Discera begins shipping MEMS oscillators


Discera hopes to shake up the quartz crystal oscillator market with its MEMS replacement product line. (Photo: Discera)

Feb. 27, 2007—In addition to announcing the shipment of a family of long-anticipated silicon oscillators, Discera Inc. boasts an agreement to help push those MEMS into OEM products. Discera hopes that the moves will shake up the $3.5 billion market for traditional quartz crystal oscillators.

Discera says its line of MOS1 MEMS-based oscillators have been tested and endorsed by one of the leading quartz timing vendors, Vectron International. Vectron, designer, manufacturer and marketer of frequency control, sensor, and hybrid products, is sampling VMC2 (Discera’s MOS1) as a direct replacement for quartz crystal oscillators for high volume timing applications.

Quartz solutions have been pushed to the limits in terms of scalability, cost and processing, says Discera. The company hopes its MEMS solution will disrupt the traditional quartz crystal timing market. MOS1 can be used as a direct replacement for quartz crystal oscillators as a timing device in a market estimated at $3.5 billion.

“MEMS timing devices have been anticipated for a long time,” said Ed Grant, vice president North American products and operations, Vectron. “We are very familiar with the challenges of delivering a MEMS solution…These first products will enable us to expand our market presence in the high volume commercial and consumer electronics space.”

Discera says its MOS1 is poised to enable electronics companies to overcome the challenges posed by quartz crystal technology. The promise of reduced costs and smaller product footprint offered by MEMS, has, until now, been offset by concerns about silicon resonators and reliability. These concerns included frequency stability over temperature cycling, aging, vibration operation and shock resistance.

Discera’s technology consists of a silicon MEMS resonator and an ASIC embedded within a conventional QFN package or ceramic package. The MOS1 oscillator family generates frequencies between 1 to 125 MHz with excellent temperature and jitter performance and is packaged in a tiny industry standard IC package, providing a significant cost advantage. The MOS1 family of oscillators has passed industry standard qualification tests, as well as extreme reliability tests, demonstrating superior mechanical reliability compared to standard Bulk Acoustic Wave quartz solutions, and is ready to ship in production volumes.

Discera’s product has passed all XO requirements with the following features:

Lower costs: Discera sees a path of 15 percent cost reduction every year while quartz crystal companies are running at a10-20 percent margin and unable to offer significant cost reductions to their customers.

Shorter lead time: Provides a unique way to define the oscillator frequency anywhere between 1MHz-125MHz with a resolution of 2ppm. Unlike most of the programmable oscillators which only provide a limited number of frequencies, Discera can provide almost any frequency.

Better reliability: CMOS MEMS oscillators can reach performance requirements and costs at least 100 times lower than quartz crystal oscillators in special applications for extreme environments. Testing
more robust with industry standard packaging techniques

Discera’s CTO, Wan-Thai Hsu, was named an “Innovator of the Year” finalist for 2006, in the Third Annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards, for his work in bringing MEMS based oscillators to reality. Discera recently demonstrated its technology as a plug-and-play direct replacement of quartz crystal in a camcorder device at the Electronica show. This was the first MEMS demonstration in a consumer device. Key target applications for MEMS-based timing devices are DVD players, gaming consoles, set top boxes, camcorders, PDAs and cameras. Since the oscillator is the heartbeat of all electronic systems, the impact of the MEMS oscillator does not only effect the timing market but essentially all the systems.

The Discera-Vectron jointly available product consists of a silicon MEMS resonator and an ASIC embedded within a conventional QFN package or ceramic package. The product is now available in production quantities and has been successfully tested in 25,000 centrifuge acceleration and 50G vibration operation with no measurable deviation.

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