MEMS Industry Group Goes to Japan!

Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

Greetings from Exhibition Micromachine/MEMS 2009 at Tokyo Big Sight! I am blogging from the 15th annual International Micromachine Nanotech Symposium – MEMS World. I am very impressed with many things on my first trip to Japan. First off, the city of Tokyo is amazing – so full of energy – both of old culture and of new innovation. I have enjoyed experiencing the culture (especially the food!) and the hospitable, friendly people. I have been equally impressed with the energy and enthusiasm for MEMS in Japan.

Karen Lightman addressing the crowd at Exhibition MEMS/Micromachine

While the exhibition space of Exhibition Micromachine/MEMS 2009 is down (by 50% is what I’ve been told), the number of actual exhibitors and attendees is impressive – this is definitely the place to be for MEMS in Japan. I walked the show floor and was very pleased to see several MIG members either exhibiting and/or presenting, including: Coventor, EV Group, IVAM, Okmetic, Primaxx, SAES Getters, Silex, SUSS, and XACTIX. I also met with several potential new MIG members who are interested in expanding their presence in the US.

This morning, I had the honor of being a keynote in the Symposium’s morning session, where I presented on “Worldwide Growth Opportunities for MEMS: MIG’s Perspective on MEMS Activities in the US and Emerging Technologies.” My presentation is available in the member section of the MIG web site, in case you want to see what I talked about. I also had a chance to sit in on other presentations, including: Andre Rouzaud of CEA-LETI, Thomas Gessner of Fraunhofer ENAS, Toshihiro Ito of Japan’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute, Al Pisano of UC Berkeley/BSAC, and Markku Tilli of Okmetic. Generally, the presentations addressed the move to 200 mm, the importance of integration, cost pressures and expected growth areas of consumer and bio/medical.

Tomorrow’s agenda promises to be equally interesting and exciting, as I will attend the Japanese -German Micro/Nano business forum and I hope to blog again to tell you what I hear/experience. Last night I was treated to dinner by Kionix’s Junji Araya at an amazing classic Japanese restaurant (lots of great sashimi and tempura); right now I have to dash off to the cocktail party hosted by the Symposium organizers and then another promise to have a “true” Japanese experience/dinner – I wonder if they mean I’ll eat a live fish….

More from SEMICON West 2009

Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group:

Greetings from SEMICON West 2009! I feel like I am at homecoming – seeing so many old friends and colleagues. The best part of SEMICON is seeing new colleagues whom I’ve only “met” via email/phone and now we finally get to meet in person. While the number of exhibit booths and attendees are somewhat down this year as a result of the economic downturn, the level of enthusiasm and excitement about MEMS is at an all-time high.

Yesterday at the July 15 breakfast briefing “Concept to Commercialization” hosted by SVTC, SEMICO’s Jim Feldhan and MEMS legend Kurt Petersen both heralded the new dawn of MEMS technology.  Both presenters talked about the importance of collaboration as a key component to innovation. I heartily agree; a major part of MIG’s mission is to promote and encourage collaboration throughout the entire MEMS supply chain.

Petersen stated that he sees a growing trend towards two-chip solutions, stating that “two chips are better than one.” He gave examples of Invensense, SiTime, Discera, Bosch and ADI as companies who are leading this trend. He also predicted that 8” MEMS wafers and fabless MEMS companies will transform the MEMS industry and catapult its growth. He encouraged MEMS companies to look for ways to uniquely configure their products to differentiate themselves from the competition. His “simple answer” is to bundle MEMS devices with as many peripherals with unique and special features.

The breakfast was wrapped up by SVTC CEO Joe Bronson, who highlighted SVTC’s business strategy on “concept to commercialization” and echoed the importance of collaboration. He also announced SVTC’s partnership with the German solar equipment company Roth and Raw; unveiling SVTC’s plan to get into the solar power business and offer many of the same services it does now for MEMS for the solar industry. It’s exciting news – I am very curious to see how things progress… SVTC plans to by fully operational in solar by the first quarter of 2010.

