KYOTO, Japan—The No. 3 MEMS accelerometer maker worldwide—Rohm Co.'s wholly owned subsidiary Kionix Inc.—announced its first gyroscope model Monday (Nov. 8), for which it claims to have design wins pending at makers of mobile handsets, gaming controllers and automobiles.
"Since Kyoto-based Rohm acquired us last year, they have opened doors for us to major handset, gaming and automotive manufacturers," said Greg Galvin, CEO of Kionix (Ithaca, N.Y.). "Consumer device makers have always been the target market for our accelerometers, but having Rohm behind us is expanding our penetration of the emerging market for consumer-grade gyros too."
Yole Development recently predicted that the consumer gyro market will grow to over $1 billion in 2014. Kionix syas this prediction and other prompted the company to expand beyond accelerometers to gyros, too. Since Kionix was founded in 1993, it has concentrated on the MEMS accelerometer market—manufacturing its MEMS chips in its own U.S.-based six-inch silicon wafer processing facility capable of fabricating 200 million units per year.
Now Kionix will start manufacturing gyros in the same fab. The company plans to use the same model it used for its accelerometers, of which there are 17 models today, by proliferating gyros specialized for specific applications with built-in algorithms, such as for user-programmable orientation, directional tap, directional shake, free-fall detection and other activity-monitoring tasks.
"Five or six years ago we had a simple kind of world where you could make a three-axis accelerometer with three analog outputs and the customer did the rest," said Galvin. "Now our customers want us to give them the end solution they are looking for—a register that tells them if the device moves, a register that tell if the device is in portrait instead of landscape, and they either don't want to bother with or aren't capable of processing the raw sensor data."
As a result, Kionix' catalog full of specialized accelerometers has garnered it major design wins in all of the markets it serves, including hard disks, gaming controllers, navigation units and mobile phones.
"The reason we have been so successful against our much larger competitors is that we are more customer focused—we are willing to help the customers by implementing what they are trying to do," said Galvin. "In fact, our biggest engineering head count is in applications engineering, which for us is developing the application for the end customer—essentially doing their job for them."
Kionix integrated directional tap, double-tap, device-orientation and activity-monitoring algorithms for its MEMS sensors use on-chips smarts and a non-volatile memory buffer.
Now Rohm's Kionix wants to repeat the same successes it had in accelerometers, but for the even larger emerging MEMS gyroscope market. Like its initial accelerometer parts, Kionix's first gyros—the KGY12 two-axis and the KGY13 three-axis gyroscopes—provide sensor-data outputs—either analog or 16-bit digital over I2C or SPI connections. The gyros 24-pin 5-by-5-by-0.9 millimeter land-grid array (LGA) package also has an embedded temperature sensor for applications where accuracy is critical.
Eventually, Kionix hopes to add smarts to its gyroscopes to create a catalog of application-specific gyros, like its current crop of accelerometers that include on-chip algorithms for detecting over a dozen gestures. Kionix will also retool its online Gesture Designer to allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to create custom algorithms for Kionix' gyroscopes.
Kionix has been quietly building a portfolio of accelerometers that are specialized for nearly any consumer application, and I predict that by this time next year Rohm's Kionix will have started to assemble a like-sized catalog of application-specific gyros. Stay tuned.
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