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SILICON MEMS OSCILLATORS – A GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY, INDUSTRY AND MARKET ANALYSIS
Publish Date: Aug 2008,   Pages: 99,   Report Code: ET-109
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Quartz crystals are currently used for most high performance systems, but they are not economical when used with system integrated circuits (ICs) due to costly hermetic packaging requirements. With micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS),vibrating mechanical devices and wafer-level vacuum packages can be manufactured with conventional semiconductor technologies. This development highlights the shift from quartz to MEMS and illustrates how designers optimize products to save time and money

Current frequency control and timing products in the market are based on the use of resonators made of non-silicon materials, such as quartz crystal, ceramic and surface acoustic wave (SAW) devices. As ICs continue to shrink, these non-silicon resonators do not follow Moores Law and ultimately restrict the ability to reduce the size and cost of modern clock and timing functions. In comparison, MEMS oscillators are made exclusively in a complimentary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) silicon process and are much smaller and easier to integrate. Quartz-based circuits have the unfortunate characteristics of being larger and fixed-frequency, and they do not lend themselves to large-scale IC integration.

The idea of abandoning quartz oscillators for silicon ones is not new. Researchers at Stanford University, University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley have been working on the technology for decades. For the most part, however, the quality of these silicon systems has not matched that of quartz. In recent years, though, advances in the fabrication of micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) have made high-quality silicon oscillators more practical.

Unlike a quartz crystal, which is fabricated to resonate at a certain frequency throughout its lifetime, a MEMS oscillator is capable of vibrating at many different frequencies, depending on the software controlling the circuit. When a quartz crystal is fabricated, it is designed to resonate at a single frequency throughout its lifetime. Changing the function of the quartz clock from one that operates a cell phone to one that runs a high-definition television, for example, requires fabricating an entirely different batch. Thus, moving from quartz to MEMS technology makes the manufacturing process less costly.

Further, MEMS resonators do not require frequency adjustments during fabrication, which makes them easier to manufacture. And when they are ready to be used, an engineer simply tunes to the desired frequency using software. In addition, quartz crystal, ceramic and SAW devices are produced through a fairly labor intensive process, where each device has to be finely tuned, compared with the MEMS oscillator approach of fabricating, at one time, large batches of devices using the manufacturing capabilities of modern CMOS semiconductor fabrication facilities. This approach yields a large number of devices manufactured at a much lower cost.

There are many companies involved in making MEMS oscillators a reality for electronics manufacturers who have been waiting for a reliable, scalable and costeffective alternative to quartz oscillators. Great market avenues for MEMS oscillators exist in new product areas such as frequency control, smart sensors, filters and hybrid solutions for commercial, military and space applications. The MEMS solution, as used, for example, in the computer and wireless IC industries, is based on a silicon CMOS chip. The benefits of silicon CMOS chips are huge; the electronics industry has 30 years of established procedures, processes and understanding of the silicon solution. This situation creates an opportunity for industry companies mainly innovative startups such as SiTime and Discera to make up ground. Silicon solutions are less expensive, as well. Finally, MEMS technologies are extremely rugged and well-suited to low-jitter applications such as military and aerospace equipment, where resistance to shock and vibration are at a premium.

The report identifies the trends and strategies driving each of these market segments, and focuses on detailed market share data and quantification of the market according to engineering parameters such as package type, tuning type, stability, and application.

STUDY GOAL AND OBJECTIVES

This study focuses on MEMS oscillators, providing market data about the size and growth of application segments, industry trends, new developments including a detailed patent analysis, and company profiles.. Another goal of this report is to provide a detailed and comprehensive multi-client study of the market in North America, Europe, Japan, China, India, Korea and the rest of the world for MEMS oscillators, and potential business opportunities in the future.

The objectives include a thorough coverage of the underlying economic issues driving the MEMS oscillators business, as well as assessments of new advanced MEMS oscillators that are being developed. Another important objective is to provide realistic market data and forecasts for MEMS oscillators. This study provides the most thorough and up-to-date assessment that can be found anywhere on the subject. The study also provides extensive quantification of the many important facets of market developments in MEMS oscillators all over the world.

REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY

MEMS oscillators are a breakthrough technology that can replace quartz crystal and ceramic resonators as the frequency source in most electronic systems. In addition to offering performance advantages over existing technologies, MEMS oscillators are typically smaller and use less power. Because they can be manufactured in most CMOS fabrication facilities around the world, they offer significant advantages in total manufacturing capacity and lower cost. MEMS oscillators are a relatively new product and are expected to follow Moores Law on future size and cost reduction capabilities. MEMS oscillators also offer a path towards IC integration which is not possible with non-CMOS products.

