MEMS Industry Group Blog

Karen’s Hamburg MEMS Roadtrip – A Great Gig

By Karen Lightman, Executive Director, MEMS Industry Group

My favorite kind of business travel is when I can combine it with either a visit with friends/family or a site visit to a MEMS Industry Group (MIG) member company. This month, before I headed to Copenhagen to host MEMS Executive Congress Europe 2015, I had the pleasure of doing both. In the immortal words of the Beatles, I went to Hamburg because I had a gig.

I arrived in Hamburg Germany and took the 40 minute drive north to Itzehoe to visit with Fraunhofer ISIT (Ralf Dudde, Wolfgang Benecke) and XFAB MEMS Foundry (Peter Merz) – both companies are snuggled amongst the beautiful countryside of northern Germany in an industrial park co-located with other high tech companies including MIG members Plan Optik and Maxim Integrated.


We spent much of our time discussing the relationship between Fraunhofer ISIT and XFAB MEMS Foundry and it soon became quite clear to me that it’s symbiotic. The two organizations complement each other in very productive ways. Fraunhofer ISIT focuses on power electronics and energy storage as well as MEMS and NEMS (which is the biggest part of ISIT). Fraunhofer ISIT is also obviously working closely with XFAB and provides parts of their advanced R&D activities – in that more space of the cleanroom is dedicated to R&D than production at the Itzehoe location. Fraunhofer ISIT also has a development partnership with Sensor Dynamics (recently acquired by Maxim) working on micro-speakers, as well as printed electronics. Later in the day I also saw a cool demo by Frauhnofer ISIT of MOEMS – gesture recognition micromirrors. I was really impressed and can safely state that these guys are on the cutting edge of “new MEMS.”

Besides being wowed by the research from Fraunhofer ISIT I also had a chance to catch up with Peter on the amazing hockey-stick growth that XFAB has had with MEMS. In 2013-14 their MEMS growth was a whopping 44%. For them automotive has contributed to this growth and they expect medical health care to grow in the future. Looking forward to the future they see energy harvesting as a growth area. We also spoke of XFAB’s open platform technology examples where sometimes MEMS is integrated with CMOS “when it makes sense.”

You may recall that XFAB made an announcement in 2012 that they were going to make a $50M investment in MEMS. We all know (at least when we are honest with ourselves) that MEMS is not for the faint at heart and can sometimes be tricky, slow, and is often very iterative.

The collaborative model that XFAB is utilizing with its partners like Fraunhofer ISIT is clearly working and is a good role model for the industry. Co-creation and collaboration were themes that I heard time and time again at MEMS Executive Congress Europe 2015 in Copenhagen and the entire focus of MIG’s MEMS Technical Congress in Boston May 6-7. I encourage you to roadtrip with me next to Boston and learn more about the other great models for growth through co-creation and utilizing the MEMS and sensors supply chain.


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