Will MEMS standards help you earn more customers?

Contributed by Monica Takacs, Director of Marketing & Membership, MEMS Industry Group

Last week during SEMICON West, MIG staff and members, EV Group, Acuity Incorporated, and NIST attended the SEMI MEMS standards task force and committee meeting at the Marriott Marquis. This was my first time attending a SEMI standards meeting and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Standards have always been such a controversial subject at MEMS Industry Group meetings. My impression of the general consensus of our members’ view of MEMS standards is that standards may benefit the industry, but no company wants to implement standards if it means that they lose competitive advantage.

SEMI (www.semi.org/standards) has been working hard in development standards for MEMS reliability, microfluidics, micro tubes, materials characterization, wafer bonding, and terminology. They already have a list of published standards for sale. MIG encourages its members to get involved and join the conversation.

This is my forth year attending SEMICON West and each year there seems to be more emphasis on the enabling capabilities of MEMS and less explaining the definition of MEMS. As the MEMS Industry matures, standards are becoming inevitable. MIG’s charter is to advance the global MEMS market, and as an industry group we feel like the conversation about MEMS standards is very important. Standards may demonstrate the maturity of the MEMS industry by proving the reliability of MEMS to new customers in existing and new industries, thus expanding its reach to systems integrators.

What do you think about MEMS standards? Are MEMS standards important to your customers?

MEMS Standards

Written by Mike Mignardi, Manager, Energy Harvesting, Texas Instruments

In the movie “A League of Their Own,” Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks, yells at Evelyn Gardner, played by Bitty Schram, for making an error and says “There’s no crying in baseball!” I can generate a similar quote for those involved in MEMS – “There’s no whining in MEMS.” I can’t tell you how many MEMS conferences/workshops I’ve been to where folks complain about the lack of standards in the MEMS industry. Now, don’t get me wrong, I see a strong value is having standards for a particular technology or industry. Standards are very valuable in helping to alleviate many concerns in the area of reliability and product performance. It’s just that having a MEMS standard that covers all MEMS devices seems very complex if not impossible or impractical.

At this year’s MIG METRIC workshop a great comment was made that “80% of your problems have been solved by another industry.” Since MEMS covers such a diverse area of technology and industry, this is definitely true. Many involved in MEMS are finding other industries to help solve their problems, fabricate their devices, and utilize their standards. For those utilizing the semiconductor (SC) industry for their fabrication, they can take advantage of the plethora of SC standards. For those using another industry or creating a new process, they will utilize that industry’s standards or create their own set of standards.

Now, I must admit, that within the last 2-3 years, I hear less whining about MEMS standards. I am all about borrowing or stealing (not real stealing) whenever or wherever I can. If a standard exists for something being used by a unique MEMS process, package, material, test, etc., then by all means use it. Using standards by other industries will certainly help in demonstrating the reliability and performance of your product to your customer. For instance, a MEMS device fabricated in an SC fab leverages the tool sets and processes are already used to fabricate high volume and highly reliable ICs (integrated circuits). And, if you are utilizing an immature process, package, material or test – over time these items will become mature and new standards will be generated. I’m sure this was the case when LCD manufacturers started making display panels. Likewise, NIST is working hard on MEMS standards in areas that make sense.

So recognize that we will likely not have a single “one size fits all” set of MEMS standards to fit the many diverse types of devices, technologies and processes. But as the industry matures and develops niche standard, you’ll likely hear much less whining in the world – which will make me a happy conference attendee.

If I do have to whine, it’s about those who make the ‘S’ in MEMS lower case and folks who don’t use their turn signals when driving – but, that’s a whole other topic to discuss for my next blog.