MEMS Microphone Market Expected to Hit $1B in 2017

Release time:2017-06-21
source:EE Times

The market for microphones based on microelectromechanical system (MEMS) devices will reach the $1 billion milestone, or 5 billion units, this year, up from $993 million in 2016, according to a report from Yole Développement (Lyon, France). Yole further predicts that the electret microphone (ECM) market will hit $700 million this year, edging the combined revenue tally for MEMS and ECM mics close to $2 billion by year’s end.

The study, “Acoustic MEMS and Audio Solutions 2017,” further estimates the microspeaker market at nearly $8.7 billion and states that the audio microchip market, including codecs, DSPs, and amplifiers, already exceeds $4.3 billion.

“From mobile phones to cars, from home assistants to drones, audio components like MEMS microphones, ECMs, speakers, and audio integrated circuits are essential for key functions of those existing and new products,” study author Guillaume Girardin, technology and market analyst for MEMS and sensors at Yole, told EE Times in an exclusive interview.

Girardin’s report for Yole traces the evolution of the markets for MEMS microphones, ECMs, microspeakers, and audio ICs since 2010. “The recent focus of all big consumer electronics players on audio features testifies to the importance of the audio device market, which will be worth $20 billion by 2022,” he told EE Times. “There’s clearly room for more added value in the audio value chain regarding hardware and software—smarter microphones, algorithms, DSPs, codecs, and microspeakers—which will enhance audio capabilities and drive us to a voice-powered future.”

Reports by SystemPlus Consulting and KnowMade, meanwhile, include reverse engineering and cost analysis of the market’s first piezoelectric MEMS microphone, the Vesper VM1000. And in a freely available Q&A exchange with Yole titled “The Future is Voice Powered,” Vesper CEO Matt Crowley revealed Vesper’s strategy and described the features of its piezoelectric approach to MEMS microphones.

SystemPlus tore down and analyzed the Knowles, STMicroelectronics, and Goertek MEMS microphones in the Apple iPhone 7-Plus. KnowMade, in turn, used that teardown to reveal the basis of Knowles’ patents and intellectual-property litigation involving those patents in “Knowles MEMS Microphones in Apple iPhone 7 Plus Patent-to-Product mapping.”

The reports collectively conclude that voice, and audio in general, is becoming a key function of consumer, automotive, and industrial applications and is being incorporated into a diverse ecosystem of related acoustic areas. According to Yole, the MEMS microphone market got an extra boost by the use of multiple mics per device—four in the iPhone 7 Plus—contributing to the audio business’ projected 6 percent compound annual growth rate to 2022. As such, the audio supply and value chain will become increasingly important to what Girardin calls our voice-powered future.

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Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) chips cannot be virtually fabricated using conventional electronic design automation (EDA) tools because their three-dimensional structures cannot be represented well there. Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools are closer to the mark, but usually work on millimeter- instead of micron-size scales. To bridge the gap, Coventor Inc. (Cary, North Carolina) has created its Coventor and MEMS+ tools, which have now been merged into a single unified platform perfect for Internet of Things (IoT) makers, according to Steve Breit, vice president of MEMS business for Coventor. By dove-tailing the library-based MEMS+ design flow into the finite element modeling of Coventor the new CoventorMP covers all bases for MEMS chip design and manufacturer.  (Source: Coventor) "Our new unified MEMS platform, CoventorMP, integrates our older separate platforms -- CoventorWare and MEMS+ for separate design-modeling and device-simulation -- into a single platform that integrates with Cadence and specific foundry PDK's [process design kits] for modeling, design, simulation and test all with the same platform," Breit told EE Times in an exclusive interview before the announcement. CoventorMP sports compact finite analysis tools that look like PDKs for semiconductors, but for MEMS devices. A library of generic MEMS parts that cover the spectrum of devices today, can be assembled into a particular MEMS structure. CoventorMP is agnostic to processes, but has been specifically adapted to Cadence EDA and X-Fab PDK, resulting in a MEMS-PDK (MPDK) that looks like what semiconductor designers expect, only for MEMS. CoventorMP's interfaces directly with Matlab, Simulink and Cadence making designs foundry ready.  (Source: Coventor) In fact, Coventor, Cadence Design Systems, X-FAB and Reutlingen University are jointly sponsoring a worldwide MEMS Design contest with an $8,000 purse for 10 hand-selected entries (from a field of 20) to design MEMS-based solutions for IoT and other applications. The winners will be announced in early 2018. Steve Breit, Vice President of MEMS Business for Coventor.  (Source: Coventor) The applications being developed by the 10 teams are aimed at medical, sensing and inertial tracking techniques that are not only novel, but which have value to society. The first place winner will get not only the CoventorMP tools and $5,000 in cash, but also a free manufacturing run on X-Fab's line. Besides Cadence and X-Fab, Coventor is also working with other EDA makers and foundries to come up with new specific MEMS-PDK versions to make CoventorMP seamlessly compatible with their tools, too. "We want a single-point Gold Standard design entry using the library approach where you adjust parameters for the integrated base of MEMS components you picked, do a simple simulation with MEMS+ then do more detailed behavior simulations as with CoventorWare," said Breit. "If you need more sophisticated simulations then you export the design to MatLab, the Simulink modeling environment, the Cadence Virtuoso circuit modeling environment, or SPICE simulators that support Verilog-A. With these you can get accurate system dynamics, such as calculate the signal-to-noise ratio for a MEMS microphone including the sensitivity of the electronics." Included in the MEMS library are gyroscopes, accelerometers, microphones, pressure sensors, scanning micro mirrors plus MPDKs and validated models suitable for submission to foundries.
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