Comparing MEMS and the RMS Titanic: Some Thoughts from the IEEE MEMS 2018 Conference

By: Chris Welham, Sr. Manager, MEMS Applications Engineering

Conference dinner view of the life-size outlines of the Titanic and Olympic main deck’s, illuminated by blue light

How are MEMS and Large Ships Alike?

MEMS 2018 was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland this year, on the site where the RMS Titanic was built. On exhibit was the SS Nomadic, a tender used to transfer mail and passengers to the RMS Titanic and her sister ship RMS Olympic. Passing by the SS Nomadic on the way to the conference dinner, I noticed the riveted plates from which the tender was built. These riveted plates reminded me of the finite element plate models used in the MEMS+ module of CoventorMP, which can also be joined to other elements using “connectors” or “nodes” rather than rivets.

I wondered what other components in MEMS+ existed in the Titanic? For sure, perforated plates, or baffles. Many MEMS devices use perforated plates, either to aid the release etch in fabrication or for reasons of operation. Release etch, and the effects of pattern dependence, are key fabrication processes modeled in our virtual fabrication tool, SEMulator3D. A condenser microphone, which can be modeled using MEMS+, has at least one perforated back plate. Steel beams, too? Certainly, MEMS+ has Timoshenko Beam models, the underlying theory of which was first developed by Stephen Timoshenko just before the Titanic sank. Further comparison was harder. Comb capacitors? Well only as tuning condensers in the on-board Marconi Wireless Set, as it was then known. Fluid dampers? Perhaps in the engine supports of the SS Nomadic to reduce vibration.

What happened at the IEEE MEMS Conference?

Back to the conference, there was a wide range of interesting presentations and posters. Topics covered ranged from inertial sensors, actuators, acoustics, resonators and RF MEMS (all areas where we specialize), through to material science and microfluidics. It was good to see our tools being used to simulate a range of MEMS devices. We also had the opportunity to discuss emerging research in the area of MEMS simulation, which is always important for us to follow to ensure that our tools retain their leading edge capabilities.

What’s New with CoventorMP?

Incidentally, there are exciting new features for microphone design in the upcoming CoventorMP release, due out this Spring. We’re also expanding our capabilities for modeling suspension beams as well as lots of other new features. More to follow on these exciting enhancements as we get closer to the release date!

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