MONTEREY, Calif.—MEMS was the word at the MEMS Executive Congress this week, where new improved chips, software and process technologies debuted.
MEMSic Inc. (Andover, Mass.) unveiled the world's smallest accelerometer (1.2-by-1.7-by-1 millimeter), which it also claims is the world's cheapest—at 35 cents compared to just under $1 for typical accelerometers. Targeted for low-end applications—such as children's toys, power tools and other applications which previously could not afford accelerometers—the MEMSic device is cast in 180-nanometer CMOS and uses wafer-level packaging. Because the only moving part inside the package is a column of hot air, the device is also virtually immune to shock and vibration, allowing it to be used in devices that are frequently dropped. Beside toys and power tools, the ruggedized inexpensive accelerometer will be used for safety applications in household appliances, such as to turn off an iron which has been left face down unattended.
Bosch Sensortec GmbH (Stuttgart, German) unveiled a six-axis eCompass that it claims uses two-thirds less power (less than .5 milliamps) than the devices used in smartphones and mobile navigation devices today. Combining a three-axis accelerometer and a three-axis magnetometer, the eCompass houses the two MEMS die inside a package that measures three millimeter square and less than a millimeter thick (.95mm). Unlike the larger, more expensive devices that use the Hall effect—which must constantly draw power to work—Bosch uses a method it calls FlipCore that pulses a magnetic thin-film layer, then measures the response of a nearly MEMS coil. The time lag between the input pulse to the thin-film and the output of the coil, is proportional to the strength of the Earth's magnetic field. Bosch also supplies software libraries specialized to meet the location-based specifications for any Android device.
WiSpry Inc. (Irvine, Calif.) announced a new radio-frequency digital capacitor array which can switch in real time to perform transmit and receive chain impedance optimization for cell phones and other wireless devices over the 824 MHz-to-2170 MHz frequency range used by various countries worldwide.
And Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Austin, Texas) announced a new family of easier-to-use accelerometers for front and side crash detection using its high-aspect-ratio micro-electromechanical systems technology. The new parts, available as single- or dual-axis devices in quad flat no-lead packages, are designed to be easier to use together with communications software libraries supplied by Freescale.
New MEMS process technologies were also announced at the Congress by many firms, including Applied Materials Inc. (which claimed to now have sub-micron capabilities), Omron (which claims to be using a MEMS process to reduce the manufacturing costs of high-voltage power MOSFETs ), and MEMS foundry Silex Microsystems (which announced licensing of its through-silicon-via packaging platform to Nanoshift for use in 3-D MEMS devices).