Chirp’s MEMS-based ultrasonic Time-of-Flight sensors enable extremely precise distance sensing, ranging from several centimetres to several metres, expanding the way users can operate with AR and VR, detect the proximity distance when using smartphones, and track the variance between a vehicle and obstacles when driving.
In December last year, the company was looking for another round of financing, but TDK’s offer (of an undisclosed amount) was good enough for Chirp Microsystems’ founders and investors to give up ownership of the company.
Reached over the phone by eeNews Europe, Chirp Microsystems’ co-founder and former CEO Michelle Kiang said that her whole team would become part of TDK’s family, operating within the MEMS Sensors Business Group of TDK subsidiary InvenSense as the 4th and newest business unit. Until then, the InvenSense technology portfolio consisted of three business units: Motion, Sound, and FingerPrint. The new business unit formed by Chirp will be called Ultrasonic Tracking and RangeFinding.
Discussing the deal, Kiang noted that compared to the 10 billion dollar company that is Japanese conglomerate TDK, Chirp represented little spending whose amount TDK was not bound to disclose, but she saw the acquisition as a huge acceleration potential for the commercialization and production ramp up of her company’s MEMS products.
“We hope this will bring a lot of acceleration to our product roadmap, that was the main driver to decide to take that offer instead of pursuing another round of financing. We’ve been in talk with TDK over a number of years, and that offer was good from all perspectives, for our investors as well as for our employees”, Kiang said.
“We’ll be able to leverage their existing infrastructure and resources to serve our customers much better and faster, which would have required more money and time to do otherwise”, Chirp’s CEO said. Unfortunately, none of the previous owners were able to retain any shares in the company as it is not the policy of TDK, but they were ensured to keep enough control on their products and roadmap.
“I believe they are traditionally good at keeping their acquired companies as is, leaving them alone, which should allow us to continue to grow, but with guaranteed resources” Kiang added.
In the short term, the fabless company will continue to outsource the manufacturing of its MEMS ToF sensors to external fabs.
“We are looking at how we could leverage their technology and know-how and take advantage of that in our production process, but for now, we’re still working with our foundry partners and purchase wafers from them”, Kiang told eeNews Europe.
“We have a couple of key manufacturing partners moving to mass production and on the customer side, we have traction in many different segments, with substantial design wins to be announced over the next few months”, Kiang said as a way to conclude the interview, adding that the CH-101 and CH-201 MEMS ToF chips announced last year would be shipping in high volume consumer products in the second half of 2018.
“Our vision is to be the leading solutions provider of sensors for motion, sound, environmental elements (pressure, temperature and humidity), and ultrasonic sensors for the Internet of Things (IoT) era,” said in a company statement Noboru Saito, Senior Vice President, TDK and CEO of Sensor Systems Business Company. Saito expects the new acquisition to propel TDK as the leader in ultrasonic MEMS technology.
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