The recent IEEE Conference on MEMS, held in San Francisco, was one of the better gatherings of its sort, partly due to the location and its proximity to so many participants in the MEMS community, and partly because MEMS is at a real turning point and it is an industry primed for great innovation and advances that can touch all aspects of our lives.
The conference is literally a ‘who’s who’ of the MEMS industry, and not surprisingly there are excellent technical talks on the most important and popular MEMS-related topics such as gyros and accelerometers, optical MEMS, resonators and RF MEMS, energy harvesting and fluidic micro-devices, and biomedical micro-devices. There are tracks covering the complete range of MEMS development – from design, to materials and process characterization, through to fabrication. And there are some pretty advanced, even exotic, topics presented, particularly in the area of health and medical applications.
We saw many familiar faces from the MEMS world at the event, and a lot of new ones, too. Both sets of people were encouraging to us. Many long time MEMS developers have used traditional manual approaches to do their job. They are now realizing that the complexity and time challenges they are facing with each new generation requires new methods. This is good news to us at Coventor because we can offer them a much more efficient and automated way to develop complex MEMS, as well as an excellent way to transition to new architectures or new classes of devices to help them expand their markets.
Equally exiting are all the ‘new’ faces we saw – a host of start-ups or new projects inside big companies that are looking to capitalize on the MEMS opportunity. In some cases, these folks are not necessarily MEMS experts and they are simply looking for solutions that help streamline the process for designing in the functions that MEMS enable. It’s clear that the ‘democratization’ of MEMS is well underway, judging from some of the companies we talked to from outside the traditional MEMS space. Again, Coventor is well positioned to help these types of companies with our full suite of MEMS design tools and long track record of success.
We read about the trends driving MEMS every day, but it is always good to see these ideas and technologies in person. At the show, there was a lot about wearable computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), for example, which are big growth factors for our industry. These types of applications require more and different kinds of sensors than some of the more traditional markets, as they look to incorporate sensors that can recognize chemicals, temperature, pressure, health/body readings, location and other environmental conditions. The same is true for emerging areas in health and medicine, and energy as well.
Regardless of the type of application or product, the Coventor solution arms MEMS developers, old and new, with a new level of efficiency and information to design and simulate their work. A critical aspect of that, which we heard several times at the show, is the ability for engineers to begin with “organic” input to develop models – that is, information on masks, processes and materials properties. This type of ground up input results in much more intelligent models than traditional structural approaches, and makes debugging and testing much easier downstream. On top of that is the efficiency of automated model development and automated mesh, which are great improvements over manual methods.
Attending a conference like the IEEE MEMS event is a great way to get a real-time reading on the trends and technologies shaping our industry, and also an excellent way to build and maintain relationships throughout the community. And, it gives us even more confidence and enthusiasm about being on the right track with the solutions we are offering MEMS developers.