Tablets, smart phones drive record MEMS growth

El Segundo, Calif. — The market for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) in consumer electronics and mobile communications devices is expected to generate record growth in 2011, thanks to tablet and smart-phone demand, according to IHS iSuppli.

Revenue for consumer and mobile communications MEMS, the largest sector of the MEMS market, will reach $2.25 billion in 2011, up by a record annual expansion rate of 37 percent, according to the latest IHS iSuppli Consumer & Mobile MEMS Market Tracker. This compares to the previous high-water mark of 27 percent in 2010 when revenue reached $1.64 billion, said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at HIS.

The report also finds that mobile handsets (including smart phones) will be the largest application for MEMS this year, reaching $1.21 billion. This will be followed by gaming with $221.49 million in revenue, and media tablets with $158.64 million in revenue.

MEMS revenue from tablets will show the fastest growth, up 331 percent from $36.83 million in 2010, and is expected to overtake gaming next year as the second largest market for MEMS.

Overall, the five-year revenue forecast starting from 2010 calls for growth by a factor of nearly three to $4.54 billion in 2015, equivalent to a compound annual growth rate of 22.5 percent, said IHS.

“From the accelerometers and gyroscopes that provide intuitive motion-based displays, to the microphones that allow people to talk on the phone, to the bulk acoustic wave filters that facilitate wireless Internet access, MEMS devices provide many of the basic functions that make tablets and smart phones such compelling products,” stated Bouchaud. “Because of this, MEMS content in these devices is increasing, driving the expansion of the entire consumer and mobile MEMS market.”

However, the biggest growth driver is the 3-axis gyroscope product segment, “a standard MEMS device that when used in conjunction with an accelerometer and a digital compass allows for more accurate, smoother and faster motion sensing for applications such as gaming and augmented reality,” said Bouchaud.

Revenue for 3-axis gyroscopes will reach $420 million in 2011, up from $127 million last year, and overall, this year will generate the second-highest revenue among consumer and mobile MEMS, second only to accelerometers, according to IHS.

Bouchaud also noted that there is an emerging class of MEMS sensors that is stimulating growth, beyond the 3-axis gyroscopes, accelerometers, microphones and bulk acoustic wave filters. This category includes devices such as thermopiles, varactors, timing devices, pressure sensors for indoor navigation, radio frequency MEMS switches and actuators used for autofocus functions in high-megapixel cameras and pico projectors.