MEMS Executive Congress 2011 – Overview
Nov 3, 2011, Monterey,CA - This year’s MEMS Executive Congress was well attended by close to 200 hundred people representing the 130+ MIG members. The group over the past 10 years has expanded to include the full extent of the MEMS ecosystem and supply chain. These include device manufacturers, equipment suppliers, foundries, end users, product development companies and cross promotion & academic partners. The overview for the industry was given by several analysts who have been tracking the sector for over 10 years.
While the detailed numbers varied based on who was surveyed and the sector knowledge of the analyst, the general impression was that MEMS is strong and growing in double digits (10%+) as a CAGR. All of their estimates showed the market doubling prior to 2016. The numbers presented did not include the BioMEMS marketplace, but were limited to the electronics products only. The consumer side is leaning towards almost 20% CAGR, but there is a strong push from the investment & analyst community to “implode” the industry, drive it to a pure foundry model with standard functions and commoditize the business. This would result in a slight price reduction to the IDM/OEM, where all of the price reduction is from the margins the MEMS vendor is currently seeking which would drive the MEMS providers from product shipping and manufacturing margins to IP level margin.
A discussion of how should the devices get standardized for companies like TSMC seemed slightly out of sync with the traditional foundry biz model. Most of the MEMS are built of 200mm wafers and are small pin count and small die designs. There is also a lot of differentiation in the mask sets, based on the variety of MEMS (energy harvesting, cantilever, accelerometer, etc) rather than high volume of a single mask set. The designs are not litho driven, so re-staging for processing throughput rather than litho-throughput is a logistic issue. The real challenge is the gross volume of the business. Based on the small die sizes, even with the rising demands of MEMS, the total world wide volume (not counting the big 4 TI, HP, Bosch, ST which have their own high volume facilities and would not be moving to a fab-lite model) can probably fit in several days to worst case under 1 week of wafer runs inside a TSMC or Samsung Mega-Foundry. For logistics purposes, this does not make good sense to intermingle these process & assembly limited parts in a primarily litho limited fab flow. The final word from the MEMS manufacters rather than the foundries was - “Remember that products pay the bills, not technology”.
The opening day also included a discussion of economic and techical challenges going on un the US for MEMS and other areas. The Tea Party and Occupy movements are trying to minimize got intervention and that includes participation in the VC and innovation market places. There needs to be a “rebirth of the IPO” for the technolgy sector and help reinvigorate US based investments. Currently the US IPO market is being held “hostage” by a VC “cartel” of a few large funds and groups who determine who and when the IPOs can happen. It needs to return to a model with more freedom and more participants to promote innovation in the context of economic success as is happening in some other countries.