The huge slump in car sales provoked by financial market turmoil had a knock on effect on MEMS fortunes towards the latter end of 2008. Data recently released by iSuppli's automotive division suggests that MEMS shipments to the automotive sector were down by 6% in 2008 and shipments could be slashed by 19% in 2009, according to the forecast.
The trend was also reflected in figures published in a preliminary version of Yole Développement's annual 'TOP30 MEMS manufacturers' report. The analyst firm recorded a less dramatic 2% decrease in total MEMS sales in 2008 compared to 2007, but also cited the automotive industry's woes as the chief reason for the fall.
The automotive sector accounts for a significant portion of the MEMS market - 17% of MEMS sales in value in 2008, according to Yole. However, some sectors - MEMS accelerometers for example " have relied upon automotive for as much as 45 to 50% of sales. Although iSuppli's predicts a return to double-digit growth in automotive MEMS in 2011, what's clear is that consumer applications have for some time been taking over from automotive in importance.
Acknowledging the demise of Systron Donner Automotive's MEMS quartz gyroscope division, owned by Schneider Electric, plus Infineon's divestment of its SensoNor business to Norwegian investors, both analysts' figures also hint at a couple of European success stories. iSuppli recounts that ST more than doubled its total MEMS sensor revenues to $231million in 2008, up from $104million in 2007. If its inkjet foundry revenue is included in the figures, it would take its total MEMS revenue for 2008 to $444million, from $352million in 2007. Meanwhile, iSuppli estimates that Bosch MEMS revenue was $451million in 2008 compared to $465million in 2007, corresponding to an increase to 190 million units from 160 million respectively. "The consumer part of Bosch revenue at Bosch Sensortec almost tripled in 2008, while automotive revenue declined by 6%," according to iSuppli's MEMS analyst Jeremie Bouchaud.
Despite the automotive industry's woes, there was some good news from Bouchaud: "The shipment of cars is down by 19 percent in 2009, but since sensor content keeps growing by virtue of mandates, the sensor market is not down as much." He added: "We are predicting that the automotive market for MEMS sensors will be down by 16 percent 2009, but we expect the resumption of healthy growth in the automotive MEMS market in 2010."
Frank Schaefer, director of marketing for Bosch's automotive business, explained to ADLE that with electronic stability control systems and tyre pressure monitoring systems becoming mandatory, plus new restrictions designed to lower fuel consumption and CO2 production, automotive powertrains would continue to require increased sensor content. For example, one emerging opportunity is for active suspension sensors, which adapt the chassis to different road conditions: "Three accelerometers will be needed for this " one on each of the front wheels and one at the back, because the bend of the chassis is so large." He concludes that whilst the news for automotive MEMS suppliers isn't so good for 2009, 2011 will be a good year.
MEMS accelerometers: a fast-track to design success?