NIST collaborates on MEMS roadmaps: ITRS, iNEMI

May 30, 2011 – NIST Tech Beat — As smartphones usher in a host of new high-volume MEMS applications, semiconductor and electronics roadmaps are paying serious attention to the manufacturing and costs gaps in MEMS production. NIST’s Michael Gaitan and the MEMS Industry Group are helping shape iNEMI, ITRS roadmaps with MEMS in the spotlight.

The smartphone is becoming mobile electronics king, but the army supporting it is lead by micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS). MEMS create mobile speakers, projectors, gyroscopes and other devices integrated onto mobile computing platforms, notes the US National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST).

NIST reports that MEMS revenues (about $7 billion in 2010) largely come from high-volume industrial and automotive sectors: accelerometers (for airbags) and other sensors for the automotive industry, ink-jet printer head components, display and hard-disk drive technologies. MEMS devices were once seen as distantly related to computer chips and consumer electronics, said Michael Gaitan, Enabling Devices Group leader, NIST, adding that mobile computing devices like smart phones and tablets are propelling so-called ‘New MEMS’ onto the main stage in semiconductor/electronics industries with their "rapid growth."
 
The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) has produced technology roadmaps for the electronics industries since 1994. iNEMI’s recently issued nearly 2000-page technology roadmap includes a chapter, drafted by the MEMS Technology Working Group (Gaitan chaired the group), on MEMS technology evolution. Special attention went toward the technical challenges to achieving MEMS manufacturing capabilities that will be required over the next 10 years.

Challenges and gaps exist in:

  • device and reliability testing,
  • wafer-level testing,
  • modeling and simulation tools to support MEMS design, 
  • assembly and packaging standardization.

Gaitan, who is currently on assignment to the NIST Technology Innovation Program, sees cooperation as key. Test costs comprise up to half a MEMS’ manufacturing costs, he points out. Gaitan chairs the new MEMS Technology Working Group, which will contribute to the next version of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). The working group will concentrate on microphones, accelerometers, gyroscopes, etc., in next-gen smart phones, as well as emerging MEMS for mobile opportunities. Projecting 15 years out, the working group is assessing device performance needs, design and simulation tools, packaging and integration, and testing. Conclusions will be included in the 2011 ITRS, to be issued later this year.

The MEMS Industry Group, a trade association focused on advancing MEMS across global markets, has contributed to both roadmapping activities.

NIST’s participation in the iNEMI and ITRS efforts helps to guide its laboratory programs aimed at developing the measurement capabilities that industry will require to make current and next-generation technologies.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.Learn more at www.nist.gov

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