by James Montgomery, news editor
July 26, 2010 - The "Extreme Electronics" stage in the back corner of Moscone's South Hall was packed all week long, offering discussions and presentations ranging from MEMS (see Pete's writeup) to sensors to energy harvesting to flexible electronics. The talks we stood in on (no easy-access seats were available) were worth it.
MEMS had a big presence, both among exhibitors and the aforementioned presentation stage. Yole Développement sees a $6.5B MEMS device market in 2009 swelling to >$16B by 2015, and an even bigger surge in units: 3.2B in 2009, and 10B in 2015. iSuppli sees MEMS growing 11% this year to $6.B and expanding to $9.8B by 2014, a 10.7% CAGR; units will rise from 3.44B in 2009 to 4.14B in 2010, and 8.5B units by 2014 (a 19.5% CAGR). MEMS demand is so hot that even companies with internal MEMS fabs (e.g. Delphi, Conti) are exploring foundry sources, noted Yole's Jean Christophe Eloy.
Better manufacturing technology for MEMS is pushing prices down, Eloy said. In 2000, accelerometers were 10mm2 in size, consumed 0.1mW, cost >$3.00, and were manufactured on 4-6in wafers. In 2010, devices are ~2-3mm2, made on 6-8in. wafers, consume 0.05mW, and cost $0.70. By 2020, MEMS devices will measure 1-2mm2, consume <0.05mW, cost <$0.4, and be manufactured mostly on 8-in. wafers (and will utilize 3D integration). "MEMS production is back on the fast track," said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at iSuppli."
|More "lessons learned" from SEMICON West 2010:|
|Lesson #1: Good times here, for now|
|Lesson #2: Capital intensity & EUV|
|Lesson #3: 3D and packaging are hot|
|Lesson #4: Supply chain challenges|
Also fueling growth in MEMS is applications for consumer electronic devices and mobile handsets, which "bulldozed their way through the economic crisis," Bouchaud said. Inkjet printers will stay the dominant-selling MEMS device through 2014, ending the period with $2B/year.
High-brightness LEDs held the "Extreme Electronics" stage for every slot on Wednesday, reflecting that sector's growing interest from semiconductor firms and suppliers seeking yet another new high-growth business. (HB-LED processing is something that suppliers will need to better understand, pointed out one industry watcher. E.g. wafers can sit up to half a day in a chamber vs. typical tool-to-tool flows for semiconductor manufacturing. And sapphire wafers are about to get much bigger -- think 300mm.)
And of course everything Intersolar was right next door in the West Hall (exhibits) and Intercontinental (sessions), where traffic was even heavier (it barely thinned out as you went to the top of the three exhibit floors.) One question we heard, though, somewhat rhetorically: What happens if (when?) the solar side gets any bigger? How many solar panel demos can you fit in one expo center? We've heard Intersolar and SEMI remain committed to having a colocated show, so the question will be how to give Intersolar enough room to flex its muscles.
Semiconductors are everywhere
Bernie Meyerson's Tuesday keynote identified high-level real-world applications where enabling technologies can make a fundamental difference in people's lives, from managing urban traffic to pre-diagnosing sudden onset of diseases. At a SST-hosted breakfast on Wednesday (July 14), Andrew Thompson of Proteus Biomedical, developer of "intelligent" pharmaceutical devices that can be swallowed to monitor and relay body functions, preached for the marriage of information and technology and medicine. Among the planet's 6-7B humans, there are roughly 5B cell phones in use -- while only 3B people have shoes, he said. And the Internet reaches more people than water or electricity -- it's the world's most important utility. (His grandmother witnessed the invention of everything from flight to refrigerators to TVs, he said, so surely we can come up with something.)
But it's getting the message across to the masses (and influencers) outside our industry that's the next big goal. We heard several times that the semiconductor industry (and tech in general) needs charismatic, intelligent advocacy to help Wall Street really understand the broad impact and potential of how what we do.
But eager ears are certainly out there -- and maybe in surprising places. At our hotel this year, the concierge surprised us by revealing quite a bit more than a passing knowledge. Turns out he's a U.Penn-pedigreed Ph.D -- patented, with a handful of published papers -- with a wide background in everything from narrow bandgap semiconductors to IR detectors and sensors to solar panels and nickel-hydride batteries. He's still tracking what goes on in the industry, and has a keen interest to get back into the game after a hiatus. We've got his contact information if anyone's interested.