Future Directions in MEMS Technology: Results from the 2018 MEMS Design Contest

By:  Coventor Marketing

At CDNLive in 2015, we joined with representatives from Cadence and X-FAB to discuss the possibility of sponsoring a MEMS design contest. At the time, the sponsoring companies were developing an integrated MEMS & mixed signal design flow using MEMS PDKs.  PDKs (process design kits) are in common use in CMOS design, but not so much in MEMS design. The idea behind the contest was to motivate design teams to start developing chips with MEMS and mixed-signal blocks, using our newly-integrated design tools and PDKs.

We wanted to be technology evangelists, and spread the word that designers could successfully co-design MEMS and mixed-signal devices, and get “first-time right” silicon using the new MEMS PDKs. We felt that we could use a design contest to demonstrate the functionality of the newly developed design and manufacturing flow. We were also interested in hearing about new ideas for using MEMS, and wanted to see what kind of MEMS might be designed with the new PDKs.

In 2016, we organized and started promotion of the MEMS Design Contest. The first public announcement for the contest was made at the DATE 2016 conference in Europe. We opened the contest for submissions, and received 23 proposals from 4 continents & 10 countries by early 2017.  We then selected 11 worldwide teams whose designs were realistic and manufacturable, and provided them with software licenses, PDKs and documentation. We also sponsored some workshops on MEMS Design, and worked with the teams to help them understand our design software and PDKs.

We received a wide range of MEMS design ideas, including inertial measurement units, resonant pressure sensors, micromechanical resonators, micromirrors, energy harvesters, reprogrammable logic devices, magnetic sensors and more. We were impressed with the quality and creativity of the designs submitted, and it was difficult to choose our finalists.

During late 2017 and early 2018, we received the final design submissions from contestants. Our jury, consisting of the contest organizers, reviewed all the submitted designs and chose 3 finalist teams. These finalists presented their designs at CDN Live EMEA 2018 in Munich during May 2018.

A team from ESIEE Paris and Sorbonne University received the grand prize award, for designing an innovative MEMS-based energy harvesting product using electrostatic transduction. Energy harvesting products can be used in implantable medical devices and other portable electronics that need to operate without an external power source.  The winning team received a $5,000 cash prize along with a complimentary one-year license of CoventorMP™ MEMS design software.

Figure 1: MEMS Design Contest –  1st Place Team from ESIEE Paris / Sorbonne University, with their design for an innovative MEMS-based energy harvesting product using electrostatic transduction

A team from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, took home the second-place prize, which included a cash award of $2,000. The team from KAUST created a MEMS resonator for oscillator, tunable filter and re-programmable logic device applications.

Figure 2: MEMS Design Contest –  2nd Place Team from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), with their inventive design for a MEMS resonator for oscillator, tunable filter and re-programmable logic device applications

Third place went to a team from the University of Liege, Microsys, KU Leuven and Zhejiang University. This team created a genetic algorithm for the design of non-linear MEMS sensors with compliant mechanisms and showcased it using a capacitive MEMS accelerometer. They received a cash prize of $1,000.

Figure 3:  MEMS Design Contest -3rd Prize Team from the University of Liege, Microsys, KU Leuven and Zhejiang University. This team created an advanced genetic algorithm for the design of non-linear MEMS sensors with compliant mechanisms, and showcased it using a capacitive MEMS accelerometer.

X-FAB will also fabricate each of the team’s designs, using the X-FAB XMB10 MEMS manufacturing process.

Participating in the contest was valuable to both the sponsors and the participants. The sponsors were able to validate their new design methodology. The contestants, mainly university students and their professors, developed new concepts in MEMS technology using some of the most advanced commercial design tools available.

According to the participants from KAUST:

“Coventor MEMS+ as the FEM tool accurately captures device behavior under different circumstances, (and) has an amazingly friendly user interface. Cadence Virtuoso, as a widely recognized tool in the circuit design community, provided a reliable simulation environment, (while) the X-FAB layout finishing tool helps to finalize the designed layout for fabrication in a few steps.”

“Becoming a contest finalist … means a great deal to us, especially after spending a lot of time and effort during the contest period. Indeed, we enjoyed participating in the contest, … working together collaboratively and sharing each other’s expertise; this contest brought out the best out of our team.  We will implement what we learned from the contest in our future work with MEM/NEM … designs and simulations.”

For more details regarding the winning teams and their contest entries, please visit the MEMS Design Contest website.

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