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New Report on Detection Principles & Technical Evolution for MEMS & NEMS

Research and Markets has announced the addition of the "New Detection Principles & Technical Evolution for MEMS & NEMS" report to their offering.

Today, the MEMS & sensors industry faces new challenges:

  • Cost & size reduction
  • Reduced time-to-market
  • Maintaining sensor value
  • Offering new functionalities

These challenges are mostly driven by consumer and portable/wearable electronics applications. Solutions to overcoming these challenges include:

  • Developing excellence in high-volume manufacturing
  • Offering more software for increased added-value
  • Developing new detection principles

It is challenging to continue reducing size at the sensing element level, since inertial will always require a minimum mass to detect movement. Also, there is a limit to how low cost can go. Today, we see two ways to further push MEMS miniaturization and cost reduction.

One way is to bolster MEMS process optimization with 3D integration and new wafer bonding approaches. Since 2010, MEMS innovation has occurred at the packaging level. For example, Through Silicon Vias (TSV) technology was introduced by STMicroelectronics in 2012 for accelerometers. Today, both mCube and Robert Bosch are using TSV to achieve very small devices. Through 3D integration, significant size reduction has been achieved with a smaller sensing area, and, in the future, a slight reduction of MEMS structure could be achieved in subsequent generations (i.e. with more precise etching technologies, thicker proof masses, etc.).

However, the well-known MEMS law of One MEMS, One Process still rules MEMS production. This strongly impacts manufacturing, since any introduction of new materials means a new process must be developed. This task is more easily achieved by a newcomer rather than an established player with proven manufacturing platforms and well-established yields. Thus, innovation could come from small, forward-thinking MEMS companies and R&D labs that are developing tomorrow's sensing technologies. We cover this topic in our report.

Employing new detection principles is the second breakthrough approach for continued MEMS & Sensors innovation. It is interesting to see that innovations are coming from fabless firms attempting to follow Invensense's successful approach.

Indeed, newcomers such as Qualtré and Tronics are developing innovative MEMS structures for next-generation gyroscopes and inertial MEMS. For example, M&NEMS from Tronics looks very promising. It uses a thick layer for inertial mass (MEMS) and a thin layer for the gauge (NEMS). Beyond this, many R&D labs are investigating new approaches for new detection principles, i.e. nano-optics, SMR/SNR, and FM detection. However, these are often very disruptive approaches that are years away from industrial maturity, since some of them use non-traditional semiconductor manufacturing approaches.

The MEMS market will continue growing. A 13% CAGR is expected through 2019, culminating in a $24B MEMS market. Although consumer applications possess the highest volume growth (around 20% expected between 2012 - 2019), strong price pressure (-7% a year) results in modest 13% revenue growth over the same time span. Competition is fierce between players, as everyone is pushing hard to optimize their process while coping with increased volume, especially for consumer applications. Many exciting changes in MEMS production and detection principles have been detected and they are all detailed in this report.

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