LONDON Qinetiq, a spin-out of Britain's Defense Evaluation Research Agency, will lead a microsystems technology manufacturing consortium as part of the European Commission's Europractice project.
Worth 1.3 million euros ($1.2 million) over three years, the project is designed to help small companies and universities gain access to microsystems technologies, as well as reduce the risks for larger companies by prototyping microelectromecanical systems (MEMS) devices in small quantities. Qinetiq's main partner in the project will be MEMS specialist Coventor Inc.
Devices resulting from the project, including microswitches, filters and micromirrors, are expected to be incorporated into optical and RF communications systems. Other application areas include guidance systems, environmental sensing devices and biomedical equipment.
"By helping to reduce entry barriers, the project will provide companies with flexible reduced cost prototyping before committing to volume production on the same process", said Christopher Pickering, who leads the project at Qinetiq's microsystems facility in Malvern, United Kingdom.
The consortium will provide a one-stop service from consultancy, design, simulation, fabrication, test and packaging through to production. Qinetiq said the choice of a CMOS foundry partner is still being evaluated. The partner or partners will need to bring a range of process options in mixed-signal, high-voltage and high-power technologies, as well as access to 150-nanometer wafers and deep-submicron processing facilities suitable for microsystems.
A library of MEMS intellectual property will be developed, proven on silicon, and made available to designers for incorporation into CMOS designs. Emphasis will be placed on micromachines that can be integrated with drive, control and signal processing circuitry.
Packaging subcontractors will also be evaluated for various technologies, including ceramic, plastic and hermetic, depending on the targeted applications and customers.
Qinetiq recently fabricated high-density ultrasonic transducer arrays directly on to commodity 0.8-micron CMOS ASICs.