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Teardown reveals sensor chipsets' dynamics

13 May 2014  | Romain Fraux

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InvenSense shaves size, costs

InvenSense's latest nine-axis IMU integrates a new three-axis gyroscope, now using a single vibrating structure compared to three different structures for the previous generation. This new design results in a shrink of 40 per cent of the three-axis gyro area.

A second benefit of this new design is that its Nasiri process has been changed. Cavities which were traditionally etched in the ASIC to allow MEMS structures to move are no longer used, resulting in a cost reduction.

The device also integrates a new three-axis magnetometer which features an almost 40 per cent size reduction compared to the previous generation.

 MEMS accelero/gyro sensor

Figure 5: The MEMS accelero/gyro sensor in the InvenSense MPU-9250 nine-axis IMU. (Source: System Plus Consulting report from March 2014)

Similar costs, different supply chains

The three players use very different supply chains. Bosch and STMicroelectronics mainly rely on themselves for the manufacturing of their components. Bosch only relies on foundries for the manufacturing of its ASIC. ST purchases magnetometer die from Honeywell.

By contrast, InvenSense, which is fabless, relies on many different players for the manufacturing and the assembly of its IMU. AKM supplies magnetometer die, foundries make its six-axis accelerometer/gyroscope MEMS and ASIC, and OSATs handle package assembly. Only the design and test of the device are directly handled by InvenSense.

Despite the radically different approaches, the final costs of the nine-axis IMUs from the three players are very similar. Although InvenSense takes a clever approach to integration using less silicon, it relies on many third parties, which add significant costs.

 cost structure comparison

Figure 6: A cost structure comparison of the three nine-axis devices. (Source: System Plus Consulting March 2014 report)

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