Smart MEMS for Smart Applications

MEMS is extensively used in smartphones, wearable devices, and other electronic devices, owing to its enhanced electrical performance at high frequencies. The MEMS market is expected to gain popularity as the consumer electronics industry is shifting its focus from traditional sensors to MEMS technology.

MEMS-in-industrialMicro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, conceptualized in the 1960s and commercialized in the 1980s, are enabling several technologies and playing a central role in the boom of the Internet of Things. What began as a tiny nozzle to support the inkjet printers now has a host of products lined up to suit a variety of applications in the market.

From an application standpoint, MEMS devices have penetrated into a wide range of sectors ever since their inception with an inkjet printer. MEMS devices have a footprint in consumer electronics, industrial electronics, medical devices, gaming consoles, drones, imaging, and several other applications.

The increase in the number of applications is primarily attributed to the development of a varied set of products. Recently, several MEMS devices such as accelerometers and gyroscopes have been integrated into a single module to cater to advanced application scenarios in consumer electronics devices for augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), drone, robotics, and gaming console applications. However, it has to be noted that several advances in front-end fabrication and back-end integration also have considerably contributed to the development of MEMS.

Advances in MEMS are improving the gaming experience as well. A host of products such as acceleration, inertial, and orientation sensors together recognize the gesture of the user and enable an interactive gaming experience in applications such as dancing and tennis. In a recent development of this application, smart gloves have been designed with the help of orientation sensors to aid in recuperating the hand movement.

As consumer electronics gets loaded with high-performance devices, the stress on energy efficiency is growing. Piezoelectric MEMS devices are being continuously researched to develop energy harvesters that can independently power the devices without batteries. The vibrational energy is utilized by the piezoelectric MEMS to derive power. The MEMS energy harvester will follow the complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) fabrication technology and adopt the developments in related technologies such Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) and Very-large-scale integration (VLSI). The interest in energy harvesting devices is growing due to their ability to provide reliable power and develop self-sufficient energy systems for low-power, portable, and consumer electronic devices. Among all applications, MEMS energy harvesters will be a noble application to look forward to.

MEMS microphones are increasingly finding application across smartphones, cars, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), speech recognition, digital assistants, and so on. Due to their significant performance demonstration over the traditional electret condenser microphone (ECM), the MEMS microphone is in demand in the market. Among other reasons, a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), lower energy consumption, smaller form factor, and the ease of integration with mobile devices prove to be positive factors for the device. Moreover, MEMS microphones demonstrate a superior noise cancellation capability, higher resistance to radio frequency (RF) interference, and electromagnetic interference. Hence, the MEMS microphone has quickly emerged as the preferred device for integration with consumer electronics, which is one of the major end-user verticals for the MEMS market.

MEMS devices have also penetrated into optoelectronics applications such as pico-projectors, autofocus, and other imaging applications. Generally, a multi-axis scanning mirror is employed along with three-color laser diodes and a video processor to project the video. Because of the small form factor, the device can be easily integrated into several mobile devices. Recently, interactive projections capability has started being integrated into devices such as robotics and home automation as a user interface option. Interactive projections will utilize the signals reflected back from the laser and process the user command accordingly.

Developments in MEMS devices have been significant due to several factors. These include advances in processing technologies, Mega Trends such as higher usage of consumer electronics, and the recent high tide in the Internet of Things (IoT). The trend of addressing new applications is rising steadily, and we can expect more product and applications in the near future. Therefore, the MEMS market is all set to grow even stronger, with an increasing number of product innovations.

What’s Next for the MEMS Industry?

The MEMS market is expected to have a strong growth of 14% for the next 5 years, fueled by the existing growing markets for sensors in mobile phones, cars and autonomous cars, smart homes and buildings, IoT and IIoT module, highlighting the diffusion of sensors in all parts of our life and in the industry, surfing on all the mega trends. In addition to this increase of existing sensor applications, several key markets will drive to new heights the MEMS industry: 5G will only be implemented by the use of multiple RF MEMS filters, with markets expected with more than 20% growth for the next 5 years.

