Painfully and quickly, MEMS device manufacturers are discovering that the technology is a multidisciplinary one and a job for no single company. Unlike traditional semiconductor ICs, MEMS ICs require a very precise understanding of many phenomena and an expertise in every facet of the manufacturing process, from the wafer stage to the final packaging and testing stage. As a result, many MEMS device and materials companies are joining forces in partnership programs that should make it easier for engineers to more accurately design MEMS ICs. Ultimately, these allies hope to bring MEMS devices to market more speedily.
This year, Microcosm Technologies has added three more charter members to its Manufacturing Partnership Program (Electronic Design, May 29, 2000, p. 25).
Also this year, Microcosm joined forces with Cronos Integrated Microsystems Inc., a developer and supplier of proprietary MEMS components and component technologies, to create the JumpStart program. According to this agreement, JumpStart design kits will be provided to designers for a low-risk, inexpensive, and efficient turnkey solution to developing and prototyping MEMS devices. Last year, Microcosm formed a strategic alliance with Cadence Design Systems Inc. to assist companies with the development of a wide range of next-generation products that use MEMS/MST components.
Over in Europe, MEMS/MST companies are forming alliances as well to pool their resources. Consider, for example, the EMSIC (the European Microsystem Industrial Cluster). It's comprised of the Dutch Twente MicroProducts with expertise in silicon design and production; the German Elmos GmbH with expertise in ASICs; the German Bartels Mikroteknik GmbH with expertise in polymeric and metallic microstuctures; the Dutch Micro*Montage with expertise in assembly, packaging, and embossing; and the Swiss Elfo AG with expertise in microtooling, electroforming and molding. This cooperative structure was formed to accelerate the development and production of MEMS/MST products.
Obviously, this pooling of resources isn't an isolated incident. It's needed to successfully tackle the multidisciplinary technology to bring MEMS devices to market more rapidly.