DB HITEK has successfully commercialized the microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) foundry process.
DB HIitek announced on July 7 that it would acquire a MEMS-based microphone clients and start mass production this year. Although it did not disclose names of specific clients, it is said that it has entered into a foundry contract with Chinese and Korean companies. DB HITEK’s senior official said, "we completed the process development last year and started mass production this year," and "we are concentrating our sales capabilities on acquiring large US clients." The official stressed that it would be a ‘significant’ part of the company's sales next year.
DB HITEK is said to have installed some MEMS-specific facilities in its existing 350-nm process to develop and mass-produce MEMS processes last year.
MEMS is a technology for simultaneously integrating ultra-fine mechanical parts and electronic circuits with a micrometer (㎛, one millionth of a meter) size by applying a semiconductor manufacturing process. Parts produced by the MEMS process include inkjet printer heads, camera autofocus actuators, oscillators, and various sensors. Gyro (direction and tilt measurement), acceleration, pressure, compass sensors, etc. mounted on the smartphone are also produced by the MEMS process.
Microphones are the largest market among MEMS manufacturing products. According to market researcher, IHS Markit, the size of MEMS microphone market in 2017 is 1.2 trillion KRW ($ 1.1 billion). IHS Markit predicts that by 2021 the market will be close to $ 1.5 billion. MEMS microphones are smaller in size and power consumption than traditional electronic condenser microphones (ECMs). It’s adopted to smart phones, tablets, and ear mic, etc.
Among the pure foundry companies, the MEMS process line is operated by the Belgian X fab and the Israel Tower Jazz. DB Hitek said it plans to acquire major clients by emphasizing the high price/performance ratio compared to existing foundries. The world's three largest MEMS microphones suppliers are Knowles from USA, Goertek, and AAC Technologies from China. These companies account for about 80% of the world’s MEMS microphone sales. In terms of shipments, Infineon from Germany, Omron and NJR from Japan are the top three.
The biggest buyer of MEMS microphones is US’ Apple. Apple adopted MEMS microphones for the first time on the iPhone 4. There are now two MEMS microphones per iPhone. As the shipments of artificial intelligence (AI) speakers have increased, Amazon in the US is emerging as a big buyer of MEMS microphones.