Guest Blog – MEMS New Product Development, The Technology Development Process and Design Review Checklist (Part 3)

Guest Blog – MEMS New Product Development, The Technology Development Process and Design Review Checklist
Written by: David DiPaola, DiPaola Consulting, LLC,

After a functional A-sample prototype is built, it doesn’t take long for a project to gain traction that has market pull.  This is usually the point that a project becomes highly visible within a company and it enters the Technology Development Process (TDP).   The TDP is made up of multiple phases including concept, prototype, pilot and production with gates at the end of each phase.  Design and process reviews are required at each gate but may also occur within a phase.  These reviews are an open forum for communication of project progress and gaps towards technological, business and schedule milestones.  Furthermore the product is constantly evaluated against the market need and potential changes in market that may have occurred.  The audience for the reviews at a gate include peers and management who provide feedback on the project to date and collectively decide whether additional work is needed to complete the current phase or the completed work is sufficient to allow the project to proceed to the next phase with additional funding.  In certain instances, a project that has not met all of the deliverables may be allowed to proceed to the next phase but under strict conditions that must be fulfilled within a given timeline.  The goal of the TDP is to focus the team on high quality execution, effectively screen projects allowing only the best to proceed and hence accelerate successful innovation and profitability.

The MEMS Industry Group (MIG) Technology Development Process Template is an excellent tool for companies to use to implement the TDP within their organization (Marty et al. 2013).  The goal of the TDP was to create a simplified frame work that could be easily customized to fit a company’s needs.  The TDP structure shown below is a slightly modified version of the TDP developed by MIG.  In this version there are four major phases including concept, prototype, pilot and production with three major gates.

figure 1

The concept phase is where ideas are generated and the initial A-samples are developed.  It is also where the business case is first generated and the market need is defined.  It is highly desirable to have market pull at this point.  The prototype phase is where the design is developed in detail and B-samples are fabricated to support various levels of validation.  The outcome of the prototype phase is to have design that can be manufactured in volume production.  Towards the end of the prototype phase, production tooling is often released.  The pilot phase is where production tooling is built and qualified.  In addition, the product is made on production tooling (C-samples) and revalidated.  It is important to note that there should be no change in the product design between the last revision in prototype and the first samples off the production tooling.  The production phase is low to high volume production ramp.   Often customers will require revalidation of products in production once a year for the life of the product.

At each gate, there is a design and process review for the project.  In order for the team to be focused and efficient, there needs to be a clear set of deliverables defined for completion of each phase.  These deliverables range from business and market definition to project technical details to production launch.  The following checklist provides an in-depth set of deliverables for the design reviews at each gate that can be tailored to the specific needs of an organization.  It is noted that a fourth gate is common 3-6 months after production launch to review project status but is not depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 2

Design Review Checklist

figure 2
This table can be downloaded from the following link in PDF format.  Many of the items listed above are self explanatory.  Others are explained in more detail in previous blogs posts such as DFMEA and tolerance stacks.

The Technology Development Process is an essential element of successful MEMS new product launches.  The Design Review Checklist can also provide a frame work for discussion between management and engineers on required deliverables to pass a particle gate.  With improved communication and efficient execution of technology development, the TDP is a great tool for accelerating innovation and profitable MEMS products.  In next month’s blog, the necessary attributes of a MEMS engineer for new product development will be discussed.

Works Cited:

Marty, Valerie, Dirk Ortloff, and David DiPaola. “The MIG Technology Development Process Template.” MEMS Industry Group, Mar. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.

Updated Bio:

BioDavid DiPaola is Managing Director for DiPaola Consulting a company focused on engineering and management solutions for electromechanical systems, sensors and MEMS products.  A 17 year veteran of the field, he has brought many products from concept to production in high volume with outstanding quality.  His work in design and process development spans multiple industries including automotive, medical, industrial and consumer electronics.  He employs a problem solving based approach working side by side with customers from startups to multi-billion dollar companies.  David also serves as Senior Technical Staff to The Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems, is an authorized external researcher at The Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at NIST and is a Senior Member of IEEE. Previously he has held engineering management and technical staff positions at Texas Instruments and Sensata Technologies, authored numerous technical papers, is a respected lecturer and holds 5 patents.  To learn more, please visit

In Search of the Energy-Efficient Family Car

Written by: Karen Lightman, Executive Director, MEMS Industry Group
(as published in Design News on 09/06/2013)

Buying a car just isn’t as easy as it used to be, especially when you know just enough about alternative-fuel-source vehicles to make that decision very difficult. As my husband and I debate the merits and faults of energy-efficient cars (as the end date of his leased Prius looms in the background), I feel as though we must make a smart choice that is right for us and right for the planet. Perhaps you relate to such a quest for the perfect car that balances safety, comfort, fuel efficiency, and style.

When I entered this decision tree of what fuel-efficient car to buy, I initially thought that an electric vehicle (EV) would be the simple solution. EVs, which run on chargeable batteries, seem to make sense for our family. We live in an urban area and rarely take long trips requiring a long charge. We’ll just plug the car in at night and stop using petroleum that pollutes the air. Right?

Not quite. As I started discussing the decision with my MEMS colleagues (all with their EEs and MEs), I quickly learned that it’s not that simple. First, the biggest limitation is the battery itself. The energy-to-weight ratio for EVs is quite abysmal compared with gasoline. Up to one-third of an EV’s total weight can be attributed to the battery pack alone, and most of the batteries hold a charge for a few hundred miles at best. That’s a deal breaker for many.

Tesla appears to be the only EV company that is seriously attacking the battery issue. Its CTO has said battery energy density is improving about 7 percent a year. This clearly shows that his company understands one of the biggest roadblocks to EV adoption. Tesla has designed a beauty of a lightweight car that is chock full of MEMS/sensors and showcases an iPad-like dash between the passenger and driver. Plus it has two trunks; that is just so cool. (It’s the reason my 12-year-old daughter insists we buy a Tesla.)

Until we have cars that run on solar panels, energy is never free. Even if you decide to buy a Tesla, you have to think about where the energy is generated to recharge the battery every night. For me in Pittsburgh (and for most of the Northeast), the source is typically coal. Uh, oh. That means I would deplete more fossil fuels and release more greenhouse gases if I bought an EV. Another important issue is the disposal of heavy-lead lithium batteries. Some EVs need to replace their batteries after three years. So if you are the average American who holds on to a car for five years, you’ll need to dispose of (and pay for) two batteries and consider the environmental impact of that decision.

Let’s face it — the batteries for EVs (and for most consumer electronics) are still inefficient. Here’s where my MEMS brain starts to activate and I start thinking about energy harvesting. Can’t we find ways through MEMS to harvest the car’s vibrations at least to power its electronics?

I bet the folks at MicroGen Systems are already looking into this. I actually know of a few more companies (big and small) that are looking into ways to make vehicles smarter and energy efficient from the get go through a combination of MEMS and sensors. Examples include energy harvesters in the tire that capture the vibrations and power the tire-pressure monitoring system, as well as sensors embedded into an engine to maximize fuel efficiency. Take it one step further, and HVAC monitoring systems managed by an in-car sensor network could keep passengers comfortable as the vehicle passes through varying daylight and temperature conditions. MEMS will make this happen.

I guess I will have to wait until there’s smarter battery technology that recharges an EV by green energy. In the meantime, I’ll be asking my local car dealer how many MEMS and sensors are inside the vehicle. The car with the most MEMS wins.