MEMS: Not Just Telecom Anymore!

CIR sees new opportunities for optical MEMS emerging outside of telecom, as total market will grow from $560M in 2003 to $1.7B by 2007

February 28, 2003

3 Min Read

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Emerging Opportunities in Optical MEMS: 2003-2007 is a new report from Communications Industry Researchers, Inc. (CIR) that projects that the market for optical MEMS (also known as MOEMS) subsystems will grow from $560 million in 2003 to $1.7 billion by 2007, while the total value of equipment that relies on MOEMS to function will run into the tens of billions of dollars. While the "great hope" of MOEMS for the past few years has been the telecom sector, CIR claims that most of the future growth will come from other applications areas: CIR research indicates that MOEMS are finding a growing number of general industrial applications for light control and storage, sensing, and in manufacturing technology. General industrial applications already represent the biggest sector of the MOEMS market, accounting for 34 percent of non-military MOEMS expenditures -- more than telecom. The biggest application for MOEMS in industry is optical sensors, with MOEMS-based sensors accounting for $347 million in 2007. By that year expenditures for MOEMS-based metrology (i.e., optical positioning and alignment, etc.) systems will also be over $100 million. While MOEMS-based sensors are used in everything from space probes to forensic and security applications, the report sees MOEMS being especially useful in gas sensors. The report also notes that MOEMS-based metrology systems are already in use by major manufacturers such as Boeing. In the IT sector, CIR projects that the biggest opportunity for MOEMS will be in the display segment, which it claims will be worth more than $100 million by 2007. In the display sector, CIR believes that MOEMS is better suited to building very large, high-resolution displays than conventional liquid-crystal technology. MOEMS also seem to have considerable potential for providing high-definition "microdisplays" for use in cellular phones, PDAs, video games and instrumentation of various kinds. (The report notes that this is an area where Microsoft has shown considerable interest.) CIR also claims that there will be niche uses for MOEMS in printing applications and notes that Xerox and Agfa are both already using MOEMS devices to improve printing accuracy. Although it is growing rapidly, CIR warns that the medical sector of the MOEMS market will remain quite small throughout the period considered in the report. CIR notes that the importance of this sector is often exaggerated by PR departments, because it lends an aura of social importance to the MOEMS industry. The report also notes that while telecom is currently in the doldrums, it will continue to be a major contributor to MOEMS revenues. Small MOEMS-based switches, from JDS Uniphase and others, are gradually replacing opto-mechanical switches to protect network equipment at the optical domain level and MOEMS is the technology of choice for many purchasers of variable optical attenuators. The report cautions, however, that while MOEMS switching subsystems from manufacturers such as OMM may ultimately play an important role as a technology platform for reconfigurable add/drop multiplexers, all-optical cross-connects, and tunable lasers and filters, these systems are not expected to be widely adopted in the network for some time to come. It also notes that MOEMS have a reputation for poor reliability in the telecom industry and discusses how best to get over it. In addition to the sectors discussed above, Emerging Opportunities in Optical MEMS: 2003-2007 examines and projects the role of MOEMS in test and measurement, and national security applications. The value of each segment and sub-segment of the MOEMS market is forecast over the next five years. The report also provides a full discussion of how MOEMS companies can achieve competitive advantage in today's market based on technological, product design and manufacturing innovations. The report concludes with profiles of 15 MOEMS companies, including giants of the MOEMS industry such as Agilent, Analog Devices, Texas Instruments and Xerox, and start-ups such as BlueBird Optical and LioniX. These profiles include CIR's assessments of their product and marketing strategies. CIR believes that this report will be essential reading for strategic planners and marketing executives in the MOEMS, MEMS and nanotechnology businesses. The report is available at a cost starting at $3,500 for electronic format. Communications Industry Researchers Inc.

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