December 3, 2012
By Barbara C. Tuck
With MEMS having become central to consumer products such as smart phones and tablets, the exploding demand for them makes it imperative for designers to focus on product, not process technology. Toward that goal, the MEMS industry is coming to terms with a huge shift in manufacturing methodology, one that is moving the MEMS market toward accessible and cost-effective process technology. Traditionally, IDMs have been the only ones with resources needed to develop the specialized, proprietary processes that have characterized MEMS manufacture. But the long R&D cycles and build-and-test design required for such an approach are no longer viable now that MEMS technology lies at the heart of consumer products with short product life-cycles. The high-volume, cost-driven consumer market calls for more standardized processes, packaging and testing.
Today’s demand to produce innovative, competitive products calls for collaboration among pure-play foundries, MEMS makers and EDA design companies. Potential MEMS makers with novel ideas but no fabrication resources need to partner with foundries to access standardized MEMS processes, packaging and testing. At the same time, MEMS makers and foundries need to work with EDA companies to develop virtual fabrication tools, process design kits (PDKs) and tool sets that encompass the design of MEMS and analog and mixed-signal ASICs that provide control circuitry for MEMS products. With foundry and EDA support, designers should be able to cut the cost of MEMS/ ASIC manufacture, keep up with demand for short product life-cycles and ramp to volume production.
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