MEMS in military and aerospace enjoy double-digit growth

December 06, 2012 // By Julien Happich
The microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) market for pressure sensors in the high-value military and aerospace segments will enjoy brisk double-digit growth this year, with plenty of room left for future expansion in a broad range of lucrative applications, says IHS iSuppli.

Revenue for pressure sensors in both military and civil aerospace applications will reach $35.7 million by year-end, up 20 percent from $29.7 million last year, according to an IHS iSuppli MEMS Market Brief from information and analytics provider IHS. By 2016, military- and aerospace-related MEMS takings will reach $45.5 million, as shown in the figure below, equivalent to a healthy five-year compound annual growth rate of 9 percent.

“While MEMS pressure sensor revenue from both sectors is relatively small and cannot match the scale generated by the much bigger MEMS automotive or consumer segments, steady growth is assured for the next few years, especially because very few other devices can withstand the sort of extreme operating environment in which the sensors are used,” said Richard Dixon, Ph.D., principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS.

The military and aerospace segments are part of the so-called high-value MEMS space that also includes medical electronics. Here, average selling prices for sensors and actuators are much higher than in other comparable MEMS segments. Overall, the high-value MEMS industry will be worth some $283.6 million this year.

The MEMS military and aerospace segments are projected to thrive despite pressure from the ongoing global economic crisis and a constrained U.S. defense budget—both of which have led many military and civil aerospace programs to scale back, slow down or even terminate programs.

The reasons for optimism are twofold. On the military front, the continued focus on long-range air and sea power—as well as on drones, surveillance and reconnaissance or smart weapons—will drive electronic content. The U.S. government's plan to transition to a smaller and smarter force with future reductions affects only troops and personnel on the whole, and not weaponry systems.

Meanwhile on the civil aviation end, a recovery that began last year is still unfolding, thanks to strong demand at the pan-European entity EADS for its Airbus A320, and to U.S.-based Boeing for its long-delayed