MEMS pressure sensors: much more than “business as usual”

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The automotive market is still driving revenues for MEMS pressure sensors – but for how long?

“Pressure sensors are widely used throughout the industry across numerous applications.” asserts Dimitrios Damianos, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. “In the last couple of decades, automotive has been one of the main sectors to drive demand for these devices. The development of new systems in conventional internal combustion engine vehicles, as well as hybrid electric vehicles, is demanding complex control systems”.

Many different sensing technologies have been used so far for measuring pressure in automotive, industrial, defense & aerospace and other harsh environments. Examples include strain gauges on metal substrates, plus capacitive and piezo-resistive sensors using ceramic materials that are used to sense pressures of several tens or hundreds of bars. But for pressure levels below the 5-10 bar mark their sensing elements become relatively big and expensive. This is where MEMS pressure sensors have strongly penetrated.

Titre du visuel

june 2021

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Released today, the MEMS Pressure Sensors – Technology and Market Trends 2021 report summarizes the status of the MEMS pressure sensor industry in a thorough manner, taking into account the trends for each application and market separately. Focus of this version is green mobility and electrification, that has significant implications for the future of MEMS pressure sensors. Spanning from market forecasts, to market trends to technology trends, this study also delivers an in-depth understanding of the ecosystem, supply chain and main players’ strategies.

What are the economic and technological challenges of the MEMS pressure sensors industry? What are the key drivers? Who are the companies to watch?

Yole presents today its vision of the MEMS pressure sensors industry.

As analyzed by Yole’s team in the new MEMS Pressure Sensors – Technology and Market Trends 2021 report, the global pressure MEMS market amounted to US$1,685 million in 2019, expected to slightly drop to US$1,645million in 2020 due to COVID-19 ebbs and flows. By 2026, the whole market is expected to grow to US$2,214 million, at a 4% CAGR.
According to Jérôme Mouly, Team Lead Analyst in the Sensing & Actuating team within the Photonics & Sensing Division at Yole“During recent years, miniaturization, low power, and cost effectiveness have allowed the consumer market to grow significantly, mainly due to the use of pressure MEMS barometers and altimeters in smartphones, drones, e-cigarettes and consumer white goods. This technology will continue gaining traction by other use-cases, such as 911 e-calls now that all US smartphones must integrate a pressure sensor, for exact altitude positioning, higher attachment rate in smartphones, wearables applications and e-cigarettes”.
Miniaturization of pressure MEMS has allowed their use in invasive medical applications like blood pressure monitoring. Other niche medical markets like catheters, inflating device monitoring for cardiovascular applications that are invasive and require high accuracy, low-cost sensors, are fully using the advantages of MEMS technologies and could foster broader use in the medical market.

The industrial market is also interesting to follow. Because we are at the verge of Industry 4.0 and factory automation, process control and smart meters could present good growth opportunities.
Defense & aerospace pressure MEMS comprise less than 5% of the total pressure MEMS market, growing only slowly and gradually replacing older technologies. Finally, in the automotive market pressure MEMS continue to grow thanks to the evolution towards greener driving and increased autonomy levels that demand enhanced safety. TPMS and China 6 regulations will cause the DPF and GPF , EVAP , EGR and TPMS applications to grow in the future. However, one risk is imminent. The recent acceleration of battery EV could mean the slow-down of pressure sensors in the traditional ICE powertrain. But new applications could emerge, such as thermal runaway monitoring in battery cells, promising significant growth.
For the moment and in the next 5-10 years to come at least, powertrain pressure MEMS will keep growing modestly. However, the big question arises is what happens beyond the next decade as the classic ICE powertrain dies.

This will have significant implications for the players involved. Up until now, pressure MEMS, being a historically stable market, has not experienced any dramatic changes in its player landscape, besides some recent mergers and acquisitions. In the past two years big players like Amphenol and TE Connectivity were hungry to strengthen their pressure MEMS portfolios and synergies.
“Today’s top three pressure MEMS players – Bosch, TE Connectivity and Infineon – are already well established and technologically advanced, operating with large economies of scale” says Dimitrios Damianos“They occupy almost half of the US$1,645 million total market. Bosch and Infineon were consistently leaders in the past. Bosch has a strong presence in the automotive and consumer market, and Infineon is mainly in the automotive market. TE Connectivity has climbed up the rankings due to the acquisitions of SMI and First Sensor, acquiring significant capabilities for pressure MEMS in medical and industrial markets. Now TE Connectivity has a diversified portfolio”.
But with the decline in ICE vehicles further in the horizon, there is a risk for automotive pressure MEMS players losing a significant amount of powertrain pressure business. Luckily, the main stakeholders active in this domain have time to assess the situation and react. Therefore, decisions must be taken soon. Will companies target new markets away from automotive? Or will they look for new applications and novel use-cases? Will they redirect their strategy towards other types of sensors or systems? Or will they make acquisitions, leading to market and power consolidation?

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