MEMS and image sensors trends in the age of COVID-19

An interview written by Serena Brischetto, SEMI with Dimitrios Damianos, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement (Yole) – MEMS and image sensors are shining stars in the chip industry as technology companies worldwide accelerate innovation in the fight against COVID-19. The tiny devices are behind advances in areas of electronics ranging from thermal imaging and faster point-of-care testing to microfluidics-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tools and techniques to detect SARS-CoV-2.

SEMI recently spoke with Yole Développement analysts Dimitrios Damianos and Chenmeijing Liang about MEMS and imaging sensors market trends and how microelectronics-enhanced technologies are supporting the worldwide push to contain the spread of COVID-19.

For additional insights on the technologies, join the SEMI MEMS & Imaging Sensors Summit, held for the first time at SEMICON Europa, 12-13 November 2020 in Munich, Germany. Registration is open.

SEMI: Despite the global pandemic, the MEMS and sensors market is still growing and is one of the healthiest industries, not only in Europe, but globally. What is driving this growth?

Damianos: MEMS have been continuously evolving from the first sensors that were measuring pressure and acceleration to rotation sensing and visible light management followed by light sensing beyond visible and the expansion to ultrasound and multi-spectral. Now we are heading towards an era where we want to sense every aspect of our environment, with more processing and eventually analytics bringing more quality to the data.

COVID-19 has impacted various global markets in very different ways. While automotive, mobility and civil aviation have suffered, the impact on telecommunications and medical has been positive. The effects on the consumer, mobile and industrial markets have been moderate. Moreover, COVID-19 is changing the perception of the current global supply chain in manufacturing, potentially leading to more localized value chains and further regionalization in order to minimize similar risks posed by the pandemic and the first lockdown.

SEMI: Who are the main MEMS players based on your research?

Damianos: For MEMS players, the picture in 2019 was not the same as 10 years ago, when Texas Instruments (TI) and Hewlett-Packard (HP) were leading the scene, with Bosch and ST Microelectronics following, all at comparable revenue levels. Now, Broadcom and Bosch lead with almost $1.4 billion in revenue each, and the rest of the MEMS key stakeholders compete in the $400 million to $600 million league. Microphone players profited from the voice interface adoption trend, while players active in MEMS for mobility and smartphones suffered slightly due to weak end-system demand.

SEMI: What scenarios can we expect for each market with regard to the impact of COVID-19 on MEMS for 2020?

Damianos: For 2020, at Yole Développement we expect the consumer market to contract slightly by 2.6%, with the automotive market to dip by 27.5%, and defense and aerospace by 20.5%. For the defense market, no major effect is expected, as all major programs still run for the year. The market may experience some slight delays in deliveries due to supply chain and logistics problems. However, sensors integrated in commercial/civil aerospace applications will suffer due to the general paralysis of the air travel industry. On the positive side, telecommunications could increase by 4.7%, medical applications by 10.6%, and industrial by 11.5%.

Due to the global pandemic, some types of MEMS have spiked in demand this year. For example, demand for thermopiles and microbolometers used in temperature guns and thermal cameras has increased because of the need for contactless monitoring of people’s temperatures. Moreover, microfluidics for DNA sequencing and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic tests for detecting COVID-19 are gaining market relevance, with the latter serving as a premier method of detecting a bacteria or virus on the molecular level with high degrees of accuracy. Furthermore, pressure and flowmeters in ventilators will grow because of huge demand by hospital intensive care units (ICUs)… Full interview

This interview is based on Dimitrios Damianos’s presentation, SEMI MEMS & Imaging sensors summit – Grenoble, 26th September 2019 – Click HERE to download the slides.