MEMS product development — why is it so hard?

By Karen Lightman, MEMS Industry Group and Alissa M. Fitzgerald, A.M. Fitzgerald & Associates and MEMS Industry Group

Contributed by ElectroIQ

September 23, 2011 — On the journey to micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) commercialization over the past 20 years, the industry has seen some very successful products and companies, but the road is also littered with many failures: failed products, bankrupt companies, and disgruntled investors. According to Jean-Christophe Eloy, president and CEO of Yole Développement, MEMS start-ups need about $45 million and three to four CEOs to make it to commercialization. Not exactly the best “Welcome to MEMS” sign if you are entering this diverse industry.

Developing a new MEMS product is a difficult and risky business. What makes developing new MEMS devices so hard? This is a question that many ask — especially those who have experience in the semiconductor industry — but the comparison is not fair. The main reason it’s a false comparison is because while the IC industry has robust and efficient electronic design automation (EDA) tools, MEMS does not. Though several MEMS-specific EDA tools do exist, they do not yet offer the end-to-end simulation capability that has speeded design in the IC industry.

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