ST to drive into the automotive MEMS market

March 21, 2012

Peter Clarke-March 21, 2012

ZURICH, Switzerland – The market and opportunities for MEMS are only limited by the imagination, according to Carmelo Papa, senior executive vice president at STMicroelectronics NV, providing a keynote for the MEMS Executive Congress Europe held here, on Tuesday (March 20).

ST, however, will attack the well- established automotive market – amongst others – in 2012 as it seeks to drive home its leading position in the MEMS component market, Papa said.

"ST is the leader in MEMS excluding automotive," Papa said as he showed a series of slides that emphasized how ST's MEMS fortunes have risen with the smart phone and tablet computers's use of inertial sensors and microphones.

Papa estimates that in five years' time automotive will only have about 20 percent of the MEMS market, not because it will shrink but because consumer and medical applications will grow faster.

Automotive is still 50 percent of the market but mobile phone and consumer [use of MEMS] has expanded fast," he said. "In 2012 ST will make some progress in automotive," Papa said although it is not clear whether this will be the relatively simple use of MEMS inertial sensors and microphones for infotainment and cabin applications or whether ST is also expecting to make sales for mission-critical applications such as tire-pressure monitoring systems, electronic stability control, safety systems and so on.

Carmelo Papa, senior executive vice president and general manager of the industrial and multisegment business unit of STMicroelectronics, speaking at the MEMS Executive Congress Europe, in Zurich.

Nonetheless ST's rise as a general IDM supplier of MEMS has been meteoric Papa showed. Not including foundry work done for Hewlett-Packard Co., ST sales of MEMS have gone from $30 million in 2006 to $650 million in 2011, Papa showed in his slides.

"ST started on 200-mm wafers, which is a big advantage. Also we double-sourced both our front-end chips, our MEMS and back-end packaging. ST has shipped 2 billion MEMS," Papa said.

"Where do we go next? Context-awareness enabled by MEMS," Papa predicted. He pointed out that key trend for 2012 is the fusion of data drawn from multiple MEMS sensors on a piece of equipment and that membrane and microfluidic MEMS both have a role to play in diagnostic and therapeutic medical MEMS. ST already has initiatives on an intra-ocular pressure sensor built into a contact lens and high-precision disposable insulin pump that is under review with the Federal Drug Administration.

The next step beyond sensor fusion and medical applications is the addition of low-cost and low-power wireless which will enable the Internet of Things.

"In two to five years the sensor, low-power radio and MCUs will merge, resulting in the personalization wave," said Papa.

When asked from the floor whether multi-die, system-in-package or monolithic integration was the way forward for MEMS Papa said: "The two will co-exist. It is a trade-off between integration and flexibility. Multi-die provides flexibility," he said pointing out that MEMS shrink rates and processes are very different to those of mixed-signal or digital CMOS.

Related links and articles:

MEMS Industry Group

News articles:

Report: MEMS will become 'essential gatekeepers' for systems

DESIGN West preview: Radio show marks the rise of MEMS

EE Times' MEMS buzz

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