2013 MEMS Commercialization Report Card, Part 6: MEMS Infrastructure & Market Research

Roger's Report Card by Roger H. Grace

In episode six of the MEMS Commercialization Report Card we will address the subjects of established infrastructure and market research.

Established Infrastructure

Grade Analysis

2013 Grade=A-, 2012 Grade=A-, Change=0, S.D. =1.5 (based on 85 respondent inputs), S.D. =1.30 (based on grades from 1998 to 2013)

Fig. 1: Established Infrastructure, which includes all functions of MEMS design and manufacturing, has enjoyed high grades since the inception of the Report Card in 1998.
Fig. 1: Established Infrastructure, which includes all functions of MEMS design and manufacturing, has enjoyed high grades since the inception of the Report Card in 1998.

Introduction

I define established infrastructure to be all the ingredients necessary to design and manufacture MEMS devices. These include:

  • Design and Analysis Software
  • Silicon Wafer Foundries
  • Packaging Foundries
  • Capital Equipment Production Tool Suppliers
  • Testing Facilities
  • Metrology Equipment Suppliers
  • Independent Design Organizations

The MEMS device commercialization process (see fig. 2), especially development and manufacturing functions, has been fortunate to have the level of support from a broad base of the infrastructure companies. However, the majority of this support has been in the front end of the process. Where there needs improvement is in the packaging of MEMS, especially in the area of low-volume packaging.

Fig. 2: The MEMS Commercialization Process model includes all key functions to bring a MEMS concept from market research to distribution to the market.
Fig. 2: The MEMS Commercialization Process model includes all key functions to bring a MEMS concept from market research to distribution to the market.

The recent appearance of the Desich Smart Center may overcome this deficiency. Mr. Matt Apanius, Director of the center claims, "We created the Desich Smart Center to provide the MEMS community with the capability to package, design, and test MEMS solutions. While there has been adequate Silicon wafer production capability worldwide from several universities including Michigan, Stanford, and Berkeley for bread boarding, prototyping and small volume production, no one has stepped up to the plate to move the MEMS chips to their next level of production; assembly, packaging, and test. We have created a facility to do exactly that and have successfully served many organizations since the Center was established two years ago."

Verbatim Comments

  • Equipment companies, foundries, material suppliers have all upped their game over the last decade to serve the MEMS industry. Large foundries are now entering the business. I think as the market grows, the infrastructure has improved alongside it.
  • Great front end infrastructure. Backend and packaging infrastructure being put in place. Good trend.
  • The demise of SVTC and AMS has hurt this.
  • Participation by TSMC, Global, and many assembly houses.
  • Everything and more is now available from R&D to low cost high volume manufacturing.
  • Front end infrastructure is good. Back end is poor.
  • The move to 200 mm is well established now and questions start to arise about 300 mm.
  • If you are an established player, this is not an issue. But for a number of smaller and start-up companies, there is a lack of attention which is thwarting their growth.
  • Testing vendors are not there, packaging vendors are not there. Foundries getting there, but lack of adoption of traditional MEMS processes.

Summary

Established infrastructure has enjoyed exceptionally good grades starting off in 1998 with a C+ and with its lowest grade being a B in 1999 and typically capturing the best grades of all of the 14 subjects addressed by the report card. The reason for the success of the infrastructure providers is that they know their customers' needs and introduce these needs from a product feature and specification perspective into their products and services.

Bottom line, they are doing excellent product marketing research and excellent sales promotion activities. Room for improvement always exist and I suggest that the MEMS industry focus resources on providing more attention to the "back end" processes of assembly, packaging and test activities.

Market Research

Grade Analysis

2013 Grade=B-, 2012 Grade=C+, Change= +1, S.D. =1.8 (based on 85 respondent inputs), S.D. =0.72 (based on grades from 1998 to 2013)

xFig. 3: Recent MEMS Market Research activities have focused on the mobile phone application sector with less attention being provided to other market sectors.x
Fig. 3: Recent MEMS Market Research activities have focused on the mobile phone application sector with less attention being provided to other market sectors.

Introduction

MEMS market research received average grades and in 2010 received its highest of A-. The bad news is it dropped to a grade of B- for the last two years. The major problem with MEMS market research is that firms following the MEMS market tended to primarily address the highest volume market, i.e., mobile phone with little to no focus on other market sectors such as automotive, industrial, medical, and military aerospace.

The sad thing is there are only a handful of companies addressing the high volume mobile phone market. What are all the other MEMS suppliers to do when they require accessible published reports for their market? The answer appears to be purchase custom market research reports.

Until 2009, the automotive market sector was the largest MEMS application. Several companies have done a good job in addressing this sector, particularly Strategy Analytics, HIS, and Gartner Research. However, there is a major problem with the MEMS industry: MEMS marketing is an oxymoron.

The majority of my market research clients request that I undertake market research after they have launched their product rather than before where the inputs could be judiciously used for product definition, pricing, and competitive positioning value. The good news is that not all have taken this reverse-marketing approach. Rather they conduct market research as the first step in the product commercialization process.

The reason for this is simple. Most MEMS companies are run by techies who believe that they know what the market needs without asking the market and that formal market research is a waste of time and money. This is a big mistake. Let's hope that time will change this and that MEMS market research will become omnipresent and omni powerful.

Verbatim Responses

  • Thanks to smart phones, users are aware of MEMS
  • MEMS is not marketed, but rather individual products now, as the markets have matured beyond a technology sell.
  • MIG has done a noteworthy job and deserves a higher grade. Companies like Invensense are aggressively marketing.
  • Many companies lack visionary marketing, and as a result follow the latest trends. As a result, there are a lot of similar products.
  • Marketing will always be difficult since the application of the technology spans so many traditional markets.
  • Still too much "herd mentality"…especially in the consumer segment
  • MEMS seems to self-market, little to no involvement in 2012
  • Marketing resources are available in the industry. Not sure those companies developing unique solutions know how to approach unique marketing requirements.
  • Marketing?...I don't see any MEMS marketing

Summary

MEMS marketing is an oxymoron; however the majority of good market research is being done by the equipment suppliers. Additionally, IHS and Yole Development have been tracking MEMS markets for many years and have published many reports on the subject. They, as well as this author, also provide custom market research projects in the MEMS area.

About the Author
Roger H. Grace is president of Roger Grace Associates (Naples, FL) which he founded in 1982 as a marketing consultancy serving the sensor, MEMS, IC and capital equipment markets. He holds the B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. (as a Raytheon Company Fellow) degrees from Northeastern University where he was awarded the Engineering Alumni of the Year Award in 2004. He was a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley College of Engineering from 1990 to 2004. He can be contacted via email at [email protected].

Related Stories

Read the first five parts of Roger's MEMS marketing manifesto.

The 2013 MEMS Industry Commercialization Report Card: Barriers to the Successful Commercialization of MEMS

MEMS Commercialization Report Card Research Project, Part Two

MEMS Commercialization Report Card, Episode 3: Technology Clusters

MEMS Commercialization Report Card, Episode 4: Industry Associations

2013 MEMS Commercialization Report Card, Part 5: Standards & Roadmaps

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