PORTLAND, Ore.—InvenSense Inc. grew sales by 30 percent in 2012 to $186 million, prompting IHS iSuppli to declare the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company "the most successful MEMS startup ever." But despite the firm's rapid growth, InvenSense ranked 13th in the world in MEMS sales in 2012 as the market once again grew at a healthy clip, according to IHS's latest report on the MEMS market.
InvenSense's success originated with its 2009 invention of its Nasiri Process, which uses wafer bonding of an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) wafer onto its MEMS wafer, thus protecting it from contamination while reducing the overall cost of its package. Named after InvenSense's founder, Steve Nasiri (now at Nasiri Ventures LLC), the Nasiri process enabled InvenSense to create accurate, low power MEMS devices that nevertheless were inexpensive to manufacture for consumer applications.
The total market for MEMS chips grew about 5 percent in 2012 to reach $8.3 billion, according to IHS iSuppli's annual MEMS Competitive Analysis Report. Bosch and STMicroelectronics were neck-and-neck at $793 million for 2012, giving them both claims to No. 1 in MEMS, with STMicrolectronics growing 23 percent while Bosch grew 8 percent, IHS said.
Earlier this month, InvenSense announced that it would expand its MEMS offerings from the low-precision low-price consumer markets to the high-precision high-priced industrial markets, offering two initial entries—its ITG-31Nx three-axis gyroscope and its MPU-61Nx six-axis combo accelerometer/gyroscope. Both offer industrial-grade performance in the harsh industrial environments where extreme temperature ranges and severe shocks are commonplace. Gyroscope drift for the industrial grade parts is just 25 degrees per hour and accelerometer noise is 25 percent lower than consumer parts, with bias instability of just 0.01 milligrams.
InvenSense's foray into the industrial market followed its diversification from gaming into mobile handsets and tablets, where its combo sensors are gaining ground. Last year, the consumer market for combo sensors in a 4-by-4 millimeter package accounted for half InvenSense's revenue, according to IHS, and its new nine-axis combo devices—combining accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer in a tiny 3-by-3 millimeter package—are slated to raise its market share further next year.
Texas Instruments Inc. saw its MEMS revenue decline in 2012 due to reduced demand for its digital-light processor (DLP) as consumers switch from projection TVs to flat-panel displays, IHS said. Also on the decline last year was Hewlett-Packard Co., whose MEMS income derives mostly from ink jet cartridges—also a shrinking market.
Overall, the top 20 MEMS makers accounted for 77 percent of the total market, with the top four companies accounting for 64 percent of the total of $8.3 billion.
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.