This puts the collaboration behind a previous prediction. Ten months ago when ST was revealed as USound's manufacturing partner ST predicted the piezoelectric MEMS actuator would move into volume production in 3Q17 and would ship in consumer products before the end of 2017 (see ST is USound's piezoMEMS partner). A spokesperson for ST said mass production is now planned in 2Q18 with a design win already in hand.
USound has a patented micro-speaker that replaces the conventional balanced-armature electrodynamic transducers for handsets with a piezoelectric MEMS actuator. The expectation is that this will reduce power consumption while improving sound quality. The production delay was due to a minor change of design to further improve performance and to extend the range of applications covered by the first product in the market, the spokesperson said.
In R&D USound worked with niobium-doped lead zirconate titanate (Nb-doped PZT) as a piezoelectric material and PZT is thought to be the material of choice within ST's PeTra (piezoelectric transducer) thin-film-piezoelectric technology. USound intended to use packaging technology to integrate ASICs, MEMS and passive components in one device with a thin and compact form factor.
With less than half the weight of conventional micro-speakers this should provide opportunities for design wins in wearable technology such as headphones and augemented reality/virtual reality headgear.