With MEMS devices being spun in volume, the importance of reliability testing has taken center stage. So says a study by the MEMS Industry Group (www.memsindustrygroup.org), which reports that nine out of 10 MEMS customers require demonstration of reliability. That finding, it's noted, does not suggest poor reliability abounds; rather, it reflects the growth of the MEMS industry, with its diversity of designs, processes and applications.
Among our article contributors, John McEleney of SolidWorks Corp. notes that as MEMS devices gain popularity, manufacturers are moving away from ill-suited modifications of IC design techniques toward CAD solid modeling tools bearing MEMS-specific design functionality. The emergence of PC-based design tools is covered by Amish Desai of Tanner Research Inc. These tools, Desai notes, are an alternative to dedicated suites of expensive MEMS design tools.
In another piece, Mark da Silva of Coventor Inc. points out that design for manufacturability, which promises to cut cost, requires a link between design and process groups. In a related message, Ron Wages of Memscap Inc. advises that successful MEMS manufacturing takes "closed-loop communication" between the customer and the foundry.
What's more, Jim Knutti of Silicon Microstructures Inc. observes that today's MEMS foundries have learned lessons from past failures, including the need to run a robust, well-understood process and the need to hire experienced staff.
Focusing on a specific MEMS process, Biagio De Masi and Sarah Zerbini of STMicroelectronics describe a surface micromachining technology for building inertial sensors and actuators. In medical applications, writes Doug Sparks of Integrated Sensing Systems Inc., MEMS devices offer the chance to dramatically improve the safety of delivering drugs to a patient. And, for anyone in the market for inertial sensors, Virgil LaBusa and Akihiro Ueda explain how Freescale Semiconductor Inc. applies technologies developed for automotive MEMS sensors to cut the development cycle of high-quality sensors destined for commercial applications.