A snapshot of small-tech, including a MEMS milestone projection
BY MARCY KOFF
Yole ranks HP as #1 MEMS producer
According to the market research firm Yole Développement, Hewlett-Packard has supplanted Texas Instruments (TI) as the top MEMS manufacturer. Hewlett-Packard recorded $850 million in 2007 for sale of MEMS, thanks to inkjet print heads based on the company’s Scalable Printing Technology (unveiled in 2005) and good financial health. By contrast, TI recorded a sales decrease of more than 10%. “Our first hypothesis for this decrease is a strong price pressure for DLP and strong competition from other FPD technologies [e.g., LCD and plasma],” says Yole. The new entrant in the Top 30 is FLIR Systems, displacing Kionix.
The France-based Yole points out that nine companies are now above $200 million in sales, compared with only four two years ago. Analog Devices is a newcomer to this elite group, boosted by MEMS accelerometers’ demand for consumer applications. The sales of the Top-30 companies is growing at a lower rate compared to the MEMS industry overall (7% vs. 9%), signifying vitality among small and medium-sized players. Global Top-30 sales are estimated to reach $5.6 billion, representing about 80% of the total MEMS market.
Nanopatterned gems = Diamonds on steroids
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but if Eugene, OR-based LightSmyth Technologies Inc. (www.LightSmyth.com) has its way, pure photonic crystal gems, developed via nanopatterning, will become the next best thing.
Creation of the gems begins with software to design their intricate photonic crystalline patterns. According to Thomas W. Mossberg, PhD, LightSmyth’s president and CTO, “We must precisely position tens of thousands of optical features for each jewel pattern. When the design is complete, a reticle or ‘master’ is made using an electron-beam pattern generator. Then the master is placed in a machine called a step-and-repeat scanner.
“This tool creates smaller versions of the master pattern on silicon wafers…Then a number of additional steps, including etching, create the actual silicon pattern.”
Actual gems can be produced from the crystalline silicon through application of precious metal overlays and protective sapphire layers followed by cutting from the wafer and polishing.
LightSmyth hopes to introduce the gems to market within the next few months and anticipates a continuous development of new designs and variations. Mossberg says, “The company’s ability to supply this very high-tech, but beautiful item will be limited at least initially,” with pricing to be determined.
NNI updates strategy
A new strategic plan for the National Nanotechnology Initiative describes the NNI’s vision, goals, and priorities to ensure the US derives growing economic and quality-of-life benefits and remains a global nanotech leader. The 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003 calls for the plan to be updated every third year; the new version replaces the December 2004 edition.
According to National Nanotechnology Coordination Office Director Clayton Teague, the plan offers “guidance for agency leaders, program managers, and the research community in their nanotechnology R&D investments and activities.” He says numerous inputs guided the update, among them independent reviews by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Research Council of the National Academiesboth of which have strongly supported the NNI. Input also came from topical workshops in which experts developed research recommendations for application areas, considered societal implications, and addressed economic development.
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