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EETE APR 2014

MEMS Executive congres Automotive MEMS: A changing global landscape By Christoph Hammerschmidt With the automotive industry being the largest market for MEMS manufacturers, and the automotive industry currently undergoing massive changes, the question is: How will the relationship between MEMS and automotive value chain develop over the foreseeable future? At the MEMS industry panel this week in Munich, an expert panel fathomed out which factors would have which kind of effects. The panel was populated by seasoned experts - Richard Dixon, Principal Analyst MEMS and Sensors for market research company IHS, Frank Schaefer, Senior Manager Product Management Automotive MEMS from Bosch and Christoph Wagner, Product Marketing Manager from Analog Devices. The panel was moderated by another well-known semiconductor expert with a long history in automotive electronics: Marc Osajda, director of Freescale’s Pressure Sensor Business Unit. Ten years ago, the automotive industry was clearly a driver for the MEMS technology, said Bosch’s Schaefer. Today, the scenario has changed a bit - consumer business with its fast design cycles is setting the pace now. Nevertheless, automotive applications are still among the drivers for MEMS development - albeit with different requirements. Schaefer mentioned in particular vibration robustness and resilience at high temperatures and aggressive gases like the ones encountered, for instance, in diesel particulate filters. In that sense, the requirements for automotive customers and for the consumer electronics industry are drifting away from each other. Christoph Wagner from ADI highlighted tire pressure monitoring systems as an example for automotive technology still driving MEMS technology. Putting the pressure sensor into the tire itself instead into the rim, one could implement additional measurements - for example the tire’s contact to the street as a key parameter for any tire. In such an intelligent TPMS, MEMS could serve as an energy harvester and replace the battery. He added that at least two tier two companies are currently working on such an ‘intelligent tire’. And not only does the automotive industry drive MEMS development, the story also works the other way around. “MEMS is still an enabler for automotive”, Wagner said. “Whenever we reduce size, increase integration or we come up with new sensor types there is an application in automotive that benefits from it.” But it is not only technology that currently puts challenges to automotive - and with it, automotive electronics - markets. Huge regional shifts in demand and production are about to change the face of the global automotive industry. The question is how these shifts will affect design and demand for electronic components, in particular MEMS. Their weight in international markets cannot be overestimated - China will buy some 20 million vehicles within the next ten years, noted Dixon. “This means that in 2025 almost half the vehicles built globally will be sold in countries where cars have low electronics content,” he said. This however might turn out to be more an opportunity than a challenge: “There is a huge opportunity to fill electronic content”. In the more mature markets in Europe and North America, the value of the electronics in a car is estimated to about 18 % while in China and similar emerging markets, this share amounts to only 10 to 12%. Given the safety and emission legislation to be expected in these geographies, it is likely that the electronics content in BRIC market vehicles will rise. A factor in this game is that the BRIC countries - and within this group, China in the first place - are not innovation drivers but fast followers”, noted Wagner. But since globally active OEMs, tier ones and tier twos are interested in developing scalable platform solutions that fit in all cars they sell worldwide, these platforms will have to meet the high standards in Europe and North America. This means that the lower standards in the BRIC countries will only have minor impact to the global automotive electronics design and demand. Is China an opportunity or a threat? This was another question discussed at the panel. The answer is simple: In a sense, both. There are currently local tier ones emerging in China, which in eventually will translate into stiffer competition. Bosch already had talks with local tier ones in China and there was a surprise: “The interesting fact was that they were not interested in lower performance MEMS sensors at a lower price” said Schaefer. “They wanted the same performance level as the western tier ones. They were interested in an older version, because they wanted a proven solution with no teething troubles”. The panel agreed in that it is very likely that over time it is very likely that the huge country in Asia will yield at least one large tier one - “a Chinese Bosch or Continental”, as Osajda put it. “In an economy that produces 20 or 22 million vehicles per year, everything else would be a surprise”. Back to Europe: The next wave in MEMS development will once again be driven by safety-related applications. After all, the EU plans to reduce traffic fatalities further - and this is only possible with more sensors. Examples, according to Dixon, could new generations of automotive radar systems where, for instance, MEMS could be used to steer the radar beam much like in a DLP, MEMS control the image. Other future MEMS application fields could be multiple microphones inside the car with “virtual” directional characteristics for more reliable voice control. In addition, TPMS in tire systems will be mandatory from November 2014 which also could lead to new MEMS designs. And then the outlook: After all, the year 2025 is only two car generations away - and by this year, the industry roadmap provides for some kind of automated driving in series production vehicles. In order to make automated driving a reality, many sensors will be required. “We need very good inertial sensors - plus GPS, radar and lidar sensors”, said Schaefer. And finally, if the car drives autonomously - do we still need airbags? The short answer is: Yes. “One has to take into account the errors of others.” 18 Electronic Engineering Times Europe April 2014 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE APR 2014
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