Karen’s blog from MFG 2011

By Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

JUST DO IT. If I had to sum up the sense of urgency/energy at the Workshop on Future Technologies for Micro/Nano Manufacturing, that is the phrase I would use. The workshop, organized by the Transducer Research Foundation (TRF) and held in paradise/Silverado Resort in Napa, CA, was packed to the gills with 200 attendees. The audience was mainly academic and government, with a smattering of industry (many of whom are MIG members). But as with any three-legged stool, if two legs are longer than the third, the stool is not stable. And that is why we need to change, we need to act, we need to JUST DO IT.

If you are interested in seeing my notes from MFG 2011, let me know and I’ll send you them (and you’ll get to see my strange spellings/abbreviations). But since it’s summertime and the pool is beckoning, I’ll try to summarize some of the key takeaways from the three-day workshop as best I can.

The #1 high point of the conference for me and when I jumped up to give a standing ovation, was when I heard the brilliantly insightful comments by Dick van Atta, who played a pivotal role in the creation of the report by the President’s Executive Commission on Advanced Science and Technology and the recent announcement by the Obama Administration of a new, $500M Initiative on Advanced Manufacturing. Dick eloquently stated that “government needs to have a collaborative & coordinated response or the US will flounder.” He urged the audience to focus on what can be done TODAY to reduce costs of manufacturing at high volume. He also reiterated my earlier point of the need for bringing together industry and academia. JUST DO IT.

I was also impressed by the sobering opening keynote by Greg Tassey, senior economist at NIST. Greg painted a very real and honestly, scary, picture of what’s happened and what IS happening to the US manufacturing industry. As he shared his thoughts on “Rationales and Mechanisms for Revitalizing U.S. Manufacturing R&D Strategies” I couldn’t help but get agitated. But as they say, if you aren’t angry then you aren’t paying attention. So yes, quit your moaning and navel-gazing, and JUST DO IT.

Stanford’s Tom Kenny, who was co-chairing the conference (along with MIT’s Marty Schmidt) also did a superb job of overviewing the US manufacturing industry. He summarized the findings of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Report on the Intersection of the Nation’s Ecosystems and the Economy. Tom overviewed what’s lost, what’s at risk – in terms of micro and nano manufacturing. He reiterated the importance of the link between innovation & manufacturing and their strong creative function. He also stated that we need to look outwards, not inwards to revise our education system and form public private partnerships to move this forward. In other words, JUST DO IT.

I truly enjoyed the fireside chat between Marty Schmidt and MEMS veteran/guru/rockstar, Kurt Petersen. In his very humble, simple way, Kurt retold the story of his multi-decade journey on the MEMS commercialization path. There were a few key takeaways: learn from your mistakes, but don’t be afraid of failure, and most importantly assemble the right team. His closing thought was “this isn’t rocket science, JUST get out there and DO IT.”

The workshop was mainly plenary/general session, but on day two there was a poster session. Mike Gaitan and I presented our findings on MEMS testing and packaging. Our main message (a theme of the workshop, I might add) was that the majority of costs associated with MEMS are in the back end – and we need to stop just focusing on the “bright shiny” front end of production, but instead focus on reducing the cost & time associated with testing & packaging. MIG has been working on this issue for some time, and we are about to release our workshop report on MEMS test – so stay tuned for more on this important issue. WE NEED TO JUST DO IT.

My other favorite memories from the workshop include those intermingled with great wine tastings (Thank you Tom Kenny). I enjoyed meeting and discussing a myriad of topics (mainly related to advanced manufacturing) with new and old friends (too many to list here). I look forward to working with MIG and its members to be a part of the private-public partnership that MUST come together to promote advanced manufacturing in the US. JUST DO IT, indeed.

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