A new milestone in the TMR industry

Allegro MicroSystems acquires Crocus Technology, for $420 million

Ever since Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, published its Magnetic Sensor report in early 2022, the magnetic sensor sector has consistently affirmed the trend toward significant adoption of TMR technology. This trend has been further emphasized by the recent purchase of Crocus Technology, a specialist in monolithic TMR sensors, by Allegro Microsystems, a global leader in magnetic sensing. This acquisition underlines the unmistakable direction the industry is headed.

Read today a detailed analysis of this new acquisition based on both reports, Magnetic Sensor report from Yole Intelligence and TMR Sensor Technology & Cost Comparison 2023 from Yole SystemPlus. This article has been written by two Yole Intelligence analysts, Pierre Delbos and Pierre-Marie Visse, members of the Photonics & Sensing division.

End-market evolutions boost demand for precision sensing

Magnetic sensors are widely used in automotive & mobility, industrial & infrastructure, and consumer applications. As they can be used to sense position, speed, current, or presence with switches, the number of use cases is quite unlimited. The total 2022 magnetic sensors market was $2.9 billion. As the aforementioned applications are going through massive transformations requiring advanced sensing capabilities, Yole Intelligence expects the magnetic sensor market to reach $4.5 billion by 2028.

In the automotive & mobility end market, the main contributor to the magnetic sensors market with more than 50% of the total value, the advent of ADAS and autonomous driving functionalities is leading to a complete sensorization of the car from steering assistance, pedal position sensing, to gear shift switches. A significant number of highly sensitive sensing solutions will be mandatory to improve the level of awareness of the car so that the processing unit can sense what is happening both inside and outside the vehicle to be able to respond. Yole Intelligence expects the Magnetic sensor market for automotive to reach $1.9 billion in 2028 with a 4% CAGR22-28.

Moreover, the automotive industry is transitioning from cars based on Internal Combustion Engines (ICE), which represented 93% of the production in 2018, to electrified cars, expected to represent 37% of the production in 2028. This worldwide electrification of cars, pushed by incentives and upcoming energy-saving regulations, will generate a strong demand for highly accurate magnetic current sensors in applications like traction inverters and other high-power electronics modules.

The magnetic sensor demand in the consumer end market is mainly driven by smartphones and wearables. The essential functionalities of these devices need advanced magnetic sensing capabilities: eCompass for navigation, position or rotation sensor for high-quality photography, and current sensor for wireless charging. Moreover, Yole Intelligence expects the upcoming AR/VR wave to create new opportunities for magnetic sensors.

The industrial & infrastructure end market, although smaller than the other end markets, will also be driven by key trends where magnetic sensors are needed: deployment of DC charging stations for electrified cars (current sensors), demand for renewable energy (current sensors), Industry 4.0 (position or rotation sensors), and automated warehouses with applications for logistics, robots & cobots…

All of these promising applications foster the demand for precise magnetic sensing.

Why TMR?

Nowadays, the Hall effect remains the most commonly used technology in the market for magnetic sensing as the sensors are cheap, small, easy to integrate, have low power consumption, and offer better sensitivity/performance than other traditional technologies (reed switches, potentiometers…).

Thanks to the increase in the number of use cases requiring advanced sensing capabilities, xMR technologies are gaining ground.

AMR technologies were quickly adopted in consumer end systems for eCompass functionalities and in automotive & mobility applications for position sensing, while GMR was mainly adopted for wheel speed sensors in ABS. One key reason for the adoption of AMR and GMR was the high sensitivity of the die with the possibility to integrate it monolithically on top of CMOS layers, decreasing the sensor’s overall size and power consumption.

The main strength of TMR technology is the super high sensitivity of its sensing layer, allowing manufacturers to reduce both the size of the die and the ASIC (less amplification needed). Thanks to this main advantage, TMR technology market share is expected to increase from 6% in volume in 2021 to 13% in 2027. This low footprint and power-efficient technology is a perfect fit for most position sensing and current sensing applications, where the contactless sensing process needs to be accurate enough to compete with traditional shunt devices.

