MEMS Market Shows Growth


Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) comprise a broad category of packages - sensors, gyroscopes, accelerometers, and more - that attract attention everywhere. Why? That part is easy; because companies have figured out how to manufacture them - even the more sophisticated styles - and make profits.

Yole Développement, a Lyon, France-based market research firm, declared that the inertial MEMS market is expected to show a 13% growth over the 2006-2011 period. MEMS foundry activities are just starting to roll, and the future looks promising…finally.

At SEMICON West this year, lots of programs point to MEMS. On Tuesday, July 17, the fun begins with a TechXPOT covering advanced packaging and MEMS. On Wednesday from 8:30am to 5pm, The Fundamentals of MEMS Design and Fabrication is the course to take. On that same day, don’t miss two shorter presentations - MEMS Manufacturing and Materials Technologies at 10:30 and MEMS Applications and Business Models at 3:00.

Research continues at leading universities and consortia. For instance, IMEC developed a poly-silicon-germanium (SiGe)-based technology for MEMS-IC integration that shows promise. By integrating MEMS with driver and readout electronics on the same substrate, one can improve MEMS performance, allow for smaller packages, and achieve lower packaging and instrumentation cost. In gyroscopes, using the new material results in low noise and high resolution. Micro-mirrors are well established in video projection adaptive optics, and other areas. Using a version of this SiGe material, IMEC produced micro-mirrors at lower cost with flatness, uniformity, and reliability.

Production of delicate MEMS structures is difficult, given the ESD control and cleanliness needed to produce these small devices. Even the separation of finished MEMS can be dicey. In the cover story of this issue of Advanced Packaging, Ramon Albalak, Ph.D., talks about the challenges and innovative approaches to dicing MEMS through specialized techniques, materials, and equipment. This adds one more practical piece to the MEMS production puzzle.

Perhaps the most unusual thing that has happened to MEMS is that users know more about everything. They already know about the encapsulated endoscope that’s just 26-mm long and 11-mm in diameter, which the patient swallows. During the journey throughout the patient’s digestive system, it takes 15,000 photos to see what abnormalities might exist. Olympus produced these MEMS-based devices along with many others. With an aging population, many of whom have had endoscopic procedures, a huge “pill” might be preferable to a hose-long fiber-optic journey covering similar territory.

But don’t take my advice without doing your own research. Try walking down the street and asking a total stranger what a MEMS device is. I did that recently and almost stumbled over in shock. “Isn’t that the thing that makes my air bag explode?” he asked. Indeed it is, and so much more.

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Gail Flower