Written by Mike Mignardi, Manager, Energy Harvesting, Texas Instruments
In the movie “A League of Their Own,” Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks, yells at Evelyn Gardner, played by Bitty Schram, for making an error and says “There’s no crying in baseball!” I can generate a similar quote for those involved in MEMS – “There’s no whining in MEMS.” I can’t tell you how many MEMS conferences/workshops I’ve been to where folks complain about the lack of standards in the MEMS industry. Now, don’t get me wrong, I see a strong value is having standards for a particular technology or industry. Standards are very valuable in helping to alleviate many concerns in the area of reliability and product performance. It’s just that having a MEMS standard that covers all MEMS devices seems very complex if not impossible or impractical.
At this year’s MIG METRIC workshop a great comment was made that “80% of your problems have been solved by another industry.” Since MEMS covers such a diverse area of technology and industry, this is definitely true. Many involved in MEMS are finding other industries to help solve their problems, fabricate their devices, and utilize their standards. For those utilizing the semiconductor (SC) industry for their fabrication, they can take advantage of the plethora of SC standards. For those using another industry or creating a new process, they will utilize that industry’s standards or create their own set of standards.
Now, I must admit, that within the last 2-3 years, I hear less whining about MEMS standards. I am all about borrowing or stealing (not real stealing) whenever or wherever I can. If a standard exists for something being used by a unique MEMS process, package, material, test, etc., then by all means use it. Using standards by other industries will certainly help in demonstrating the reliability and performance of your product to your customer. For instance, a MEMS device fabricated in an SC fab leverages the tool sets and processes are already used to fabricate high volume and highly reliable ICs (integrated circuits). And, if you are utilizing an immature process, package, material or test – over time these items will become mature and new standards will be generated. I’m sure this was the case when LCD manufacturers started making display panels. Likewise, NIST is working hard on MEMS standards in areas that make sense.
So recognize that we will likely not have a single “one size fits all” set of MEMS standards to fit the many diverse types of devices, technologies and processes. But as the industry matures and develops niche standard, you’ll likely hear much less whining in the world – which will make me a happy conference attendee.
If I do have to whine, it’s about those who make the ‘S’ in MEMS lower case and folks who don’t use their turn signals when driving – but, that’s a whole other topic to discuss for my next blog.