After the SVTC breakfast, it was time for the WORLD PREMIERE of the film MEMS: Making Micro Machines. With standing room only in the SEMI Theater, I had the pleasure of introducing Ruth Carranza, the film’s producer. This film offers a rare close-up of MEMS design, fabrication, testing and packaging; and showcases production at MIG members Freescale and Texas Instruments. It was a pleasure working with Ruth on this collaboration and while yesterday’s event wasn’t the premiere at Sundance that I initially envisioned, it was a pleasure to be at the premiere amongst colleagues and friends. There were many people to thank – including the GREAT MIG members who played a pivotal role in the production and release of this film:

  • MEMS Movie Premiere Sponsor – Analog Devices
  • Onsite MIG filming hosts: Freescale Semiconductor, Texas Instruments; Hewlett Packard was also a host (though not a MIG member—at least not yet!)
  • MIG members who contributed to the film by sending in images and devices for Ruth to film: Coventor, Discera, Omron Electronic Components, Robert Bosch GmbH, Sensonor Technologies AS and
  • MIG members who helped fund the movie: Bosch, Freescale
  • And lastly, TI’s Mike Mignardi who connected me with Ruth over 18 months ago

MIG is selling the film immediately following the premiere for a members-only price of $225 and a general-public price of $295. To purchase and view the film’s trailer, please visit:

And last but definitely not least – last night MIG hosted its HUGELY successful MIG member cocktail party at Azie restaurant. Though the place was densely packed, I was still able to connect with MIG members (old and new!) and met new colleagues as well.

Now I am preparing for my presentation at the quarterly meeting of the Fab Owners Association (FOA). I am looking forward to meeting FOA members and spreading the word about the many benefits to MIG membership. MIG members will be able to see my presentation in our MIG member section shortly – stay tuned!

Greetings from San Francisco!

Monica Takacs, Director of Membership and Marketing

SEMICON West kicked off today–it was so nice to see so many MIG members at the Extreme Electronics Lounge in Moscone North! Yesterday, our MEMS Education Series short course “An Insider’s Guide to Strategy for the MEMS Industry” took place at the downtown campus of San Francisco State University. It was attended by nearly 30 individuals ranging from current MIG members, entrepreneurs looking to learn more about the business of MEMS, and those looking to gain additional knowledge of the MEMS industry. Instructors Dr. Jim Knutti and Dr. Alissa Fitzgerald did a great job teaching about subjects including the impact of the recent economic downturn, recent strategies by MEMS companies to reposition themselves, the MEMS markets and supply chain revolution, product development, R&D, business and operations, and financial considerations.  The course was very well received and feedback on the exit surveys was very positive.

Today at SEMICON West Karen and I visited members and met with potential new members in the MEMS Lounge area. The morning was filled with presentations specifically on MEMS and included a talk from Jean-Christophe Eloy of Yole Développement on the remaining growth areas for MEMS. Claude Jean from DALSA semi conductor gave a foundry’s view of the MEMS industry. Eric Eisenhut from Kionix spoke about sensor integration is enabling applications and expanding markets. Jeff Hilbert from Wispry gave an overview of RF-MEMS enable mobile handsets, Richie Payne from Pixtronic gave a talk on TFT glass panel fabrication for MEMS displays. Andrew Thompson from Proteus Biomedical closed the MEMS session on his talk about helping to solve the heathcare crisis with MEMS and ICs.

We are very excited about tomorrow’s premiere of Ruth Carranza’s movie on MEMS manufacturing. It will be so great to see so many MIG members showcased in the movie. Stop by the SEMI theater at 1PM to check it out.  We’ll also be hosting the annual MIG members happy hour. Hope to see you there!!!

