MEMS folks haven’t typically had use for cooperating on standards efforts, with the wide variety of diverse mechanical structures they make, and the process technology IP that’s still a core competitive advantage. But the maturing sector is starting to see an increasing need for a common language of testing and characterization to help ease communication with outsiders, both outside manufacturing partners and the ever-wider range of customers not expert in MEMS.
Though no one is yet thinking about making the diversity of MEMS with a single standard manufacturing process like CMOS — which is what MEMS standards first brings to mind for many in the sector — makers are starting to argue that common testing protocols would help them talk to both their foundries and their customers, to potentially ease both the development and the design-in of MEMS devices to expand the market. Developers are looking for more consistent data on materials properties from foundry processes to feed into their design and simulation tools. Device makers are looking for common handling and carrier characteristics, and for testing protocols to test the same properties under the same conditions for spec sheets that actually tell customers what devices will really do, and for common reliability testing standards as a common baseline to prove that a device will last.
“I think we’re seeing an alignment of the planets,” notes Mike Gaitan, project leader for MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) at the U.S. National Institute of Standards Semiconductor Electronics Division. “As MEMS foundry services continue to grow, we can’t use custom test and calibration systems anymore, we need a common language….