No More “Fear Factor” — Understanding MEMS Fabrication

Contributed by Monica L. Takacs, Director of Marketing and Membership, MEMS Industry Group

In the past, the ‘fear factor’ of MEMS’ complex fabrication processes restricted the widespread adoption of MEMS in many markets. Today, however, MEMS’ fabrication is keeping pace with market demand for mass-produced MEMS devices which are being fabricated in the millions. Early commercial successes in inkjet print heads and automotive air bags have given rise to widespread adoption in mobile handsets, video game hardware, laptop computers and reams of new automotive applications. Continue reading

My Visit to Bosch’s 8” MEMS Foundry, Reutlingen, Germany

Contributed by Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

On Tuesday, April 20 I was able to jump on one of the only flights out of Hannover to Stuttgart. On a lovely flight via Air Berlin (totally recommend them as an airline, by the way, they gave me a heart-shaped Milka chocolate at the end of the flight), I was able to watch a gorgeous purple-infused sunset thanks to the Icelandic volcano ash.

My Bosch visit began when Dr. Frank Melzer, CEO of Bosch Sensortec graciously met me at the airport and we enjoyed a stunning dinner at a 4-star restaurant on the top of Stuttgart’s new art museum. How cool to be dining atop a modern cube-shaped modern art museum, looking out on Stuttgart’s main square with two Württemberg castles in the distance.

The following morning I was off to Bosch’s Reutlingen facility, just south of Stuttgart. Bosch’s impressive campus is a great combination of both old and new; part of the facility includes a 100+ year-old former garment factory as well as Bosch’s gorgeously techy three week-old new 8” MEMS/ASIC foundry. Again, how cool.

I had the pleasure of reconnecting with several old Bosch colleagues such as Markus Ulm, Wilhelm Frey and Udo-Martin Gomez and several new colleagues including Rolf Speicher, Frauke Ludmann, Leopold Beer, Frank Schaefer, and Boories Rost. Since I’d had a late night I was grateful for the ample supply of coffee (rivaling Leopold’s caffeine consumption, I was told), but was soon pleased that the conversations would be stimulating enough. I am always pleasantly surprised when I have a site visit and the hosts are not just proud and excited to show me their facility but also interested in hearing about MIG and its member benefits, programs and events! I especially appreciated that the Bosch team was eager to engage in heated debate about the growth and future of the MEMS Industry.

Some key takeaways from our conversations:

  • It’s no joke that the Bosch Process is an institution in MEMS. The entire Bosch philosophy is based on quality and reliability. Bosch as well as its subsidiary, Bosch Sensortec, are first interested in providing a market-needed product and secondly interested in providing that product at a competitive price. First, they focus on providing a quality product and then on providing a quality price. Their devices may be enabled by sophisticated software and algorithms, but Bosch does not overtly use these facts as their market differentiator. Instead, Bosch is selling you the Bosch quality and reliability. ‘Nuff said.
  • Bosch reinvests a considerable and steadily increasing percentage of their annual revenue into R&D. Clearly this investment in their future has paid off (and will continue to pay off) as Bosch is increasingly pushing the size, quality and capability of its CMOS, ASIC and MEMS chips. “Impressive” seems like a weak term here!
  • Though I knew that Bosch was a leader in automotive sensors, I quickly learned that Bosch Sensortec is clearly a leader in consumer MEMS. Their sensors are increasingly found in mobile handset throughout Asia–and you don’t have to be a market analyst to realize that the mobile handset market in Asia is HUGE and ever-growing (I think it’s not “one chicken in every pot” in China, but “one mobile handset in every hand”). Therefore, Bosch Sensortec’s market share is sure to grow stronger.
  • Lastly, really genuinely nice people work in Bosch MEMS. Perhaps it’s my inclination to gravitate towards engineers and my respect for those who are always looking for a better way to do something (and the fact that I married an engineer). But honestly, I was very taken by the authenticity and honesty of the Bosch team, who show a respect for one another that is unique.