New Best Known Practice Published: MEMS Assembly Process Flow Scenarios

MIG has recently published the second document in its series of Best Known Practices (BKP): MEMS Assembly Process Flow Scenarios authored by Mike Mignardi, Manager, Energy Harvesting, Texas Instruments, and Kevin Chau, Vice President, MEMStaff. The document was reviewed by Tina Lamers, Director of Marketing, Axept, and Alissa Fitzgerald, Managing Member, A.M. Fitzgerald & Associates.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to ordering the four key process & assembly steps of die singulation, packaging, sacrificial layer removal and testing, Mignardi and Chau write. Instead there are a number of different ways one could successfully order these steps depending on the MEMS device design.

The authors then proceed with a number of alternative scenarios for assembly process flows and insist that these should be carefully considered early on in the MEMS design process, not merely as an afterthought.

MEMS Assembly Process Flow Scenarios is publicly available in its entirety at the Best Known Practices page of the MIG website:

MEMS Industry Group’s Best Known Practices series was started with the intention of fostering best practices while staying away from creating industry standards.  Different approaches and alternative points of view are not only accepted, but are in fact strongly encouraged.

What do you think about this BKP? Does it hit the mark or is it way off? Why not post a comment or even draft your own BKP document? (Authoring a Best Known Practices document is only open to current MIG members.  Those interested should contact

Live from RoboCup 2009 Day 5

This week Richard Allen, Physicist, NIST, will be live blogging from RoboCup 2009 covering the MEMS-scale robot league.

July 4, 2009, Entry 2:

And some results from today’s activities, in particular the Ball Handling Drill (ETH) and theTwo Millimeter Dash (USNA).

ETH was unable to accomplish the Ball Handling Drill, so that event will have to be called a draw.  Thus the outcome of the 2009 RoboCup Nanogram Demonstration is victory to ETH, with wins in the Two Millimeter Dash and the Slalom Course and a draw in the Ball Handling Drill.

We were all pleased that the USNA team succeeded in getting one of their robots to move.  However, the one that moved appears to be stuck to the surface and is only capable of moving in a spiral.

An accomplishment to celebrate! Although this isn’t as impressive as the performance of the ETH team, the undergraduates of the USNA have nothing to be embarrassed about.  Their work has been seen by thousands of visitors to the hall.

As I write these remarks, Bryan and Ashley have resumed their interrupted honeymoon and Professor Firebaugh is packing with the plan of catching an early plane from Graz.  Tomorrow morning we will pack our boxes and deliver them to the shipping department here at the Stadthalle.  After that some of our group will head towards Vienna to spend part of the day there; others of us will remain here for the awards ceremony at 5:00 p.m., where we will recognize the victorious ETH team.  We will all meet in Vienna tomorrow to catch the 10 hour flight back to Washington, D.C.

This demonstration has shown the potential and challenge of this very difficult application of MEMS.  I may post a follow-up from home with any thoughts.  I hope you will make some comments and suggestions for us as we consider where to go from here.  All the best from Graz.

July 4, 2009, Entry 1:

Today is scheduled the Ball Handling Drill.

Last night the ETH team stay late at the venue to try and solve a serious problem with this event:  their robots cannot distinguish the ball from the surface and simply float over the surface.  This is quite a change from the problem of 2007 of the Robots being likely to stick when they stopped moving.

We also today hope that the USNA team is able to perform the Two Millimeter Dash.  They have set their robots on a field and are attempting to purge all humidity from the playing arena by pumping dry nitrogen through the box and shining the microscope light on the system.

Image 9.1

I’ll report later on the results.

The views presented here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of NIST.

Please be respectful when posting comments. We will post all comments without editing as quickly as possible during business hours as long as the comments are on topic and do not contain profanity, personal attacks, or promote commercial products or services.

Live from RoboCup 2009 Day 4

This week Richard Allen, Physicist, NIST, will be live blogging from RoboCup 2009 covering the MEMS-scale robot league.

July 3, 2009:

Today we have scheduled the Two Millimeter Dash.

