Karen’s blog from MEMS Test and M2M workshops – Day One

I’m going to try to distill the essence of MIG’s two-day workshop on MEMS Testing Standards (March 16-17) in San Jose…try to fit my ten pages of notes into one page (or so). The goal of our workshop was for MIG, in partnership with NIST, to identify and document device level qualification and testing needs to be used as a guide to focus R&D and standards development for device testing. We started with discussing inertial sensors, as we considered them “low hanging fruit.”

So why did we embark on this endeavor? I guess if you boil it down, it is because MEMS manufacturers have matured to an extent that the conversation of MEMS standards is not threatening. It’s not the “s word” – as I like to call it – we can finally come out and say “yes, MEMS standards are a valid step in this enabling technology’s evolution.” Okay, fine, we aren’t saying that MEMS is on the same level as semiconductors. But dammit, MEMS hasn’t become an $8 billion/year industry by cobbling together a lot of “one offs” – there are standard testing methodologies being used (for inertial sensors) – and thanks to those “common testing protocols” it means that we can find a WHOLE LOT of MEMS sensors in not just automobiles, but blood pressure sensors, iPhones, laptops, pedometers and yes, Nintendo Wiis.

Day one was an impressive collection of presentations and discussions that gave an inside view to MEMS testing practices. Full presentations and summary notes are be available to MIG members in our online resource guide, but for those interested in the short-blurb version I’ve listed my favorite highlights:

  • Instead of Designing for Test (DFT), Analog Devices’ Rob O’Reilly shared that that his goal is to “Design for no test” – I like it.
  • The pool of MEMS test equipment vendors could fit into one room – and I honestly don’t get it. Should I quit my day-job to start a MEMS test equipment company because it’s an untapped opportunity/market? Probably not, but this reality is puzzling to me….what do you think the reasons are?
  • There is an opportunity to create a common data sheet for MEMS inertial device manufacturers (more on this in my next blog of day two).
  • Just like the old adage “s_it rolls down hill” – in MEMS the OEMS beat up on the device manufacturers to reduce cost (and reduce the cost of test), device manufacturers beat up on their suppliers and equipment vendors, but who do the equipment suppliers beat up on? No one could really answer that one…again, puzzling.  Can’t we find a way to “all get along” and everyone wins?

At the bottom of this blog I’ve copied/pasted a table of the “Necessary conditions for an industry-wide technical roadmap effort” provided to me by NIST’s Yaw Obeng.  It’s a good template for how MIG is going to attempt to herd cats and begin a long journey towards enabling the creation of MEMS testing standards. Yaw’s list may be originally created to focus discussions on technical roadmapping, but the basics are there on how to build consensus and if we are going to build MEMS testing standards that are actually used in practice, this list is a good guide. We are day one in a long journey, so hold on it’s going to be a bumpy ride but I know we can get there and have some fun along they way….


Necessary conditions for an industry-wide technical roadmap effort:

1.      Restricted set of figures of merits (FOM)

2.      Convergence of opinion among a majority of the key players on the progress trends that these figures of merit are expected to follow  (LEP)

3.      Potential market of significant size inducing a wide applicability of the roadmap (WAT)

4.      Willingness to share information (SHR)

5.      Existence of a community of players (ECO)


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