Nearly two months after the Japan quake and tsunami wreaked havoc on the world’s industrial supply chains, the global microelectromechanical system (MEMS) industry is back on its feet, emerging relatively unscathed after the disaster, according to new IHS iSuppli research.

“To date, the supply of MEMS sensors and actuators remains only slightly affected by the Japan catastrophe,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, Director and Principal Analyst for MEMS at IHS. “In fact, the main effect of the earthquake on the world MEMS industry is on the demand side, not on supply. Manufacturers of finished electronic products have been more severely impacted than the component suppliers.”

MEMS devices are used in popular consumer electronic products like smart phones and tablets, and MEMS sensors also find their way into applications for the industrial, automotive, medical and aerospace sectors. Given that nine out of the top 50 MEMS manufacturers worldwide are Japanese companies, and with Japan serving as a strong manufacturing base for MEMS companies headquartered in Western countries, the world’s third-largest economy occupies a central position in the production and supply of MEMS.

Japanese companies sold some $1.38 B worth of MEMS in 2010, representing 21.3 percent of the global market. Japanese firms Canon, Panasonic, Epson and Denso all rank among the Top 20 in the global MEMS space.

Approximately 32.5 percent of MEMS sensors and actuators in value were processed—either partly or entirely—in Japanese facilities in 2010, corresponding to revenues from both Japanese MEMS companies and from foreign companies that have their MEMS processed in Japan. Western companies with MEMS facilities in Japan include Freescale Semiconductor, Knowles Electronics, Goodrich Corp. and Texas Instruments Inc. for the Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) circuitry of its Digital Light Processing (DLP) chipsets.

For the MEMS industry in general and for Japan’s MEMS sector in particular, the damage was not as severe as initially feared due to a fortuitous accident of geography. Most MEMS fabs and foundries are located in southern Honshu, away from the disaster-devastated northern section of the island, Bouchaud pointed out. Moreover, MEMS and compass suppliers had been employing multiple fabrication plants for manufacturing before the quake and tsunami occurred, reducing the impact of supply disruptions caused by damage to a specific factory.