State of the MEMS Industry at Microtech 2010

Contributed by Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

While I was unable to participate in the first part of Microtech in Anaheim last week, I still feel like I experienced most of the conference/tradeshow/symposium extravaganza that is “Globaltech” in Anaheim this year. The folks at NSTI/CSTI organized an impressive event, though my main complaint is that I felt the venue was not the right size. As I discussed with organizer and NSTI executive director, Matt Loudon, the Anaheim Convention Center was too big, though with over 2,200 attendees, having the event at a hotel would be too small. I guess it’s like Goldilocks in search of a venue “just right” and hopefully next year’s event in Boston (June 13-16, 2011) will be just that.

But aside from the fact that the venue was too spread out and the exhibit space was way too large for the amount of exhibitors, the content of the conference itself was impressive. June 22-24, the conference offered a myriad of simultaneous symposia, talks and panels on the topics of: nanotechnology, bio-nanotechnology, clean technology, microtechnology and venture-capital funded technologies. I was able to sample a few of the non-micro programs and during some of the coffee breaks (and cocktail parties), able to mingle with the other attendees.

I am confident that this model of bridging the technology community together in one venue is the right mix; the question I have is how to better organize and coordinate the discussions/programs so that there is more mix and mingle time – more opportunities for cross collaboration and networking. MEMS is a perfect technology that cuts across numerous applications and this type of event is a great place for those in the MEMS industry (and those in MIG in particular) to come together, collaborate, overcome technology challenges and eventually MAKE MONEY. I look forward to next year’s event and have several ideas of how to participate and engage – please let me know if you have ideas as well!

Now onto my observations and takeaways from the event – on June 23 I chaired and moderated a MIG-members only panel discussion about the “state of the MEMS industry” where we discussed the chinks and links in the MEMS supply chain. I was joined by Mary Ann Maher of SoftMEMS, Carolyn White of A.M. Fitzgerald, Maurus Tschirky of Accutronic, and Prakash Krishnan of SVTC. The panelists did a great job of keeping the conversation animated and interesting as we bantered topics related to MEMS standards, packaging, software/modeling, testing and fabrication; as well as the “dark chasm” between lab to fab. You can download the presentations from the MIG website. Following the panel it was time to go down to the Italy booth for some cocktails and then party hop up to the MIG-NSTI cocktail reception where I mixed and mingled with a great group of new and old friends including Bart Romanowicz of NSTI, Patty Glaza of CSTI, Nick Tasker, Jeff Perkins and Sandrine Leroy of Yole, Frank Bartels of IVAM and Bartels Mikrotechnik GmbH, Pinyen Lin now with Touch Micro-system Technology, Roger Grace, Jose Downes of Philips, David Harris, and made some new friends (Cy Wilson of NASA, Professor Joerg Mueller of Hamburg Technical University, and Elmer Sum of the Vancouver Greentech Exchange). The evening was capped off with dinner with the folks from ACAMP and Alberta Nanotech (Ken Brizel, Dan Djukich, Kevin Yallup and Rosy Amlani).

The next day began beautifully with an early morning run through the grounds of Disneyland (please don’t tell my kids I was that close) where I got to see some of the Disney magic hard at work gearing up for the masses. Then breakfast with my dear friend/colleague Ruth Carranza of Silicon Run Productions (she filmed and produced the MEMS film MIG helped with last year). Ruth’s now working on another NIH-funded film on nanotechnology – stay tuned for its release next summer. The day was spent hopping through a few of the consecutive programs, including Roger Grace’s symposium on MEMS integration. Though I’d participated/attended Roger’s similar event in Chicago earlier this month I was pleasantly surprised to see several new presenters and enjoyed their refreshing perspectives on MEMS fabrication and integration. One of the highlights was the presentation by Wen Lin of STMicro; my favorite part of his presentation was when he called for “more collaboration in the industry to overcome the challenge of connecting the software and hardware” to better enable MEMS – YES! I totally agree and I hope that STMicro rejoins MIG to help make that happen (hint hint hint, Benedetto!).

The day passed quickly and I had a lot of fun interviewing MIG members attending the conference and asking them to give me their short overview of what’s hot and what’s new. I spoke with the charming (I’m a sucker for a French accent) Hughe Metras of CEA-Leti, Darron Collins of Sensonor, Pinyen Lin, and Mary Ann Maher of SoftMEMS. Thanks for the quick and fun interviews – I am really loving my Flip HD video camera.

While the audience petered out by the end of the afternoon there were a few brave souls who stayed for the bitter end of the symposium and the panel discussion in which I participated. Other panelists included Darron Collins, Prakash Krishnan, Corey Barrows of ASIC North (who attended my alma mater, University of Vermont) and we had a lively discussion on the benefits, tradeoffs and challenges to MEMS integration, moderated by Roger Grace. The overall message was that cost matters, but so does function and performance. Thankfully in the MEMS industry, at least in some markets/applications, you don’t have to pick two anymore. Now that’s what I call progress.

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