SEMI‚Äôs Serena¬†Brischetto caught up with Zimmer and Peacock Director Martin Peacock to discuss sensor opportunities and challenges ahead of the European MEMS & Sensors and Imaging & Sensors Summits.
SEMI:¬†Sensors¬† enable¬† a¬† myriad¬† of¬† sensors¬† and¬† applications,¬† from¬† measuring¬† caffeine¬† in¬† coffee and¬† the¬† hotness¬† of¬† chillies¬† and¬† ions¬† in¬† the¬† blood¬† of¬† patients,¬† to¬† the¬† detecting sulfite¬† levels¬† in¬† wine. But¬† what is,¬† in¬† your¬† opinion,¬† is¬† the¬† hottest¬† application¬† today?
Peacock: The¬† hot¬† topic¬† now¬† is¬† point-of-care¬† testing¬† for¬† medical¬† diagnostics¬† and¬† wearable¬† biosensors¬† including¬† continuous¬† glucose¬† monitoring¬† sensors¬† for¬† Type¬† 1¬† Diabetics.¬† At¬† the¬† moment,¬† there¬† are¬† three¬† CGM¬† market leaders:¬† Dexcom,¬† Abbott¬† and¬† Medtronic. But in¬† addition several¬† companies¬† are currently¬† developing¬† CGM¬† technologies.
SEMI: What are engineers working on to improve sensors‚Äô efficiency?
Peacock:¬†Though¬† many¬† groups¬† are¬† working¬† on¬† increasing¬† sensor¬† sensitivity,¬† the¬† big¬† issues¬† are¬† manufacturing¬† and¬† the¬† repeatability¬† of¬† manufacturing.¬† Our¬† engineers¬† are¬† currently¬† working¬† on¬† making¬† our¬† manufacturing¬† repeatable.
The¬† issue¬† with¬† biosensors¬† and¬† medical¬† diagnostics¬† is¬† that¬† the¬† volumes¬† of¬† sensors¬† are¬† much¬† lower¬† than¬† the¬† manufacturing¬† volumes¬† traditionally¬† experienced¬† in¬† the¬† semi-conductor¬† industry. This¬† is¬† simply¬† due¬† to¬† the¬† fact¬† the¬† human¬† health¬† market¬† is¬† a¬† very¬† fragmented¬† market¬† and¬† so,¬† outside¬† of¬† diabetes,¬† it¬† is¬† hard¬† to¬† identify¬† a¬† high-volume¬† biosensor¬† or¬† medical¬† diagnostic¬† that¬† is¬† required¬† at¬† the¬† volumes¬† that¬† the¬† semiconductor¬† industry¬† would¬† consider¬† high¬† volume.
SEMI: And what are¬†the main challenges?
Peacock:¬†Making¬† biosensors¬† at¬† high¬† volume,¬† with¬† a¬† tight¬† tolerance¬† and¬† at¬† a¬† low¬† cost.¬† As¬† discussed¬† above,¬† the¬† issue¬† with¬† biosensors¬† is¬† they¬† are¬† not¬† necessarily¬† required¬† art¬† high¬† volumes,¬† so¬† a¬† manufacture ¬†is¬† trying¬† to¬† produce¬† high-quality¬† products¬† but¬† where¬† the¬† manufacturing¬† volumes¬† are¬† relatively¬† low ‚Äď all¬† the¬† while trying¬† to¬† do¬† this¬† at¬† a¬† price¬† point¬† that¬† the¬† market¬† can¬† bear.¬† To¬† summarise,¬† the¬† main¬† challenge¬† in¬† biosensors¬† one¬† would¬† say¬† ‚Äėthis¬† is¬† a¬† very¬† fragmented¬† market.‚Äô
SEMI: What techniques are currently¬†being deployed by¬†Zimmer and Peacock to overcome those challenges?
Peacock:¬†Zimmer¬† and¬† Peacock¬† has¬† a¬† proprietary¬† database¬† system ¬†for¬† organizing¬† our¬† development¬† and¬† manufacturing¬† data¬† so¬† we¬† can¬† track¬† manufacturing¬† quality¬† and¬† determine¬† how¬† we¬† are¬† performing. We are¬† dealing¬† with¬† the¬† fragmented¬† market¬† by¬† having¬† a¬† platform¬† approach¬† where¬† we¬† are¬† ensuring¬† that¬† all¬† our¬† clients¬† are¬† sharing¬† the¬† same¬† supply¬† chain¬† up¬† to¬† the¬† point¬† where¬† we¬† functionalise the¬† biosensors¬† with¬† their¬† specific¬† biochemistry. This¬† means¬† that¬† our¬† clients¬† are¬† getting¬† the¬† economies¬† of¬† scale,¬† even¬† though¬† they¬† require¬† their¬† products¬† in¬† relatively¬† small¬† volume.
SEMI: What do you expect from SEMI European MEMS & Sensors Summit 2018 and why do you recommend attending in Grenoble?
Peacock:¬†Zimmer¬† and¬† Peacock¬† expects¬† to¬† meet¬† inspiring¬† experts¬† who¬† share¬† our¬† own¬† vision. This¬† vision¬† is¬† that¬† MEMs¬† and¬† Sensors¬† are¬† a¬† critical¬† part¬† of¬† a¬† number¬† of¬† social¬† and¬† commercial¬† revolutions,¬† including¬† the¬† Internet¬† of¬† Things¬† (IoT),¬† Sensor¬† Web¬† and¬† the¬† growth¬† of¬† the¬† Invitro¬† Diagnostics¬† Market¬† (IVD). We¬† are¬† also¬† interested¬† in¬† finding¬† supplier¬† who¬† can¬† be¬† part¬† of¬† our¬† supply¬† chain.
Serena is a marketing and communications manager at SEMI Europe.