Monday, March 23, 2009

"MEMS: market slowed by auto makers' woes"

Slumping car sales will result in double-digit declines in the automotive MEMS sensor market, according to market researcher iSuppli Corp., which predicts that the automotive market for MEMS sensors will be down by 16 percent 2009, but will resume growth in 2010. Sensor mandates for airbag deployment, tire-pressure monitoring and advanced vehicle stability control are forcing car makers to add MEMS sensors to more models. That is offsetting the overall downturn in the global automobile market. Many current models already have three different MEMS sensors types: accelerometers for airbags, tire pressure sensors and a gyroscopes for stability control. All three systems will be mandatory on all U.S. passenger vehicles by 2012 and in European Union by 2014.

BOTTOM LINE: Micro-electro-mechanical systems is one of the few remaining bright spots in semiconductor manufacturing of late, but the abundance of automotive applications is dragging down MEMS growth. Mitigating factors are that more cars are getting MEMS sensors, by government mandate. Also more and more cell phones are getting MEMS chips to automatically switch from landscape to portait mode, among other things, which is also mitigating the economic downturn for MEMS devices. Nevertheless, 2009 will still be a slow year for MEMS.