I am grateful for Bosch for the great site visit. I really have enjoyed myself in Germany–both professionally and personally. I feel very fortunate to be “stuck” in Germany though I hope to return home on Friday. As on Monday it’s time to leave for the West Coast (of the US, that is) and host the MEMS Panel of MIG members at Globalpress Electronics Summit. Stay tuned for my next blog which will highlight panelist discussions of how MEMS is fueling the economic rebound.

Sensors, sensors everywhere: MEMS and the “Internet of Things”

Robert MacManus posted an interesting piece on ReadWriteWeb recently (see 2010 Trend: Sensors & Mobile Phones) in their series on the “Internet of Things”–where devices are connected to the Internet to provide us with more data and functionality. Although he doesn’t call it MEMS by name, he makes the point that cell phones are becoming much more than communications devices; cell phones and mobile devices are essentially pocket-sized platforms for sensors. And, yes, many of these sensors are MEMS devices! Continue reading

Will 2010 be the year of the MEMS gyroscope?

Tech writer R. Colin Johnson thinks so and has laid out 5 apps that could push gyros into the limelight. Colin has been attending MEMS Executive Congress for a couple of years now, so it’s no surprise that some of the really cool MEMS apps discussed there have made it onto his list.

“Gyroscopes have already proved themselves in the inertial guidance systems for aircraft, ships, spacecraft and ballistic missiles, but their use in consumer devices in 2010 will make gyroscopes a part of the common vernacular.”

See the full list and the rest of Colin’s article here: http://www.smartertechnology.com/c/a/Technology-For-Change/Five-Apps-That-Will-Make-2010-the-Year-of-the-Gyroscope/

Colin also frequently writes about MEMS on NextGenLog, his blog about next generation electronics and technologies.

So what do you think, MEMSbloggers? What will 2010 have in store for MEMS?

Interview with Dr. Mauro Ferrari & New MEMS Education Series BioMEMS Workshop

You might have noticed that there’s been a lot of news coming from MEMS Industry Group™ lately about BioMEMS.  We’re very excited about this field, its opportunities for the MEMS industry, and the improvements to healthcare it will bring.

In case you missed it, MIG recently sat down with Dr. Mauro Ferrari, Professor and Chairman of the Department of NanoMedicine and Biomedical Engineering (nBME) at the University of Texas Health Science Center (and MEMS Executive Congress™ 2009 keynote speaker), to discuss his work in the field. You can read the entire interview as featured in the most recent MIG newsletter here. Dr. Ferrari mentions some amazing technologies like Personal Molecular Drug-delivery Systems (PMDS) and nanoporous silicon — these are really cool examples of how BioMEMS could dramatically improve health and quality of life for all.

If you’re a MIG member and as enthused about BioMEMS as we are, then you should also know about MIG’s newly announced workshop, MEMS Education Series™: Spotlight on BioMEMS and NanoMedicine (March 18, 2010, Houston, TX). Because our members have asked for it, we are offering this one-day executive education workshop at Dr. Ferrari’s nBME center — for MIG members only — focusing on the opportunities for BioMEMS commercialization.

Why wait? Check out www.memseducationseries.com right now for more details on this special opportunity!

Industry Buzz from the Bay Area MEMS Happy Hour

Contributed by Paul Werbaneth, VP, Marketing & Applications, Tegal Corporation.

Well if they have farms, milk, butter, and cheese in Berkeley, CA, then having MEMS in Berkeley is the next logical step, right?

And if you had stumbled in, or otherwise found yourself in, the Pyramid Alehouse on Gilman in Berkeley Wednesday evening, you would have found they not only have MEMS in Berkeley (Al? Clark?), they also have excellent draft beers (that wasn’t moo juice we were drinking), good pizzas, healthy (?) sweet potato fries, and a whole bunch of MEMS people standing outside on the Alehouse patio enthusiastically networking over the aforementioned imbiss.

