Micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) microphones were once the darlings of startups, but no more. Analog Devices (Norwood, Mass.) has announced a major thrust into the fledgling MEMS microphone market, predicted by Yole Development (Lyon, France) to sell 800 million units by 2010.
Analog Devices' entry into this potentially high-volume market follows Infineon Technologies' entry last year, though neither company has yet reported shipping production units.
"From a market perspective, Analog Devices' entry, following Infineon's entry last year, gives very high-volume customers like cell-phone makers two sources of MEMS microphones from companies that are used to supplying these kinds of high volumes," said Marlene Bourne, founder of Bourne Research (Scottsdale, Ariz.).
"After all, the electret microphones that MEMS mics will replace in mobile phones are being delivered in the billions of units per year--those buyers will have an innate comfort level in dealing with companies like Analog Devices and Infineon."
Two years ago, the startup Akustica (Pittsburgh) announced the world's first MEMS microphone. The company took an innovative approach using a single CMOS chip that surrounds the mechanical microphone diaphragm with its supporting electronic circuitry—including an analog-to-digital converter—enabling Akustica's digital microphone to eliminate analog noise sources and leverage CMOS economies of scale, which reduce die costs as design rules shrink.
A few months later, hearing-aid specialists Knowles Electronics (Itasca, Ill.) announced a two-chip analog MEMS microphone—one for the mechanical diaphragm wire—bonded to a second application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) in the same package.
Shortly thereafter, another startup, Sonion MEMS A/S (originally in Roskilde, Denmark, but now part of Technitrol, Trevose, Penn.), announced a two-chip MEMS microphone.