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MEMS – Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems Defined!

MEMS

In today’s world of sensing everything and being smart, MEMS(Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) play an integral role. MEMS are basically tiny integrated chips that range from a few micrometers to a few millimeters in size and contain both mechanical and electrical components: mechanical microstructures, microsensors, microactuators and microelectronics.

Other Names for MEMS

MEMS is also referred to as MST (Microsystems Technology in Europe) and MM (Micromachines in Japan). MEMS with optics is called MOEMS- Micro-Opto-Electro-Mechanical-Systems).

 History of MEMS

  • 1958 Silicon strain gauges commercially available
  • 1959 “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” – Richard Feynman gives a milestone presentation at California Institute of Technology. He issues a public challenge by offering $1000 to the first person to create an electrical motor smaller than 1/64th of an inch.
  • 1961 First silicon pressure sensor demonstrated
  • 1970 First silicon accelerometer demonstrated
  • 1988 First MEMS conference
  • 2000 MEMS optical-networking components become big business

Why MEMS is So Popular Today?

MEMS have the perfect ability to sense, control and actuate on a micro scale and generate effects on the macro scale. Given this aptness, MEMS is used for multiple applications (Table 1). MEMS are fabricated through the sophisticated manipulation of silicon and other substrates.

Automotive Electronics Medical Communications
Internal navigation sensors Industrial disk drive heads Blood pressure sensors Fibre-optic network components
Air condition compression sensors Inkjet printer heads Pacemakers RF relays, switches and filters
Air bag sensors Earthquake sensors Muscle stimulators Voltage-controlled oscillators

To not stop with its ability for other applications, MEMS is today used in every other electronics which we see around us. Also, MEMS has been identified as one of the most promising technologies for the 21st Century and has the potential to revolutionize both industrial and consumer products by combining silicon-based microelectronics with micromachining technology.

Reasons Behind MEMS Popularity

– Existing Devices Can Be Miniaturized

– Unlike macro-machined products, MEMS offer solutions for today’s demand and need, i.e. capacitive pressure sensor capable of sensing pressure of the order of 1 mTorr is not possible with macromachined capacitive diaphragm.

– Interdisciplinary nature of MEMS technology and its micromachining techniques.

– Diversity of applications

– Unprecedented range of devices and synergies across previously unrelated fields (for example biology- microelectronics, optics-microelectronics).

– Complex electromechanical systems can be manufactured with batch fabrication techniques, cost effectively and delivering high reliability.

– It allows integrated systems, viz., sensors, actuators, circuits, etc. in a single package and offers advantages of reliability, performance, cost, ease of use, etc.

Potential of MEMS

The interdisciplinary nature of MEMS utilizes design, engineering and manufacturing expertise from a wide and diverse range of technical areas including integrated circuit fabrication technology, mechanical engineering, materials science, electrical engineering, chemistry and chemical engineering, as well as fluid engineering, optics, instrumentation and packaging. The complexity of MEMS is also shown in the extensive range of markets and applications that incorporate MEMS devices. MEMS can be found in systems ranging across automotive, medical, electronic, communication and defence applications.

Packaging of MEMS

Packaging is the most crucial part of MEMS devices. Reliability, performance of a MEMS device largely depends on packaging and this is one of the factors which have affected the growth of MEMS technology. It should

  • provide protection and be robust enough to withstand its operating environment.
  • allow for environmental access and connections to physical domain.
  • minimize EMI.
  • dissipate generated heat.
  • minimize stress from external loading.
  • handle power from electrical connection leads without disruption.

Testing ProtocolsSEMI has a history in standards stretching over four decades with nearly 1,000 standards and safety guidelines published to date. SEMI and its members are active in the following packaging and test communities designed to unearth, discuss, and address these critical supply chain challenges: 

  • Advanced Packaging & Test Committees
  • SEMI integrated Packaging, Assembly & Test (SiPAT)
  • Collaborative Alliance for Semiconductor Test (CAST)
  • The Heterogeneous Integration Roadmap

MEMS Market PerspectiveMEMS market will experience a 17.5% growth in value between 2018 and 2023, to reach US$ 31 billion at the end of the period,” reported Dr. Eric Mounier, Principal Analyst, MEMS & Photonics, at Yole Développement (Yole). “The consumer market segment is showing the biggest share, with more than 50% . The good news is that almost all MEMS devices will contribute to this growth. However, the RF industry is still playing a key role in the MEMS industry development. Excluding RF, the MEMS market will grow at 9% over 2018 – 2023. With RF MEMS devices, CAGR reaches 17.5% during the same period. Driven by the complexities associated with the move to 5G and the higher number of bands it brings, there is an increasing demand for RF filters in 4G/5G, making RF MEMS (mainly BAW filters) the largest-growing MEMS segment.

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Niloy Banerjee

A generic movie-buff, passionate and professional with print journalism, serving editorial verticals on Technical and B2B segments, crude rover and writer on business happenings, spare time playing physical and digital forms of games; a love with philosophy is perennial as trying to archive pebbles from the ocean of literature. Lastly, a connoisseur in making and eating palatable cuisines.

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