Due to the versatility of MEMS technologies the industry still lacks a comprehensive roadmap
Contributed by Markku Tilli, Okmetic
The MEMS technology has evolved a lot during the past few decades. However, it still lacks the same kind of exhaustive roadmap that the semiconductor technology has had already since the 1990’s. The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, ITRS, has expanded over the years, and it covers nearly 20 chapters and well over thousand pages now. It includes forecasts on all aspects from materials to packaging and from design to environmental issues. SEMI has also organized sessions on standardization for some years now and the industry has established some globally accepted technical standards.
The MEMS industry still has a long road to travel to get to the same position where the semiconductor industry is at the moment. The need for a MEMS roadmap was only recognized in the MEMS Industry Group’s Metric workshop in March 2010. Since then the MEMS Industry Group has been working to develop a roadmap, and they have started the massive project with the standardization of testing methods. In the future, these testing standards and test method specifications could act as the nuclei of an International Technology Roadmap for MEMS, ITRM, which could mimic the structure of the semiconductor roadmap, ITRS.
One does not need to look into a crystal ball to predict, that it will still take years to develop a comprehensive roadmap, as it took with the semiconductors. What makes the task challenging is the versatility of different MEMS platforms and technologies.
Contributed by Frédéric Breussin, Yole Développement
Driven by impressive recent progress in automating the identification of genes and proteins, the microfluidics market is approaching ~$1.5 billion and is on a steady ~20% annual growth path going forward. But the highly diverse range of products in the sector means highly fragmented demand for processes and materials.
Major segments driving growth require products with entirely different requirements for everything down to the substrate materials. Point-of-care clinical diagnostics devices demand low cost, disposable cartridges in automated testing systems to make the tests affordable. The R&D market, in contrast, looks for very precise, very complex chips to quickly test one sample against thousands of targets at once, to save researchers’ time and replace large complex equipment to bring its big savings.
But the choice is not as simple as just low cost plastic vs. more precisely patterned glass. Production volume, application, type of patterning, and optical properties all impact material choice, for both cost and performance.
Market size is one consideration. Polymer costs a fraction of a cent per square centimeter, while glass costs $.02, but glass is actually the lower cost choice for all but high volume production. A device on glass can be prototyped and then directly scaled up to volume production on the same equipment, so manufacture of low to mid volumes is cheaper than with polymer. Injection molding of polymer devices requires first making a costly mold, so costs come down only when that can be amortized over high volumes. Those volume requirements also mean that injection molding is not practical for making prototypes, so that’s usually done using PDMS or some other cheap and convenient material, so some redesign will often be required to port the process to injection molding for production.
Originally posted on the CEA Digital Dialogue
What in the tech world today isn’t wireless? It seems as though almost everything is. The 2012 International CES will have an expanded lineup of wireless exhibits to highlight this industry trend. Specifically, two TechZones – Access on the Go and new MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) – will highlight the paradigm of the new connected consumer through wireless technology.
The e-reader, tablet and products that blur the line between the two are flooding the marketplace. The Access on the Go TechZone will highlight mobile devices that deliver on-the-go content like music, movies, television, books and magazines.
By Karen Lighman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group and Donna Sandfox, Product Manager, MEMS Sensors, Omron
Originally posted on Electronic Products
Use of MEMS flow meters in a heart replacement system lets stable patients stay comfortably at home, rather than in hospital
MEMS technology is enabling new biomedical applications that improve quality of life (QoL) in a variety of ways. Providing intelligent sensing and actuation — which can be combined with electronics processing “muscle”–like ASICs, microprocessors, and even DSPs — MEMS enables a high degree of interactivity with the environment. MEMS packs this intelligence into a small footprint, making it the ideal companion for resource-constrained applications.
At a recent symposia convened by the MEMS Industry Group, some of the top innovators in biomedicine explored the use of MEMS in life-enhancing and life-saving QoL applications. Dr. Marvin J. Slepian, co-founder, chairman, and chief scientific and medical officer at SynCardia Systems (www.syncardia.com), delivered a presentation on recent advances in SynCardia’s Total Artificial Heart, a temporary, bridge-to-transplant heart replacement. The advance serves as an outstanding example of the state of the art of MEMS applications in medicine.
Contributed by Dennis Spaeth, Electronic Media Editor, MICROmanufacturing
Keeping up with the growing demand for microelectromechanical systems used inside devices such as smartphones will require MEMS makers to make some new fab friends—as in foundries that can fabricate the devices, help drive down costs and speed time to market.
A new MEMS piezoresistive, low-pressure sensing die design from All Sensors measures 2mm × 2mm and minimizes position sensitivity because it uses a boss-less structure. Photo courtesy All Sensors.
That’s the trend among a growing number of MEMS device manufacturers. Given the staggering costs associated with building their own fabs, these companies are going fabless—choosing to outsource fabrication of their devices despite having to share intellectual property with a third party.
Though protecting IP remains a stumbling block, many in the industry are convinced that the path to high-volume, low-cost MEMS manufacturing will include more “pure-play” MEMS foundries. And that, in turn, could trigger the adoption of MEMS standards, or at least de facto standards, that some say are required to keep up with the consumer electronic product cycle.