LONDON – The deep penetration achieved by microelectromechanial systems (MEMS) sensors in consumer and mobile equipment will ensure that the market continues to enjoy growth in 2013, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.
The market for MEMS sensors and actuators is predicted to be worth $9.09 billion in 2013, up 8.1 percent from $8.41 billion in 2012, a year in which the MEMS market grew 6.1 percent. During the next two years IHS expects growth to be double-digit percentages and by 2017 the market will be worth $12.2 billion, up more than 50 percent on 2011.
While inertial MEMS sensors will continue to do well IHS predicts MEMS actuators for use with autofocus and zoom in cell phone cameras will do well with companies such as PoLight and Tessera Technologies prospering. The market for camera modules with imaging capabilities of more than 8 megapixels is worth $20 million in 2013 but climbs to $200 million by 2016.
Pressure sensors for judging height in location systems is another promising application. IHS iSuppli said it expects this market to double in 2013 to $100 million.
As the sensors become inexpensive, they should be used in sensors to prevent injuries (and document accidents) in industry and sports, to assist the handicapped, and to augment existing devices. Airbags for football players, autofocus glasses for reading, external airbags on cars, or tactile feedback guidance devices for the blind. We ought to be looking at a broader scope for these technologies. In 20 years we'll be looking back and it will all seem so obvious.
A key issue for sustainability of MEMS manufacturing is currently only aging fabs are being used. If a dedicated new fab were built, the returns may never be enough to justify in the bookkeeping. MEMS would need to be as ubiquitous as microprocessors or memory to justify this level of investment. In turn, that means MEMS production costs need to go down. This vicious cycle may not get off the ground in time.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.