STMicroelectronics sees MEMS resurgence

STMicroelectronics sees MEMS resurgence

Business news |
By Rich Pell

As Carlo Bozotti, CEO of ST, discussed the company’s 2Q16 results, he said that the company was seeing an increasing backlog of MEMS products across the board as well as several new products that had achieved design wins. He said business looked good for multiple MEMS product types ranging from pressure sensors to microphones, including accelerometers and particularly a new family of low power gyroscopes.

“We have a very, very strong backlog on MEMS in Q3. And I would like to say that it’s very much across the board. It’s across the board with several new products for various regions, of course, with a strong focus in Asia, in China, but also in America,” Bozotti said.

Bozotti made the point that compared with a previous wave of MEMS sales, which had been focused on smartphone vendors, the new business is more diverse in terms of customers.

The analog and MEMS business has been a source of sales and stability for ST in recent years as it spent several years trying to disentangle itself from a failed attempt to serve the mobile phone sector with digital chips. Although ST was forced to exit the digital sector it enjoyed analog and MEMS sensor sales and had inertial MEMS design wins in the Apple iPhone. These helped propel ST to become market leader in MEMS.

However, ST lost some of that business in 2014 (see InvenSense, Bosch, NXP winners in iPhone 6) and its number one position as MEMS component vendor to Bosch. Successes elsewhere were expected to help replace that business – at higher margins – but ST was hit by problems with its microphone sales in 2015 (see Microphone glitch hit ST’s analog, MEMS sales in 2015) and troubles carried on into 2016 (see Analog, MEMS drag on ST results).

In the most recent quarter – 2Q16 – ST was able to report a sequential rise in sales for its Analog and MEMS business group (AMG) and Bozotti clearly feels AMG has turned a corner. This is despite the fact that AMG sales in 2Q16 of $376 million were down 15 percent on the $445 million sold in 2Q15.

In praise of the MEMS business Bozotti spoke of consumer sales for a 6-axis ultra low power MEMS accelerometer and gyroscope, optical image stabilization gyro and barometric pressure sensor designed into both the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones. Bozotti added that design wins for MEMS have been plentiful in China and Asia for wearables, smartphones and tablet computers.

Plans to diversify the MEMS business away from consumer have also been successful, Bozotti said, with MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes gaining automotive design wins in Japan, continued success in drones, and in Europe a design win in a new generation of smart meters for electricity.

As the sales increase sequentially into the third quarter Bozotti said he expected STMicroelectronics to retake market share. “Certainly, we are going to gain market share on the microphones, but I believe we are going to gain market share also in the more traditional products like accelerometers and gyroscope.”

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