Wireless Applications

MEMS Makers, and MEMS Markets

October 1, 2005 By: Barbara G. Goode, Sensors Sensors

• MEMS Makers …

Microfabrica (www.microfabrica.com, provider of the 3D microdevice manufacturing technology EFAB, and MOSIS, which offers low-cost prototyping services for MEMS and microdevice development, have launched a contest: the EFAB Access Design Competition (deadline: November 11, 2005). Three winning microdevice designs will be built free of charge, and winners will also receive MEMS-related prizes such as Segways.

EFAB technology enables devices to be built with many layers of metal, making possible a wide range of applications such as sensors and actuators, RF devices, and biomedical and optical devices. "I believe that this will become an important part of the palette of MEMS fabrication techniques," says Al Pisano, engineering professor and department chair at the University of California, Berkeley, who is one of the judges. "The devices conceived for fabrication will be exciting since EFAB is all about bringing innovative MEMS designs to manufacturing readiness." For details and rules, visit www.EFABAccessDC.com.

Others working to further the application of MEMS include a team of engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas (UA), which received a $508,016 grant (from the National Science Foundation and an unnamed private company) to develop novel electronic-packaging technologies for MEMS. The UA team will collaborate with researchers at MEMS producer wiSpry and Sandia National Laboratories.

"Today, the cost of MEMS products is dominated by packaging, and this research will contribute to reducing the cost significantly," said Art Morris, chief technology officer and vice president of engineering at wiSpry. The research expects to help technology companies manufacture MEMS more efficiently and at a reduced cost.

• ... and MEMS Markets

The MEMS market, says research firm In-Stat (www.in-stat.com), will grow over the next few years at a CAGR of 19.87% to nearly 6 billion units in 2009. The projected growth continues a trend: Funding for MEMS companies increased by 43.9% in 2004 compared to 2003, In-Stat says, and year-over-year total MEMS revenues were up 32% from 2003 to 2004. "Texas Instruments moved into the no. 1 position in terms of revenue with $880 million in sales of its DLP device," says Frank Dickson, In-Stat analyst.

The report also found that microfluidic devices accounted for nearly 69% of total unit shipments and 23% of total revenues in 2004. With more cell phones integrating RF MEMS devices and inertial sensors and the optical networking sector finally embracing MEMS technology, the communications market is forecast to experience the highest CAGR for unit shipments and revenues. And despite the fragmented and niche-like nature of the industrial segment, it is the dominant segment in terms of revenue in 2004, and remains so throughout the forecast period.

Sporting goods design, in particular, is a great win for MEMS devices and nano-based materials according to EmTech Research, a division of Small Times Media (www.smalltimesmedia.com). The ability of MEMS sensors and nanomaterials to provide improved product performance and functionality that meet the needs of a competitive industry, at a price sports equipment manufacturers are willing to pay, is key. From Redington's Nano-Titanium fly fishing rods to Suunto's sensor-packed wrist computers for hikers and snowboarders, nearly every sporting goods category has been touched.

Revenues of MEMS sensors and nanomaterials for use within sporting goods are forecast to increase to just under $100 million by 2009.

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