It took some time for the several MEMS suppliers to convince customers that silicon was a reliable alternative. “It’s very challenging to get massive infrastructure channel companies to change suppliers,” Sevalia pointed out.

Sand 9 claims to have figured out how to make a MEMS oscillator with both low temperature drift and low noise, apparently by analog tuning, and a novel architecture that involves suspending and acoustically decoupling the resonator from the silicon substrate in a predefined cavity in an SOI engineered substrate.  The MEMS wafer is capped with the ASIC wafer for very short low noise circuits, then diced into 25,000 units per 8-inch wafer. First units however are put into standard 2x2mm packages to go into existing TCXO slots until the startup can prove it can meet volume requirements.

Microfluidics micro pumps, valves and filters may turn out to have many more potential applications than just medical research and diagnostics, now that some low cost plastic alternatives are available.  Bartels Mikrotechnik CEO Frank Bartels reported his company’s plastic micropump is being used not only for the typical lab-on-a-chip applications, but also for micro delivery of fluid for things like continual minimal lubrication of sensitive equipment.  Interest is also coming from makers of air fresheners and continuous scent infusers for the home market –and to add scent to artificial flowers. “The Chinese flower industry is very interested,” said Bartels. “Microfluidics is not just medicine—it’s all these other things too.”

Aiming to shake up the motion sensor market with ultra low cost monolithic integrated devices is Baolab Microsytems, which aims to make its sensors directly out of  metal CMOS layers, in a standard CMOS fab. “The  problem is the bad mechanical properties of metal,”  noted CTO Josep Montanya i Silvestre. “But it’s the cheapest way.”  He said the company relies on a novel detection algorithm and autocalibration to get a good signal from the simpler device. 

The startup, which has has raised some $9 million to date, is currently working in partnership with a couple of top CMOS foundries, planning engineering samples of a 3-axis magnetometer by the end of the year, for the handset market. It targets production ramp in 2011. A 3-axis accelerometer is under development, a combo 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis compass on the future roadmap. 

Paula Doe for Yole Développement