In addition to that, MEMS devices are taking full benefit of the evolution of the several industries that are moving to a more module approach: imaging industry moving to dual camera and 3D imaging driving the image stabilization needs and integration of multiple other MEMS devices, introduction of silicon micro-speakers driving the increased importance of the audio function as a whole (with integration of microphone and audio IC to provide higher functions at the module level), environmental sensing being more and more expected…

Industrial IoT to push MEMS growth

Together, initiatives such as Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are helping manufacturing organizations to improve the efficiency of their production processes. Cloud-based analytics applications are responsible for collating and giving context to the many different aspects of running a production or manufacturing operation. These applications harvest the essential data from sensors that are deployed across the factory floor and in every piece of manufacturing equipment. Sensors are used to measure the real-time world, and in most cases, convert the analog measurements into a digital signal. Environmental parameters include temperature, humidity and air pressure, but there are many other characteristics such as gas flow, hydraulic fluid pressure and proximity. Other types of sensors need to precisely measure movement and relative position. These can include inertial navigation for use in robotics and automation, condition monitoring of industrial equipment, and shock detection and logging. Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) are increasingly used for these tasks due to their compact dimensions, low power characteristics and extremely precise measurement capabilities.

Mr.Vishal Goyal, STmicroelectronics
Mr.Vishal Goyal, STmicroelectronics
ST Focuses MEMS Strategy on Industrial IoT

STMicroelectronics is making a big push into the Industrial IoT space with the announcement of a range of high-accuracy MEMS sensors and components designed to last for at least 10 years, serving the needs of advanced automation environments in which machines can be expected to perform for many years.

In a briefing with Mr.Vishal Goyal, Senior Technical Marketing Manager, Analog and MEMS Group, RF, Sensors and Analog Custom Products, Asean-Anz and India, STmicroelectronicssaid, “There are big opportunities for MEMS sensors in the industrial environment. In the past five to six years, the adoption of MEMS has been limited and mostly driven by smartphones. But as we enter the age of automation, smart industry, and smart driving, the demand for sensors will grow at a consumer pace here, too. However, there will be a requirement for a completely new generation of MEMS in terms of accuracy, performance, and longevity.”

Wayne Meyer, MEMS Marketing Manager, Analog Devices
Wayne Meyer, MEMS Marketing Manager, Analog Devices
Wayne Meyer, MEMS Marketing Manager, Analog Devices

We don’t cover the lower performance consumer applications because that is not where ADI as a company focuses. We engage with high performance products that are designed for very demanding applications that span industrial, automotive, healthcare, etc. markets.

There are many remote, wireless applications that require performance and ultra-low power for longevity. There is also the emerging industrial Condition based Monitoring (CbM) market that requires very low noise. And there is a huge push for high performance IMUs that can handle long term navigation at very precise (mm or cm) accuracy while also having extremely good repeatability and removal of error sources. These are a couple of the key trends we see and they are all growing.

MMES are both for automotive safety and non-safety applications. Legacy safety applications are items such as airbag sensors, satellite crash sensors, and electronic stability control. These are very demanding applications that require very high quality (low ppm), automotive qualification, and high-performance specs. New to this area is autonomous vehicles which will require very demanding IMUs for long term navigation and geo-location. Non-safety applications still the first two but given the applications are more tied to in-cabin, telematics, etc., they can typically be covered by broad market parts that aren’t automotive specific (specific automotive interfaces, continuous self-test, etc.)

Our focus is on Automotive, Industrial, Healthcare, and MilAero markets. That requires a combination of ultra-low noise (see ADXL35x and ADXL100x parts) for stability and CbM, ultra-low power (see ADXL362 and ADXL372 parts), and IMUs (see very small, high performance ADIS16470 and navigation grade ADIS18495 parts). Most of the automotive parts are not as obvious on the website because they are so automotive specific.

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