It’s the monthly roving Bay Area MEMS after-work get-together, and it’s attracted more people tonight than anyone (including the loose band of organizers: Dave Cook, Alissa Fitzgerald, Roger Grace, Mary Ann Maher, Magnus Rimskog, among others) thought would make the trek up from Silicon Valley, or from campus up the hill.  (31 miles from Petaluma to Berkeley for me, a trip the car knows well, owing to two daughters who are now both Cal grads.) Continue reading

At IEEE 3D IC 2009, Day 2 and 3, San Francisco, CA …..

Paul Werbaneth,Vice President – Marketing and Applications, Tegal Corporation

Thoughts on Day 2 and conclusions following Day 3:

There’s been a really strong student / university contribution to the conference this week by many of the schools to which I feel close.  Penn State, Pitt, Tohoku University. (I had the unexpected pleasure of choosing a lunch table Wednesday where I sat next to Professor Koyanagi from Tohoku University, first time for me to meet this distinguished scholar, who is an IEEE Fellow and an IEEE Medal Laureate.)  Rensselaer (Prof. Ken Rose is my old friend from ASMC committee work, and my niece is now a freshman at RPI), MIT, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore; Prof. Chuan Seng Tan is assembling a book on 3D IC Technology, to which I contributed a chapter on TSV etching), NC State.  Among others.

Kelli Ireland, from Pitt (“A routerless system level interconnection network for 3D integrated systems”) and Adam Beece from RPI (“Impact of parameter accuracy on 3D design”), grad students both, absolutely nailed their presentations – great job Adam, great job Kelli.

When you take someone from Singapore (best food in the world) to dinner in San Francisco where do you go?  I figured since we had my colleague Yannick Pilloux with us it should be Californian French, so off to Grand Café (http://www.grandcafe-sf.com/) we go.  It works for Yannick (“authentic boef bourguignon”), it works for Chuan Seng (Petaluma duck breast), and it works for me (porc roti with mushrooms, beans, and corn).

If Day 2 of IEEE 3D IC was devoted somewhat to Comp Sci topics and Networks on Chips, then Day 3, Wednesday, swings back to devices, applications, and markets.  Eric Beyne (IMEC) pinch-hits and scores with the talk “European R&D activities for 3D integrated heterogeneous systems.”  To me, it really looks like the commercial products we’ll be seeing, enabled by 3D IC technology, are going to contain MEMS stacked onto logic and power, with a radio tucked in somewhere along the way.  At least that’s what they’re saying in Europe, and that’s what (“10um fine pitch Cu/Sn micro-bumps for 3-D super-chip stack”) they’re saying in Japan.

It makes me wonder where Apple is on all this.  IEEE 3D IC is all about great technology, and Apple is all about great (insanely great) products – products based on the best cutting-edge technology and software, of course.  When I start thinking about sleekly designed consumer products packing the power of a complete consumer entertainment system, and boasting wireless connectivity, GPS navigation, and ripping games, all in a single unit,  I look to my iPhone.  Already highly integrated, but then I think, what if those many digital, analog, power management, RF, and MEMS components were stacked into a single packaged “chip,” not spread out over business card-size circuit boards, as they are today.  What more would I get?   (What more do I need?)

How about some health monitoring functions (room for that once we integrate the super dreamy chip into the handset), how about some real-time language translation functions, how about a microprojector, how about a portable augmented reality function that reports to the display glasses I’m wearing (Oak-Bans?) using GPS data so it knows where I am and how my reality should be augmented?  They say there might be room for a printer in there too once we free up the space.

A 21st century electronic Baedeker, that’s what I want.  With a beautiful red leather cover, just like in the old days.  (I’m still going to be holding this DreamyChip Baedeker in my hand, by the way – direct brain implants are for IEEE 3D IC 2019).  I’m not alone in that I see this coming, propelled by the work reported on this week during IEEE 3D IC.

From San Francisco, CA, thanks for reading.