Endless Possibilities of MEMS — Viewpoint from a MEMS Foundry

Endless Possibilities of MEMS — Viewpoint from a MEMS Foundry

SEMI Taiwan Interviews Dr. Yu Hsian Tsai, president and CEO of Asia Pacific Microsystems  

Dr. Tsai, Asia Pacific MicrosystemsJust like the semiconductor industry once turned from IDM to wafer foundries, the micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) industry is now facing the controversy of the relative merits of IDM or wafer foundry model. SEMI Taiwan interviewed Dr. Yu Hsian Tsai, president and CEO of Asia Pacific Microsystems, Inc. (APM), one of the leading MEMS wafer foundries in the world. Tsai stated, "The IC design industry is based on cooperation with professional semiconductor foundry companies. We believe that the same model can be applied to the MEMS industry as well. Playing the role of the professional MEMS foundries will help MEMS design houses accomplish their ideas and commercialize MEMS devices and products."

MEMS applications are wide and diverse. Tsai shared new MEMS applications that integrate the MEMS Micro Scanning Mirror (MSM) in the mobile phone with an RGB light laser which gives the phone a pico-projector function.  Consumers can then use the mobile phone as a projector anywhere.  "An innovative function like this may completely define a new generation of mobile phones," Tsai said, adding "Application of accelerometers for the  smart phone market is already matured and highly competitive with numerous players. For new MEMS device designers, there is no profit for such a saturated market."

Rapid Growth in Consumer MEMS Accelerates Shift to Micro-Profits

Due to the massive supply of accelerometers in the last 2-3 years, the unit price for accelerometers has dramatically dropped from US$ 1.00 to less than $0.30 today. Nevertheless, the consumer MEMS market, driven by mobile phones, still offers the most growth for the MEMS industry at the moment. Apart from accelerometers, the fastest-growing MEMS device segments today include gyroscopes, magnetometers and pressure sensors. With the massive growth on the Chinese name-brand and white-box smart phones, it is expected the demand of these MEMS devices will continue to grow. This is a great opportunity for Taiwan inertial sensors design houses to compete with foreign companies such as ST and InvenSense who have been the main players in this market for years.

As the demand for MEMS components for mobile devices is growing rapidly, Tsai pointed out that "production capacity of accelerometers will undoubtedly be 'fully loaded' next year." WIth this forecast, APM is now aggressively acquiring new equipment to expand its production capacity for next year. APM currently owns one 6" foundry with an average monthly production capacity of 12,000 wafers. The MEMS devices produced by APM include a variety of sensors, passive components, micro-mechanical devices, and actuators. APM's customers are distributed around the world and in various industries such as automotive, consumer electronics, telecommunications, industrial and biomedical. Currently, the consumer and automobile segments make the largest contributions to APM's overall revenues.

Customization Platform for Satisfying Different Needs

Tsai emphasized that unlike CMOS foundries which have standardized mass production models, the challenge for MEMS foundries is developing customized capability and achieving wide range of product requirements. APM always has more than 30 MEMS devices under development or being produced on its production lines.  MEMS production expertise and experience with customers is critically important for identifying an ideal partner.

"Our goal as a foundry partner is to provide MEMS design companies with the best service and quality," said Tsai. "MEMS applications are filled with endless possibilities. We hope that more talented people will come join the MEMS design field where APM will provide designers with all the support they need."

APM has been dedicated to MEMS manufacturing since founded in 2001. It is one of the leading pure-play foundry service providers in the world. APM owns an automated 6-inch production plant with complete MEMS fabrication capabilities.  APM exhibited at the MEMS Pavilion at SEMICON Taiwan 2012 to showcase the latest technologies for MEMS manufacturing, attracting audience of MEMS designers, engineers, fab managers, executives, and other critical industry decision-makers.

Call for Participation: SEMICON Taiwan 2013 MEMS Pavilion

The call-for-participation for SEMICON Taiwan 2013 MEMS pavilion is now open. Related events include MEMS forum, MEMS University Research and networking events for reaching high-quality presentations given by renowned MEMS industry pioneers, exploring innovative ideas among academia and connecting the MEMS supply chain leaders at one show. 

For more information, please visit www.semicontaiwan.org. For promotional package sponsorship, please contact Ms Ana Li (ali@semi.org). 

December 4, 2012