The ETH team performed their required six runs, with times in the 350 ms – 500 ms range.  These times include delay from official start time and delivery of stop signal.  On my camera, I count between 4 and 8 frames per event.  At the rate of 30 frames per second, this works out to 133 ms – 267 ms for the robot to travel this distance.  The range of values is partly due to Dominic changing the operating parameters for the later runs.  Here is one of the runs of the ETH robot.  Watch quickly or you’ll miss it.

The USNA team is still not getting their robots to move.  We will allow them time tomorrow to attempt the Two-Millimeter Dash one additional time.

The views presented here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of NIST.

Please be respectful when posting comments. We will post all comments without editing as quickly as possible during business hours as long as the comments are on topic and do not contain profanity, personal attacks, or promote commercial products or services.

Live from RoboCup 2009 Day 3

This week Richard Allen, Physicist, NIST, will be live blogging from RoboCup 2009 covering the MEMS-scale robot league.

July 4, 2009, Entry 4:

Today is scheduled the Two-Millimeter Dash

However, as with all research activities, there are difficulties.  The two teams are not ready:  the Naval Academy is repeatedly having troubles getting their robots to move, perhaps due to the excessive humidity in the venue and the ETH team has set up on the Slalom Drill course, rather than the sprint course.  With all participants in agreement, we choose to invert the schedule and time the obstacle course today and the Two-Millimeter Dash tomorrow.

All events take place on a soccer field provided by NIST.  We produce the playing fields, four on a 10 mm square chip, in the NIST CNST Nanofab.  The remaining steps of packaging and bonding are done in laboratories of the NIST Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory and the NIST Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory.

Image 7.1

The soccer stadium, shown here,

Image 7.2

is a huge improvement over the arena used in 2007.  In 2007, an entire glove box was brought from NIST for the participants to use.  This glove box was large enough to hold a wafer prober.  While this provided the needed tool set, it was very heavy and difficult to move between locations.  So instead of a nitrogen flushed glove box, we have this small box with ports for power (sides) and nitrogen (top and bottom) and a switch to use to select which of the four fields is in use.  In addition, we have built these with safety interlocks to ensure that dangerous voltages are not present when the box is open.

When we were deciding how to participate in non-U.S. RoboCup events, we realized that the large equipment we were using simply wouldn’t suffice.  In addition to reducing the footprint of the glove box to inches, we acquired a small microscope to which three cameras can be connected.  So our entire glove box-probe station setup is reduced to this

Image 7.3

In the Slalom Drill, the robot must traverse the field in the presence of one or more obstacles.  The teams score is based on two parameters:  time and number of obstacles.  In addition to these parameters, the teams are allowed to choose how the robot is controlled—either by computer or by a human operator (teleoperation).  In the event the robot is teleoperated, there will be a penalty assessed to the score.

In discussing teleoperation, perhaps I should digress and mention that in all of the RoboCup leagues, teleoperation is either strictly forbidden.  For the Small Size league, the robots are centrally controlled by a remote computer; in the other leagues, all robots must perform autonomously.  Due to the challenges faced by a team considering participating in the Nanogram Demonstration in simply fabricating functional robots, we have chosen this hybrid approach.

Before I can capture the Slalom Drill, I face more computer woes:  The video driver – or the operating system – on our primary image collection system, is not capable of driving two monitors on which the same image is displayed.  So, trying to get the desired image on the monitor that everyone sees when they enter the hall – and from the keyboard I can only see the back of – was really a challenge.  Then the system hung – probably related to the problem mentioned yesterday – and appeared on reboot to have wiped out my primary account.  So I set up a new account to get running again, only to get a strange error message referring to a missing initialization file for a piece of hardware we aren’t using on this trip.

Meanwhile, we had gotten a video splitter and had put all displays on a single signal, so our audience got to watch me uninstalling the driver for this file and rebooting.  Talk about stress.

But everything is now working – in the meantime, the ETH team has performed their runs on the Slalom Drill and everyone is preparing to start closing the competition down for the day.

