“Despite offering unique features, thin-film IPD technology shows limited market penetration in the world of passives” asserted Antoine Bonnabel, technology and market analyst for the Power & Wireless team of Yole Développement (Yole).“However, even a low share in this enormous industry can represent significant results. Over time, thin-film IPD have managed to penetrate a few applications and find growth relays.”

The main market today, and one that shows strong growth, is the custom RF IPD featured in RF modules, especially for future 5G applications. These are filters for large-frequency bands and lumped-element circuits for impedance matching, for example. This market is expected to see an 8.2 percent CAGR between 2019 and 2025, surpassing US$360 million in 2025.

The other large-value market is off-the-shelf IPD used for EMI shielding in stringent applications or for basic RF operations like baluns or filtering. This market will represent US$195 million in 2025, with a 3.15 percent CAGR during the 2019 to 2025 period.

After custom RF IPD, today’s most active market is embedded decoupling capacitance in application processors, implemented thanks to advanced 3D integration. This is a prospective high indirect-value market. IPD themselves will not represent a huge part of the cost, but their implementation matters in the choice of the foundry service provider, thus becoming a strategic technology for component manufacturers. This market should grow to US$21.7 million in 2025, with a 15.2 percent CAGR between 2019 and 2025.

The last market of interest is decoupling capacitance for all other purposes including medical, industrial, aeronautics, etc., which should reach US$30 million in 2025 with a 6.9 percent CAGR during the same period.

For over two decades IPD has been a technology with considerable promise, just waiting for mass implementation. Yole has scrutinized this technology over the past eight years to assess its penetration and potential evolution.

In this context, Yole releases the Thin-Film Integrated Passive Devices 2020 report. They explore the different addressed markets and accessible markets, as well as IPD’s positioning as a promising technology still awaiting mass adoption. Including COVID-19’s impact on general market forecasts, market trends, IPD growth relays and market potential, this study points out technology trends and main manufacturing techniques.

“In this 2020 edition, we wanted to more thoroughly assess the market’s potential and the status of IPD technologies,” explained Antoine Bonnabel from Yole. What are the economic and technological challenges of the Thin-Film IPD industry? What are the key drivers? Who are the suppliers to watch, and what innovative technologies are they working on?

Yole presents its vision of the Thin-Film IPD industry.

As analyzed by Yole’s team in the new Thin-Film Integrated Passive Devices 2020 report, IPD suffer from LTCC competition and LTCC themselves deal with low-cost SMD competition. Pragmatically speaking, in any complex system the passives are not the critical part. In fact, passive components have been around since the early days of electronics, and solutions that are small enough, cheap enough and performant enough exist for almost any application. For large-volume applications in particular, cost is one of the most important criteria, and therefore the cheapest viable solution will always be chosen first.

According to Cédric Malaquin, technology and market analyst, specialized in RF devices and technologies within the Power & Wireless division at Yole, “This means that, for high-volume systems, LTCC will be chosen over SMD only if no other option exists, and likewise IPD will be chosen over LTCC only if mandatory. This leaves IPD as a “last resort” solution when performance is critical enough”.

For low-volume, high performance solutions, the issue with IPD positioning is different and the problem lies on the manufacturer’s side. Even if expensive, IPD stay in absolute low-cost components, and a minimum revenue is asked from IPD manufacturers before custom-creating an IPD solution. This infers that many applications cannot feature IPD, since they are not attractive enough for product development.

In this complex context of either being the “last resort” solution for volume products or being an unattractive opportunity for low-volume solutions, IPD still manage to find their specific applications. These are often moving targets allowing for continuous growth of the IPD market.

Today this application is RF components for 5G, and tomorrow it should be decoupling capacitance, together with datacom and telecom applications, that will drive volumes and revenue. No market disruption is expected, and growth will be progressive with new growth relays over time. IPD are not enabling technologies for high volume applications, and a single-digit CAGR will exist for the total market, but it will remain a growing market opportunity in the long term.