Sensors and MEMS: Market analysis and trends in the discrete manufacturing industry

Friday March 24, 2006
Written by Sergey Yurish
Advances in micro-electrical-mechanical systems (MEMS) and sensor technologies are driving the growth of automation in discrete manufacturing industries as users interface their operations with analogue/digital input to control processes.

Smart sensors using microcontrollers are adding intelligence and functionality to various sensor technologies and providing simpler, more intuitive setup. Innovation is prompting the adoption of new technologies, including smart sensor capabilities, wireless communications, MEMS-based components and plug-and-play sensors. Many of these advanced technologies are available now and will be used in discrete manufacturing industries in the near future.

MEMS devices
According to the NEXUS market analysis, MEMS and Microsystems III, 2005-2009, markets for microsystems will double over the next five years, from $12 billion US in 2004 to $25 billion US in 2009, resulting in a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16 per cent.

Similarly, a Yole Development report, Ultimate MEMS Market Analysis, indicates that the MEMS device market is expected to reach $7 billion US in 2007, resulting in a 17 per cent CAGR. The report suggests that the most popular and promising MEMS devices are acceleration sensors, gyroscopes, pressure sensors, ink jet heads, silicon microphones, radio frequency MEMS and microbolometers. Major application areas include consumer, space/military, automotive, medicine and telecommunications.

The automotive sensor industry is in an optimistic state, since modern cars are equipped with more than 100 different sensors. The worldwide automotive sensor market, valued at more than $10 billion US, will continue to increase at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of six per cent to $14.2 billion US in 2010, according to Automotive Sensors Report. During that period, position, speed and oxygen sensors will rise at an AAGR of 6.7 per cent; pressure and acceleration sensors by 5.6 per cent; and mass airflow, temperature and other sensors by 4.5 per cent. Position, speed and oxygen sensors will remain the largest market segment, rising from $6.2 billion US in 2005 to $8.6 billion US in 2010, the report says.

In Europe and the United States, the automotive sensor market is expected to grow at an AAGR of 9.95 per cent, from $5.66 billion US in 2005 to $7.53 billion US in 2008, suggests a report by Fuji-Keizai USA, Inc., Automotive Sensors Market Emerging & Current Sensors Update Now and Future. Emissions control-related sensor demand has been strong recently, and future growth prospects remain robust, driven by tightening regulations in the United States and Canada.

The Yole Development Report, MEMS on IC: Analysis of the Applications and Technology Trends, suggests that the use of integrated circuit-compatible process lines for MEMS production is growing. Monolithic integration is often selected as a solution because of cost advantages, commercial imperatives, performance advantages, and pragmatism, which are all very important for discrete manufacturing industries. Nevertheless, hybrid solutions are still sometimes preferred as they offer a more flexible manufacturing strategy and shorter development time.

Sensors
According to the North American Markets for Proximity, Photoelectric, and Linear Displacement Sensors Report, published by Venture Development Corporation, the photoelectric sensors market is forecast to increase at a CAGR of 4.7 per cent through 2007, exceeding $708 million US.

The displacement sensors market is also forecast to increase at a CAGR of 4.3 per cent through 2007, reaching approximately $380 million US. The market for triangulation laser sensors is expected to be the fastest-growing product segment during this time. Increasingly, sensors will have bus/network interfaces. Microcontrollers are now small enough to fit within a cylindrical proximity sensor. Add networking connections to the mix, and the potential for more power and flexibility is here.

Sensor buses, interfaces and outputs
Current research indicates a trend toward greater use of Ethernet. The relative use of other networks and buses, including standard serial, DeviceNet and Profibus, is expected to remain fairly constant.

In recent years, frequency-time domain or so-called quasi-digital sensors (with frequency, period, duty-cycle, time-interval, pulse-width modulated or phase-shift output) have become increasingly popular and widely distributed among manufacturers, customers and system integrators. This sector will see growth because both analogue and frequency output sensors will be used as a basis for creation of different plug-and-play smart sensors.

Smart sensors will also have a market niche due to price reduction. The best approach for smart sensors creation is to use both modern technologies and advanced methods for signal processing and conversion.

Today, many manufacturers produce sensors and transducers with a combination of analogue and frequency or digital output and, sometimes, with several interfaces in the same device. This will continue in the coming years.

The accuracy of output achieved in MEMS-based sensors and transmitters is high and has prompted their growth in multiple end-user markets. Trends towards digital electronics, software integration and networking systems compel manufacturers of sensors and transmitters to enhance their product offerings based on modern achievements in signal processing.

Sergey Yurish is vice-president and founder of Sensors Web Portal, Inc., based in Toronto, and vice-president of the International Frequency Sensor Association (IFSA). This article is an edited and updated version of an article that originally appeared on the following site: http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/DIGEST/E_10.htm.

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