Karen’s blog from MIG/BSAC Fall Thrust Session and MEMS Commercialization Workshop

For a third time, I had the honor and pleasure to attend the Fall Thrust Session at BSAC at UC Berkeley. In Spring 2010, I was invited to give a brief introduction of MEMS Industry Group (MIG) to the closed session of BSAC’s directors and member companies, attend a poster session and social event. In Fall 2010 I was invited to more social events, poster sessions and held a joint workshop on MEMS with BSAC, featuring several MIG members. This year for BSAC’s 25th Anniversary (and MIG’s 10th), MIG’s role expanded even more; on 9/22, MIG held a morning workshop on MEMS Commercialization“Technical Challenges to MEMS Commercialization,” as well as an afternoon session in conjunction with BSAC.

If I was impressed by BSAC before, now I am positively gushing with my praise and respect of BSAC and the amazing work they’ve created, nurtured and spawned over the past 25 years. Thank you BSAC (with a special call out to Executive Director, John Huggins), for enabling me (and MIG) to be a part of BSAC’s anniversary celebration.

I’ll try to be brief and capture the highlights of the morning; my next blog will capture the afternoon’s join session. After my intro, the workshop was kicked off by STMicro’s Jay Esfandyari who eloquently presented “Commercialization of MEMS Motion Sensors in the Past Decade.” Jay’s presentation was an overview of motion sensing’s past present and future.  I appreciated the case study-like observations he gave regarding the importance of understanding the market for your product.

Jay was followed by A.M. Fitzgerald and Associate’s Alissa Fitzgerald, who gave a fantastic presentation:  “MEMS Product Development – Why is it so Hard?” I had asked Alissa to give this presentation, as she has presented variations of this theme before – most recently at the MEMS workshop hosted by MIG at this year’s Sensors Expo Chicago. I am also pleased to be a co-author on a technically-focused blog for Solid State Technology (the first in a series hosted by SST featuring MIG members– so stay tuned!).

Then the real fun began, when I moderated a panel discussion – “Discussion of Technical Manufacturing Challenges to MEMS Commercialization; Stories from The Road.” I welcomed Alissa and Jay back up to the center stage, and also brought up Acuity’s Jim Knutti, and TI’s Rick Oden. The panel gave the audience an insiders’ yet very diverse view to MEMS device manufacturing. Each panelist brought with them their perspective on the rigorous transfer to production – whatever the volume.  They discussed why they agreed (either strongly or not so much) with the statement:  “MEMS is hard.” We also discussed are the critical challenges to manufacturing MEMS – and whether they are on the back end or front end. We also pontificated on what the industry can do about it and talked about success factors of “success” (and even tried to better define that elusive word). The main observation was that while there is a robust infrastructure/ecosystem to support MEMS manufacturing, it can be a minefield so you need to have great partners and great communication (and of course you should join MIG).

Then I asked the panel to look into their crystal balls into the next ten years in MEMS commercialization – what do they see? Who’s still standing? Who’s not? Everyone agreed that there will be more consolidation in the industry, with more integration and “sensor fusion.” The one slightly controversial prediction was that some of the large semiconductor foundries will not stay in MEMS; as they will soon learn that “MEMS is hard” and will go back to semiconductors. Time will tell if this prediction is true.

My next blog will cover the joint program with MIG and BSAC which featured several MIG members and thought leaders in the industry.

To continue reading Part 2 please click here.

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