Maxim takes over MEMS expert SensorDynamics

July 19, 2011 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Maxim Integrated Products has acquired SensorDynamics, an expert company for semiconductor-based sensors targeting automotive, industrial and consumer markets. With the move, Maxim plans to open new market opportunities for inertial sensors in consumer markets, said Maxim Group Vice President Vijay Ullal.

In an interview with EE Times Europe, Ullal said that Maxim plans to use SensorDynamics' expertise in gyro and inertial sensor technology to offer this kind of sensors in consumer markets, in the first place for smart phones. "This is a rather obvious market opportunity," he said. He added that through the takeover SensorDynamics will get access to Maxim's much larger sales force and bigger production infrastructure. This will translate into shorter lead times. Through the access to Maxim's manufacturing facilities, SensorDynamics will gain ability to offer its products at lower costs.

The existing manufacturing agreement between SensorDynamics and the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology in Itzehoe (Germany) will persist, Ullal said. "This agreement is a critical lynchpin for the success of SensorDynamics", he added. Nevertheless, the new owner plans to manufacture parts or all of SensorDynamics' product lines. "Today, the customers are requesting a second manufacturing site for safety reasons", Ullal pointed out.

While Maxim sees huge market opportunities for MEMS sensors in consumer markets, the automotive industry will remain "a very critical market for us", Ullal said. Besides inertial sensors and gyros, SensorDynamics designs and manufactures keyless entry systems based on low-frequency radio communications, a technology similar to RFID. "This is one of our favorite technologies", Ullal said.

The market for MEMS-based sensors is expected to grow considerably as new applications for sensors are developed. According to market research firm IHS iSuppli, the total market for MEMS-based sensors is expected to be $7.7 billion in 2011, of which SensorDynamics gyroscope inertial sensor technology addresses about $900 million. IHS iSuppli estimates this specific market will grow at a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14 percent from 2011 to 2014. Longer term, Maxim will address selected portions of the broader MEMS-based sensor market.