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IC Insights’ new report shows worldwide sensor sales grew 14% in 2016 to a record-high $7.3 billion, surpassing the previous annual peak of $6.4 billion set in 2015, when revenues increased 3.7%. Actuator sales climbed 19% in 2016 to an all-time high of $4.5 billion from the previous record of $3.8 billion in 2015.
IC Insights forecasted total sensor sales rising by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5% in the next five years, reaching $10.5 billion in 2021, while actuator dollar volumes are expected to increase by a CAGR of 8.4% to nearly $6.8 billion in the same timeframe. Figure shows the relative market sizes of the five main product categories in the sensors/actuator segment, along with the projected five-year growth rates for the 2016-2021 forecast period.
The sensor/actuator market ended four straight years of severe price erosion in 2016 and finally benefitted from strong unit growth. The average selling price (ASP) of sensors and actuators declined by -0.9% in 2016 versus an annual average of -9.3% during the four previous years (2012-2015), says IC Insights.
All sensor product categories and the large actuator segment registered double-digit sales growth in 2016. It was the first time in five years that sales growth was recorded in all sensor/actuator product categories, partly due to the easing of price erosion but also because of continued strong unit demand worldwide. Sensor/actuator shipments grew 17% in 2016 to a record-high of 20.3 billion units from 17.4 billion in 2015, when the volume also increased 17%.
Strong 2016 sales recoveries occurred in acceleration/yaw-rate motion sensors (+15%), magnetic-field sensors and electronic compass chips (+18%), and the miscellaneous other sensor category (+20%) after market declines were registered in 2015. Sales growth also strengthened in pressure sensors, including MEMS microphone chips, (+10%) and actuators (+19%) in 2016.
In addition, IC Insights forecasted sales of acceleration/yaw sensors growing 9% in 2017 to about $3.0 billion, magnetic-field sensors (and compass chips) rising 8% to nearly $2.0 billion, and pressure sensors increasing 8% to $2.7 billion this year. Actuator sales are projected to grow 8% in 2017 to about $4.9 billion.
About 82% of the sensors/actuators market’s revenues in 2016 came from semiconductors built with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology—meaning pressure sensors, microphone chips, acceleration/yaw motion sensors, and actuators that use MEMS-built transducer structures to initiate physical action in a wide range of devices, including inkjet printer nozzles, microfluidic chips, micro-mirrors, and surface-wave filters for RF signals. MEMS-built products represented 48% of total sensor/actuator shipments in 2016, or about 9.8 billion units last year.
MEMS-based product sales climbed 15.4% in 2016 to a record-high $9.7 billion after rising 5.1% in 2015 and 5.8% in 2014. Some inventory corrections and steep ASP erosion in MEMS-built devices have suppressed revenue growth in recent years, but this group of products—like the entire sensors/actuator market—is benefitting from increased demand in new wearable systems, IoT, and the rapid spread of intelligent embedded control, such as autonomous automotive features rolling into cars. MEMS-based sensors and actuator sales are forecast to rise 7.9% in 2017 to $10.5 billion and grow by a CAGR of 8.0% in the 2016-2021 period to $14.3 billion, says IC Insights.
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