CMOS MEMS-based oscillators are a truly disruptive technology that enables electronics companies to remove scalability and cost obstacles that face customers today. MEMS technology overcomes some of todays existing challenges while opening the door to tomorrows previously impossible applications through microfabrication technology. MEMS promises to revolutionize nearly every product category by bringing together silicon-based microelectronics with micromachining technology. By using CMOS MEMS oscillators, manufacturers of consumer electronics, hard disc drives and other devices will realize a number of benefits, including reduced footprint requirements, shorter lead times, robust construction and lower power. Additionally, the technology can be advanced to support highprecision applications.

With this background of new emerging technologies and applications, iRAP felt a need to conduct a detailed study including current and emerging technologies, new developments and market market opportunites. The report identifies and evaluates silicon MEMS oscillator devices and technologies which show potential growth.

CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE STUDY

The study is intended to benefit existing users of quartz products such as manufacturers of consumer computational products notebook computers, digital cameras, gaming boxes, video recorders, portable media players, set-top boxes, high definition televisions, and printers. The study profiles manufacturers of these products who are now enabled with a new technology that allows the integration of small, high Q, low ppm (parts per million) using single or multiple resonators, at a cost below quartz crystal products. For example, PC motherboards require numerous quartz crystals, quartz oscillators, voltage controlled oscillators (VCXOs) and CMOS phase-locked loop (PLL) chips.

Going forward, MEMS oscillators will provide the market with higher frequencies and lower phase noise while maintaining the size and cost benefits associated with MEMS-first encapsulation technology. The cell phone is one such application that will benefit from such second-generation products. Research has shown that even the tough standards for GSM and CDMA cell phone temperature controlled oscillators (TCXOs) can be met as this technology matures in 2009 and beyond.

This study also provides the most complete accounting of MEMS oscillators growth in North America, Europe, Japan, and the rest of the world currently available in a multi-client format. The markets have also been estimated according to the type of materials used, such as silicon-based MEMS fabrication of oscillators by CMOS process. The report provides the most thorough and up-to-date assessment that can be found anywhere on the subject. The study also provides extensive quantification of the many important facets of market developments in the emerging markets for MEMS oscillators, such as resonator applications having IF ranges from 1MHz to 100 MHz.

SCOPE AND FORMAT

The market data contained in this report quantifies opportunities for MEMS oscillators. In addition to product types, it also covers the many issues concerning the merits and future prospects of the MEMS oscillators business, including corporate strategies, information technologies, and the means for providing these highly advanced products and service offerings. It also covers in detail the economic and technological issues regarded by many as critical to the industrys current state of change. The report provides a review of the MEMS oscillators industry, its structure, and the companies involved in providing these products. The competitive position of the main players in the MEMS oscillators market and the strategic options they face are also discussed, as well as such competitive factors as marketing, distribution and operations..

TO WHOM THE STUDY CATERS

This study will benefit the existing users of crystal oscillators such as electronic circuit manufacturers of hand-held electronic consumer products (such as mobile phones and laptops), who seek to lower costs by replacing crystal oscillators with MEMS oscillators, which are positioned to become a preferred solution for many types of consumer and communication applications. This study provides a technical overview of the MEMS oscillators, especially recent technology developments and existing barriers. Therefore, audiences for this study include marketing executives, business unit managers and other decision makers in companies producing mobile phones, digi-cams, camcorders and laptops, as well as those in companies peripheral to these businesses.

Major findings of this report

The major findings of this report are summarized as follows:
  • MEMS resonator companies will become time module companies, taking market share from quartz manufacturers and silicon timing device manufacturers. They will target applications where the size and integration are key, leading to usage in almost all portable systems like PDAs, camcorders and MP3 players.

  • The global silicon MEMS oscillators industry is characterized by about a dozen companies and institutions involved as device developers and manufacturers.

  • The 2007 global market for MEMS oscillators is still small to the tune of $5.2 million in 2008. However, it is expected to grow at very fast pace to reach $217 million by 2013 with an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of about 111%.

  • Computers and networking will have the largest share in 2008 as much as 60%.

  • By 2013, consumer and communications products will take over the lead, at a 55% share of the market, because of the segments large growth rate, as much as 125% AAGR from 2008 to 2013.
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