Allegro’s strategy with this deal

Crocus Technology was founded in 2006. It is headquartered in California with R&D offices in Grenoble (France) and has been working for more than a decade on TMR technologies. In 2020, they installed their own deposition tool in Tower Semi’s fabs to manufacture monolithic TMR sensors. Allegro Microsystems is a leader in magnetic sensing and power electronics in the automotive and industrial markets. Focusing on magnetic sensing, Allegro Microsystems is by far the worldwide leader, with more than 25% of the market for automotive and industrial applications. It is worth noting that the acquisition of Crocus Technology comes at a decisive time and will strengthen Allegro’s leading position in what is expected to be a highly competitive market.

Firstly, TMR technologies are very complex, and only a few players have managed to develop a consistent product. With their years of experience in TMR, Crocus Technology is a perfect fit to leverage Allegro’s know-how on the technical aspect. This acquisition follows Allegro’s press release last year announcing their first-ever TMR-on-silicon sensor. Crocus Technology’s design will probably consolidate Allegro’s internally developed process for the monolithic integration of TMR sensors.

Get more detailed information about Crocus Technology’s TMR solution with Yole SystemPlus reverse engineering & costing report: HERE.

Crocus Technology is still young in terms of commercial maturity, with almost $30 million in revenue in 2022. Hence, the technology has significant market space ahead and will benefit from Allegro’s massive customer portfolio. With the above-mentioned market trends, Allegro’s future TMR sensors will undoubtedly find their way into the largest OEMs’/Tier-1s’ car modules and power electronic circuits.

Finally, this strategic move follows other massive announcements lately in the magnetic sensors market, in a way forcing Allegro to take a position:

  • The first was Bosch Sensortec’s announcement at CES 2023 of its monolithic TMR sensor. Even though the technology is currently only used for consumer electronics, Yole Intelligence’s analysts would not be surprised to see the technology being transferred to the automotive division in the long term. Indeed, as Bosch is the n°1 undisputed leader in sensors for the automotive market (More info.), it might receive some customer traction for TMR.
  • But the most significant announcement lately was probably TDK’s massive investment to double TMR production capacity by 2025 in Nagano (Japan). This new output will help them support the demand for automotive position sensors and current sensors.

What will come next? Should we expect other magnetic sensor players to get their hands on TMR technologies? Should we expect the monolithic integration of TMR to be mainstream in the coming years? And knowing how small these TMR dies are, which players will have enough customer demand to justify an increase in production capacity?

Yole Group and its analysts invite you to follow this industry, and stay tuned on for up-to-date, in-depth information!

About the authors

Pierre Delbos is a Technology & Market Analyst, Sensing and Actuating, in the Photonics & Sensing division at Yole Intelligence, part of the Yole Group.

He is involved in the development of technology and market reports covering MEMS & sensing technologies, including magnetic sensors, optical and audio MEMS, and gas and particle sensors.

He also collaborates with his team on custom studies for the key players in the MEMS industry.

Pierre holds a master’s in Microelectronics and Photonics Engineering from the Grenoble Institute of Technology, PHELMA (France).

Pierre-Marie Visse is a Technology and Market analyst at Yole Intelligence, part of the Yole Group, working with the Photonics and Sensing division. He is a member of Yole Intelligence’s Sensing and Actuating team and contributes daily to technical, marketing, and strategic analyses of various MEMS and sensing technologies.

Prior to Yole, Pierre-Marie served as an R&D project manager at eLichens, specializing in the detection of environmental gases, for 2.5 years. His primary focus was the development of gas sensors and IoT for gas detection.

Previously, Pierre-Marie worked at TDK-Tronics for more than ten years as an inertial MEMS designer for custom sensors, accelerometers, and gyroscopes. He then worked as an R&D project manager for the navigation, industrial, and watchmaking industries.

Pierre-Marie graduated from ESIEE-Engineering (France) in 2010, specializing in microsystems.