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SOLID STATE SENSING: THE BUILDING BLOCK OF TODAY’S INNOVATION
Can you imagine a car without sensors? A smartphone that’s unable to identify you, take pictures or hear your voice? Sensors and actuators are so much a part of our daily routine that we tend to forget them. With microphones, there is phone communication and web meetings; with speakers, there is music; with accelerometers and gyroscopes, today’s cars are able to stabilize and move towards autonomous driving. Detailed, relevant understanding of a production line translates into continuous and optimal production process management. And with medical ultrasound and X-ray technologies, numerous medical diagnoses can be made. You get the picture: micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and image sensors – ultrasound, visible and infrared – are the key elements integrated into all products and systems that deliver the functions needed in our everyday personal and professional lives.
The added value of semiconductor technologies to manufacture sensors and actuators is indisputable.
For example, semiconductor manufacturing processes enable batch manufacturing, high yield and the ability to reduce size, all at an adapted cost. Instead of producing sensors one by one with mechanical manufacturing processes, semiconductor processes have the ability to have thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands, devices produced in parallel on one wafer. This is an incredible infrastructure to develop and produce millions of units with the same characteristics, at a fraction of the normal costs of such devices. Another key advantage of semiconductor manufacturing is the diversity of materials, that is one can use to develop specific functions, in addition to the design flexibility of silicon materials.
With the use of silicon’s mechanical properties and the ability to make thin layers in almost any material, the industry has been able to develop sensors for pressure, acceleration, magnetic, optical and chemical detection. Add to that gyroscopes, microphones, speakers, fluid management structures such as ink jet heads and microfluidic, pumps, mechanical and optical valves, RF filters and duplexers – all based on silicon, SOI, or other semiconductor substrates. The field seems endless!
With semiconductor technologies’ ability to combine functions, the emergence of heterogenous integration is now spreading across the entire semiconductor industry. Semiconductor technologies are paving the way for future growth, with a huge potential impact on our daily lives.
Half a century ago, the emergence of silicon-based sensors and actuators began the gradual transformation of the semiconductor industry’s structure, both in term of functionalities but also integration capabilities.
In addition to computing and data storage, the preliminary functions of processor and semiconductor memory – that is, the ability to understand what is happening in a dedicated environment – opened up completely new fields of applications.
The dozens of sensors in a smartphone or the hundreds of sensors in a typical car are just the visible part of the semiconductor revolution that is spreading across all of the products we use daily. That’s in addition to industrial processes, medical diagnostics and therapy, security and defense and the aerospace field.
The ability to integrate such sensing capabilities with mainstream semiconductor products is paving the way for improvements like autonomous driving, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for medical diagnostics, and decreased energy consumption.
Understanding the sensor and actuator market trends, new applications, technologies, and supply chain developments, as well as identifying the underlying manufacturing technologies, has been the focus of Yole Group’s activities for more than two decades. At Yole Group, our true added value is the unmatched quality of our analysis and data – from sensors to modules to systems.
Yole Group has been deeply involved in the understanding and analysis of the semiconductor sensing and actuating industry.
At Yole Group, we investigate the emergence of semiconductor technologies and processes that have enabled the production of such devices, among which:
We go one step further for you by examining how the semiconductor processes have been assembled with adapted device design to sense multiple parameters. We apply our understanding and analysis of applications across the wide diversity of sensors and markets to support you in your growth.
Yole Group inspects the impact of a new process or a new design on the end market. In the same way, we highlight for you how a new system market trend can drive the adoption or emergence of new sensors and actuators. This top-down and bottom-up approach, combined with our unique methodologies, are essential in helping you understand market developments, as well as the future of the semiconductor industry that is supporting such markets.
Growth, growth, growth… Just look at the projected growth of sensor and actuator related markets by the next five years.
A MEMS market, over $20 billion. A $32 billion market for CMOS Image Sensors (CIS). More than $10 billion for microfluidic devices. And a magnetic sensors market, over $5 billion.
In total, the solid-state sensing and actuating market is getting closer and closer to $100 billion every year.
Each field has its own champions: Sony, Samsung, OmniVision, STMicroelectronics and onsemi are dominating the CMOS Image Sensors (CIS) industry. In parallel, Robert Bosch, Broadcom, Qorvo, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments (TI) are leading the MEMS field. Moreover, Teledyne FLIR, Lynred, Guide IR, HiKVision, iRay (etc) are ruling over the thermal imaging playground.
The emergence of ADAS and autonomous driving is all about the key building blocks that made it a reality. First there was the driver and passengers monitoring. Then the semiconductor industry works on the detection and understanding of what is going on with the car including, speed, torque and rotation. Now we are tracking what happens around the car with road conditions, obstacles, changes in a car’s environment – and these are the preliminary elements to data processing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and algorithms. The implementation of such semiconductor technologies will dictate the next steps.
More accurate sensing capabilities, increased performance, lower costs, and integration of functionalities are some of the many developments lying ahead for the sensors industry in its quest to provide the building blocks of autonomous driving.
Industry 4.0 is all about being able to analyze what is happening on the manufacturing floor. This gives access to key parameters and the detection of changes. Sensors are at the heart of this revolution, and the gatekeepers of the data processing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and communication that comes next. The industrial process sensing industry has been increasingly reusing developments from the automotive and consumer industry. They make it possible to source sensors with functionalities that are good enough for the requested applications – all at a lower cost.