Graz, Austria-based USound has raised €25 million in a new funding round. The firm specialises in the development and production of micro-electro-mechanical systems-based loudspeakers for personal devices and wearable technologies, i.e. the audio output mechanism in our everyday handheld devices. The funding will enable to company to begin the mass production and distribution of its newly announced second-generation technologies to partners. Founded in 2014, the Styrian firm has raised €68.7 million to date.
If you’re interacting with a device the requires power to operate right now, you’re looking at CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) and MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems) technologies in action. Without the development and advancements in these fields, much of what we take for granted today wouldn’t be possible.
And for all the various components that make up these devices, one factor that’s still leveraging a technology originally patented in 1877, is audio. The electrodynamic speaker is based around the simple concept of electromagnetism, a process that involves the interaction between a charged wire coil and magnet. Through various inputs of power, the coil/magnet combination causes a speaker cone to move and vibrate at various frequencies, thus producing sound.
USound is fundamentally changing this game through its application of piezoelectricity, a principle that relies on mineral crystals such as lead zirconate titanate to extend or shrink when an electrical field is passed through them. In so much, this makes the production of a speaker as thin as 1mm possible, all while retaining a superior audio performance when compared to its electrodynamic predecessor.
MEMS-based speaker systems require 50% less space and use 80% less energy than their counterparts (think battery life), are capable of producing a greater frequency range than electrodynamic speakers, and can control overdrive (read, distortion) with much greater accuracy, all resulting in a superior audio experience.
A simple way to think of the differences in this technology is akin to an incandescent lightbulb vs. an LED light. Both provide the same benefit, but one is far more efficient and offers a much wider variety of applications.
USound's €25 million funding round was led by eQventure, and saw participation from ARM co-founder Hermann Hauser and Chinese mobile phone battery maker BYD co-founder Yang Longzhong, as well as a sizeable commitment from the European Investment Bank.
“With the steady growth of customers, USound is further extending the manufacturing network that already includes STMicroelectronics for the First Generation of MEMS loudspeaker and TSMC (Taiwan) for the ASIC Audio Amplifier. Collaborating with world-leading manufacturing companies enable us to increase production volume, be more efficient, and improve the logistics process to reach our global customers,” commented USound CEO Ferruccio Bottoni.