The deal will see the devices falling to under $1, says ST, using Omron's sensor technology. ST is already the leading supplier of MEMS for consumer and portable applications and the third largest MEMS manufacturer overall. , but will use Omron's MEMS sensor technology.
The key is that ST is the only manufacturer that can mount and package multiple MEMS microphone devices at a time, facilitating high-volume production, using a proven packaging technology very similar to that used for motion sensors.
MEMS microphones can be made smaller than the most compact microphones and are less susceptible to mechanical vibration, temperature variations and electromagnetic interference, which is important in cell phones and other devices with an audio input, such as notebook computers, video recorders, digital cameras, as well as hearing aids or electronic stethoscopes.
“In the past, microphones were the domain of expert acoustics companies, but now it’s time for semiconductor MEMS players to drive the growth of this market. We’re aiming to increase the size of the MEMS microphone market by an order of magnitude,” said Benedetto Vigna, Group Vice President and General Manager of MEMS and Healthcare Division, STMicroelectronics. “This market can explode only with big and long-term committed suppliers, operating their own leading-edge MEMS fabs. Working together with our Japanese friends, we'll drive the microphone market growth as we have done in motion sensors.”
Samples of digital MEMS microphones that integrate ST’s electronic control circuit and OMRON’s micro-machined sensor in a single package will be available before the end of this year, at less than one dollar for large-volume orders.
According to iSuppli’s research dated September 2009, the market for micro-machined acoustic devices for consumer electronics and mobile handsets is forecast to grow at a revenue CAGR of 18% between 2008 and 2013, when it will exceed one billion parts per year.
MEMS microphone startup Akustica was acquired earlier this year by Robert Bosch, while another MEMS startup, Oligon, was bought by Wolfson Microelectronics to develop a range of highly integrated microphones.