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Growing patent pool boosts MEMS microphone sector

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Makers are boosting R&D to take advantage of broadening adoption in portable electronic devices.

Suppliers of MEMS microphones in China sustain efforts to develop more products and acquire patents to enhance competitiveness in an expanding market driven by smartphones and tablet PCs.

So far, initiatives have placed China manufacturers on the list of the world’s key patent owners for the line. GoerTek, AAC Technologies Holdings Inc. and the Institute of Acoustics, Chinese Academy of Sciences are among the top 20 such companies, according to China Electronic News. As early as 2010, the first had 31 patents in the category, and will keep applying for local and international rights as it continues R&D.

In MEMS microphone chips, some China makers have also secured patents. MEMSensing Microsystems Technology Co. Ltd has come up with a double-sided mounted packaging, which improves frequency response from 100Hz to 15kHz by adjusting the acoustic volume. The supplier is, in fact, already mass-producing two models in sizes of 1.35x1.35mm and 1x1mm. MEMSensing likewise offers packaging service and microphone wafer fabrication. The first covers bill of materials, packaging process flow and detailed packaging technology, and the last includes equipment and materials as well.

Spurring manufacturers to pursue product advancements is China’s climbing revenue for the line, which topped 25 percent in the past two or three years. Output is on the upswing, with projections at 1.3 billion, 1.5 billion and 1.8 billion units for this year, 2014 and 2015.

AAC will continue to focus on the line in the next one or two years. It targets to achieve $1.2 billion sales by year-end, from $871 million and $624 million in 2012 and 2011.
Compared with traditional electret condenser types, MEMS units have advantages in size, sensitivity, electromagnetic compatibility, and heat and shock resistance.

Fifty percent of microphones used in tablet PCs and smartphones will be based on the latter technology by 2014 and 2016, respectively, according to Yole Développement. The application will extend to the medical equipment and automotive sectors in coming years.

Related report:
Microspeakers: Feature upgrades, new categories fuel sector

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

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