Expanding MEMS device market article

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Expanding MEMS device market to need higher-volume production tools

Get the latest market data for MEMS devices, equipment and materials, hear from major MEMS device makers Akustica, SiTime, and STMicrodevices, and check out the intriguing new deep etch and vapor deposition technologies of Technology Innovation Showcase (TIS) winners (selected by a volunteer committee of industry executives), in the MEMS sessions Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon (July 11 and 12) at the Emerging Technologies TechXPOT (ETX), Moscone Hall West, level 3, at SEMICON West.

The MEMS device market will see 13% compound annual growth to $9.9 billion by 2010, growing an $860 million market for production equipment and a $706 million for materials, according to the new Global MEMS Markets and Opportunities study from SEMI and Yole Développement. Major growth will come from optical MEMS in televisions, with 20% CAGR in the big $1.3 billion MOEMS sector pushing that market to $3 billion in five years. But a crowd of newer, smaller markets will see growth take off as well, paced by 44% CAGR for silicon microphones, jumping from an estimated $116 million sales this year to $398 million in 2010, as the units start to replace the bulkier older technology in mobile phones and in personal computers that can better use VoIP. Accelerometers, gyroscopes and microfluidics will all also see double digit growth, to each become $800–$900 million markets. Yole’s Managing Director Jean Christophe Eloy will present findings from the study Tuesday morning (July 11) on the ETX stage.

Inertial MEMS devices, such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, are showing up in multiple automotive applications and a plethora of computer and consumer products, tracking everything from when the tires are moving to when a laptop is dropping. In addition, mobile phones are starting to incorporate MEMS for applications ranging from GPS to camera auto focus, image stabilization and RF MEMS devices. “MEMS has now gotten to the size and growth where it makes sense to get into the market,” says Lam Research Corporation’s Senior Program Manager for MEMS and Advanced Packaging Etch Group, Steve Lassig. “MEMS manufacturers are now seeing high volume at a whole new level. In the past, a few thousand devices were enough to satisfy their customers. Now, requirements for millions of devices per month are not uncommon. MEMS manufacturers must now operate with the kind of 24x7 efficiencies seen in the IC business.”

So Lam is muscling in to the MEMS tool market with a version of its high volume semiconductor tool that uses a rapid alternating process for deep silicon etching, and adds the process flexibility to handle the staggering range of MEMS manufacturing methods and configurations. “With MEMS every product seems to need a different process—aspect ratios can range from less than 1:1 to more than 40:1 while patterning dimensions can range from sub-micron to 1000s of microns.” he notes.

The TIS committee also selected two startups with innovative new vapor process technologies for volume production of MEMS devices to introduce to the industry this year. Edinburgh, Scotland-based memsstar aims to replace wet process steps with a vapor phase tool that can be used in the CMOS fab. The process uses a plasma that is generated outside the chamber, and a precisely controlled continuous gas flow of etchant vapor in a carrier gas through the chamber, to do a range of cleaning, etching, and deposition steps. “We aim to apply single-wafer vapor phase processing to most MEMS processes,” says CEO Mike Leavy, noting that eliminating the usual wet-bench etching with KOH allows the process to be moved into the CMOS fab. The company is presenting data on remote plasma surface preparation and deposition of hydrophobic coatings, and sacrificial silicon release etching with XeF2 chemistry.

Applied MicroStructures, San Jose, meanwhile, creates surface coatings with an innovative low-temperature molecular vapor deposition tool instead of the usual organic solvents. “It’s like an atomic layer of Teflon,” says CEO Jeff Chinn, noting initial use in anti-stiction coatings for MEMS microphones in cell phones. The room-temperature process and different adhesion layers allow the self-assembling and self-limiting coatings to be deposited on a wide range of materials, for a range of hydrophobic and hydrophilic surface properties, at low cost. Potential applications include passivation for ink jet heads, surface lubrication for disk drives, release layers for imprint lithography, and wetting control for microfluidics.