The Sensory Revolution
The Sensory Revolution is the next big thing in MEMS, according to Peter Himes of Silex Microsystems, which says it is the world’s largest pure-play MEMS foundry.
“Incremental improvements in processing speed or memory density no longer have significant impact on the devices we use,” says Himes, ” MIPs and Megabytes are everywhere. And they are free. “
“Now we are at the advent of the Sensory Revolution,” adds Himes, “in the next 20 years, advances in nanotechnology and micro machining will make devices environmentally aware, allowing people to interact with devices the way they interact with each other: by touch, sound, movement, balance, and flow.”
All this will be driven by MEMS, says Himes.
In 2011, MEMS device shipments topped $10 billion US worldwide comprised of over 5 billion units, 95% of which were in consumer, automotive and medical/healthcare product areas.
The market is forecast to grow at 24% CAGR in unit volume over the next 5 years.
“Despite current dominance by large OEMs and IDM manufacturers, there is still substantial startup activity, with over 60 transactions in the MEMS space recorded since 2005,” says Himes.
“This model of in-house fabs restricts the innovation to a few very large companies that can support this infrastructure,” said Himes, “for MEMS to diversify and grow, the foundry model needs to rapidly adapt to the growth challenges of the market.”
49 out of every 50 MEMS products never need more than 1000 wafers per month. Within the MEMS world even the very large volume applications are measured in single thousands of wafers per month.
“What is needed is a foundry that excels in innovation,” says Himes, “taking new products and processes to volume production, supporting the <1000 wafer per month needs, but that also has the ecosystem and alliances to bridge the gap to true high volume manufacturing.”
That, says Himes, is the model which Silex has evolved.