Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) are miniature devices comprising of integrated mechanical (levers, springs, deformable membranes, vibrating structures, etc.) and electrical (resistors, capacitors, inductors, etc.) components designed to work in concert to sense and report on the physical properties of their immediate or local environment, or, when signaled to do so, to perform some kind of controlled physical interaction or actuation with their immediate or local environment. Some well-known examples of MEMS-enabled functionality in everyday life are airbag deployment in automobiles; motion and orientation detection in smartphones; and blood pressure measurement in IV lines and catheters.
Why is MEMS important?
MEMS is an innovative technology that, in one embodiment, generates continued, sustained improvements in, for example, the functionality of small microphones, small cameras, and small electrical signal filters for wireless communication. In its other, disruptive, embodiment, MEMS technology creates entirely new kinds of products, such as inexpensive, multi-axis inertial motion sensors useful for smartphone-based navigation, and Digital Micromirror Devices (DMD), arrays of MEMS micromirrors used for high speed, efficient, and reliable spatial light modulation in industrial, medical, telecom, security, and other applications.
What is the History and Current State of MEMS?
The physicist Richard Feynman delivered a talk at Caltech in December 1959 with the title “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” “What I want to talk about,” said Feynman, “is the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale.”
The potential benefits of doing so? Creating “The marvelous biological system.” “Miniaturizing the computer.” Deploying “a hundred tiny hands” for a world in which we are “Rearranging the atoms.”
In one sense, a real sense, Feynman laid the roots for today’s MEMS industry.
From those very early days and origins, MEMS has enjoyed classic hockey stick growth: i.e. a dramatic increases in sales revenue or unit shipment growth over time that started at a normal, linear pace from the 1960s through to the 1990s, hit an inflection point and took off in the 2000s, and sustained its considerable momentum into the 2010s, fueled by such MEMS-enabled killer apps as the Nintendo Wii, the Apple iPhone, Bosch airbag systems, Epson ink jet printheads, microphones from Knowles Electronics, and blood pressure sensors from Acuity, Merit Sensor, and others.
What is the Future of MEMS?
The future of MEMS is rich with commercial possibilities, including the trillions of MEMS sensors envisioned to be used as the eyes and ears of the Internet of Things (IoT); the future of MEMS also includes local MEMS-based environmental monitoring devices; deployments in the MEMS-enabled quantified self movement and in personalized medicine applications; MEMS-containing wearables; and MEMS-reliant drones and other small personal robots.
Why Choose MEMS?
The compelling reasons why thousands of OEMs have successfully chosen MEMS devices to create competitive advantages for themselves in both sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation business models include these: MEMS-based solutions yield product cost advantages for a given functionality; employing MEMS devices usually results in a reduced BOM for a given product, and the lower parts count for MEMS-based products enables a more efficient supply chain; the inherent compatibility of MEMS devices with CMOS electronics simplifies design cycles and speeds time-to-market; MEMS components typically demonstrate less power consumed per a given function than do other, macro-based solutions; and the fact that MEMS device and product reliability is as good as any reliability can be – MEMS devices can deliver military / automotive / medical device-class reliability in rugged, real-world applications.