Analysis

Optoelectronics, sensors, and discretes gain momentum

5th April 2021
Alex Lynn

A broad-based economic rebound in 2021, fuelled by pent-up demand and a steady recovery in global commerce after the 2020 outbreak of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, is forecast to lift total sales in optoelectronics, sensors and actuators, and discrete semiconductors (O-S-D) by 13% to $99.4bn this year, according to IC Insights’ new 2021 O-S-D Report - A Market Analysis and Forecast for Optoelectronics, Sensors/Actuators, and Discretes.

The new 350-page O-S-D Report shows combined sales of optoelectronics, sensors/actuators, and discretes grew three percent in 2020 to a record-high $88.3bn despite the worst global recession in 74 years and the spread of the COVID-19 virus crisis.  After the economic-recovery rebound in 2021, total O-S-D sales are expected to rise ten percent in 2022 to $109.1bn (Figure 1) and increase by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% between 2020 and 2025, reaching $132.6bn in five years.

In Covid-ravaged 2020, sensor/actuator sales registered a higher-than-average increase of 11% to $16.5bn while the commodity-filled discretes market saw a modest gain of three percent to $27.8bn, but optoelectronics revenues were flat at $44.0bn last year following strong nine percent growth in 2018 and 2019, according to the new O-S-D Report.  The 2020 increases in sensor/actuator and discretes sales had a lot to do with weakness in 2019. Sensor/actuator sales grew by only one percent and discretes fell one percent in 2019, but both saw strong pickups in purchase orders and higher selling prices in some product categories when business conditions appeared to be improving in 2H20.

Optoelectronics sales in 2020 were bogged down by drops in LED-dominated lamp devices (-6%), infrared devices (-4%), and light sensors (-3%) despite strong growth in laser transmitters (+10%) and a narrow increase in CMOS image sensors (+4%). Total sensor sales grew eight percent in 2020 while actuator revenues climbed 15%, partly because of high demand for MEMS-based RF filters in smartphones and wireless systems.  

Revenues for sensors and actuators made with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) grew 11.4% in 2020 to a record-high $13.8bn. Meanwhile, discretes benefited greatly in 2020 from restocking of depleted inventories in 3Q20 after some end-use markets appeared to be stabilizing from the brunt of Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns in 2Q20, the O-S-D Report says.

With highly effective vaccines being administered in more countries this year, a substantial economic rebound is anticipated by the second half of 2021, which will drive up systems sales and strengthen overall semiconductor growth. IC Insights’ new O-S-D Report forecasts a 14% rebound in the optoelectronics market, lifting sales to a new record high of $50.1bn.  

Sensors/actuator sales are expected to strengthen in 2021, rising 16% and reaching a 12th consecutive record-high level of $19.1bn.  On the strength of power transistors, the discretes market is forecast to grow by a strong nine percent increase in 2021 to an all-time high of $30.2bn.

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