July 2, 2009, Entry 3:

The other team participating in the Nanogram Demonstration at RoboCup 2009 is from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH).  The ETH Team is comprised of researchers from the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems (IRIS).  This group, led by Professor Brad Nelson, is at the forefront of MEMS robotics.  The team at RoboCup 2009 is led by Dominic Frutiger, seen here driving one of the robots.

Blog 6.1

In addition to Dominic, the other RoboCup 2009 Nanogram attendees from ETH are Bradley Kratochvil, Christos Bergeles, Franziska Ullrich, Christophe Chautems, Raphael Bitzi, Javier Alonso, Markus Wittmer, Amirehsan Sarabadani.  Here is Brad during setup earlier in the week:

Blog 6.2

As with previous RoboCup events, the spectators are allowed to come right up to the team areas.  Here, some future MEMS researchers are checking out the ETH soccer arena.

Blog 6.3

The following are links, with videos, describing the function of the ETH robots and from their nanogram soccer competitions.

July 2, 2009, Entry 2:

Given that between us and the two teams, we brought fewer than 15 computers, we have had enough computer problems!  I thought the robots were supposed to be the hard part.

Biggest problem:  The laptop that Professor Firebaugh brought from the U.S. will not boot up.  It will start to boot, but gives an error message and after the splash screen, resets.

Smaller problem #1:  No one can log onto one of the laptops that we brought from NIST.

Smaller problem #2:  The power supply on the desktop we brought from NIST had a switch to indicate whether the source is 115 V or 240 V.  I’m not sure if the new power supply has such a switch, but I don’t plan to worry about that until we return to the U.S.

Trivial problem:  This is a problem that shows up when the computer boots and definitely looks worse than it is:


July 1, 2009, Entry 1:

I missed getting an entry completed yesterday, so I am going to combine my thoughts from yesterday with those today.  As of yesterday, all of the team boxes were unpacked and moved to storage.  Since we are right at the entrance to one of the large convention halls, I think it is important that if the audience sees clutter, they see technical clutter, not just boxes.  We got new equipment for running this year’s event: No longer do we need a large probe station; we got a small microscope on which we can mount probes.  Here is a picture Mike Newman took of Jason Gorman (left), Craig McGray (front), and myself assembling the microscope:


(Photo by Michael E. Newman, NIST)

…and I swear this wasn’t posed!

I am typing this over lunch with my co-worker Craig McGray and the team from the U.S. Naval Academy.  The USNA team consists of Bryan Watson, his new wife (and honorary team member), Ashley, and the team co-advisor Associate Professor Samara Firebaugh.  Prof. Firebaugh was fortunate that Bryan’s first military assignment past graduation is delayed long enough for him to be here.  The two other students who worked on RoboCup 2009 with Prof. Firebaugh, Eric Eastman and Ashley Skahan, have already started their military service and were not able to be here in Graz.

And by the way, Bryan and Ashley (who graduated last month from the University of Alabama) are spending part of their honeymoon here at RoboCup.  Talk about “taking one for the team.”   This picture shows  Ashley, Bryan, and Craig.   One of the larger soccer fields is in the background.


We are in a pizza parlor across the street from the convention hall.  We all are commiserating on the issues associated with working so far from our home laboratories and with European power.  Part of the equipment the USNA team brought was 115 V/60 HZ only and did not properly work with the voltage converters that they were able to get in the U.S.  This morning I traveled with Prof. Firebaugh to a local electronics/hobby superstore where she purchased a better power transformer and several other items.

I will introduce our other team, from the ETH Zurich, in a post tomorrow.

Much progress has been made, but much needs to occur before our first event tomorrow:  The Two Millimeter Dash.

The views presented here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of NIST.

Please be respectful when posting comments. We will post all comments without editing as quickly as possible during business hours as long as the comments are on topic and do not contain profanity, personal attacks, or promote commercial products or services.