For a long time, micro- and nanotechnology-based products only existed in the minds of engineering dreamers. Now, microtechnology products have evolved into physical entities. In the near future, products based on nanotechnology also will begin to appear. In both cases, however, the design processes often fail to account for final testing, reliability, and manufacturability. Yet if any corresponding issue arises, these aspects still must be handled. The success and time to market for these micro- and nanotechnology-based products are therefore at risk.
In Europe, the "Design for Micro & Nano Manufacture" (Patent-DfMM) Network of Excellence (NoE) is hoping to eliminate such risks. This project will be funded by the European Commission's Information Society Technologies programme (IST - unit C2) for four years. It involves 24 mostly academic partners. Together, they want to address the underlying engineering science of micro- and nanotechnology design.
The Patent-DfMM wants to ensure that the problems that affect the manufacture and reliability of products based on micro- and nanotechnologies can be addressed before prototype and production. Often, the answer to design-process problems lies in the creation of a design methodology that encourages communication between different design teams. The Patent-DfMM plans to integrate design groups that are currently isolated and dispersed. It also wants to create critical mass in the field of design for micro and nano manufacture in Europe. Lastly, the project intends to provide researchers with access to state-of-the-art equipment and technology.
As it moves forward, the Patent-DfMM initiative will build on specific industrial needs. Those needs have been defined by key commercial players and studied by the NEXUS Methodology Working Group's "Design Modeling Simulation" workshops. The Patent-DfMM project is planning to work closely with other European projects and worldwide initiatives, such as the MEMS Industry Group in the U.S. An accompanying educational program that addresses Patent-DfMM topics in both industry and academia is currently being developed. For more information, please visit www.patent-dfmm.org.