METRIC attendees think the future looks bright!

Contributed by Monica Takacs, Director of Marketing & Membership, MEMS Industry Group

Wow, what a week! I just got back from a whirlwind trip to San Jose for MEMS Industry Group’s annual members meeting, METRIC. It was great to see so many new faces and old friends at this year’s event.  It was really fun to mingle with the Bay Area MEMS Happy Hour group, as well as some of the attendees from MEPTEC’s MEMS Symposium.

This is the second time that METRIC has focused on MEMS fabrication. The first time was back in 2002, and oh how the industry has changed since then. Back in 2002 we discussed issues like the segmented market, the high barriers to entry and how the markets were envisioned, but not yet created. In 2010 we talked about the need for another home run like accelerometers in the Wii and the iPhone. Back in 2002 companies were primarily using 4 and 6 inch wafers, now many companies are using an 8 inch platform and value-add silicon substrates are the future. Back then we talked about how “recent activity in Asia raised the question whether or not North America will remain the leading MEMS fabrication region.”  In 2010 we talked about how VCs don’t want to fund new MEMS companies if they don’t have a roadmap to TSMC in their business plans.

It’s certain that the MEMS industry is much more of a global market than it was in 2002, but there are some items on the industry’s wish list that still exist. Eight years ago the industry said that it wanted the industry to “create a fab ‘matrix’ or ‘catalogue’ that identifies core fab capabilities to help fabs specialize in certain fabrication processes” and “build a best practice MEMS fabrication handbook to facilitate the interaction and expectations of both fabs and customers.”

These sentiments were echoed at METRIC 2010. The pre-METRIC interviews and the “Working with a Foundry” working group session discussed what makes a successful partnership with a foundry and what to expect when you enter into a relationship with a foundry.  One of the recommendations that came out of METRIC is that MIG should create a foundry checklist document.

We’ve come a long way as an industry. Terms like through-silicon vias and wafer-level packaging weren’t even mentioned in the METRIC 2002 report; they were at the forefront of the discussions at METRIC 2010. Nowadays, the industry looks forward to self-test for devices and becoming mainstream in emerging markets like biomedicine and energy.  Integration is the present and the future: The industry needs to start thinking about the system instead of focusing on the device. MEMS is an enabling technology and doesn’t need to be perfect, another part of the system can compensate and make the system cheaper. And, the future is fab-less! Foundries have the capabilities necessary to make the MEMS industry grow and advance while new companies have  lower initial capital investment requirements to create new and exciting devices.

Early next week, MIG will release all the proceedings for METRIC 2010 to our members. We welcome your feedback and invite you to join one of our action item committees so that we may realize the future of the MEMS industry.

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