Sensors: From red hot chillies to patients

By Serena Brischetto

SEMI’s 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’ 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 – 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  ‘this  is  a  very  fragmented  market.’

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.


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