its portfolio with next-generation micro-machined acoustic devices. The innovative MEMS microphones that use sensor technology from OMRON(3) will significantly raise the bar in sound quality, reliability, and cost-effectiveness for existing and emerging audio applications like cell phones, wireless devices and games that respond to voice inputs, across a range of market segments.

MEMS microphones have recently emerged to compete with the traditional electret condenser microphones (ECM)(4). Leveraging established high-volume silicon manufacturing processes, micro-machined acoustic devices meet price points set by electret microphones, while boasting superior reliability and robustness. Importantly, MEMS microphones can be made smaller than the most compact ECMs and are less susceptible to mechanical vibration, temperature variations and electromagnetic interference, which is important in cell phones and other devices with an audio input, such as notebook computers, video recorders, digital cameras, as well as hearing aids or electronic stethoscopes.

Addressing widespread user demand for a better audio experience in today's mobile devices, the new high-performance MEMS microphones enable dramatic advancements in sound quality and offer additional features such as noise suppression and directional voice pickup, useful to determine and filter out irrelevant noise. These features, which are valuable with the increasing use of cell phones in noisy and uncontrollable environments and can sensibly improve the quality of mobile conversations and conferencing, can be realized by incorporating multiple MEMS microphones in one device. Such microphone arrays improve noise cancellation and are now made possible with the unique packaging technology(5) used for ST's digital MEMS microphones.

ST customers will benefit from the industry-unique capability to manage the whole supply chain and leading-edge MEMS production capacity at ST and OMRON.

"In the past, microphones were the domain of expert acoustics companies, but now it's time for semiconductor MEMS players to drive the growth of this market. We're aiming to increase the size of the MEMS microphone market by an order of magnitude," said Benedetto Vigna, Group Vice President and General Manager of MEMS and Healthcare Division, STMicroelectronics. "This market can explode only with big and long-term committed suppliers, operating their own leading-edge MEMS fabs. Working together with our Japanese friends, we'll drive the microphone market growth as we have done in motion sensors."

"OMRON is ready to support ST in shortening product development cycles and time-to-volume for high-performance, cost-competitive silicon acoustic devices, accelerating the growth of the MEMS market and the development of new application areas such as voice-enabled gaming, automotive voice systems, acoustic sensors for industry and security applications, and medical telemetry," said Yoshio Sekiguchi, General Manager of Micro Devices Division, Micro Devices Business Development H.Q., OMRON Corporation.

Samples of digital MEMS microphones that integrate ST's electronic control circuit and OMRON's micro-machined sensor in a single package will be available before the end of this year, at less than one dollar for large-volume orders. This price is set to catalyze the adoption of MEMS microphones in a wide range of existing and emerging audio applications in the consumer, automotive, industrial and medical segments.

According to iSuppli's research dated September 2009, the market for micro-machined acoustic devices for consumer electronics and mobile handsets is forecast to grow at a revenue CAGR of 18% between 2008 and 2013, when it will exceed one billion parts per year.


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