Success story: Silex Microsystems and its BIOMEMS Solutions
Helene Andersson, Silex Microsystems, December 15, 2002
At Silex Microsystems we do more than imagine – we make it happen. With miniaturization, the possibilities are endless – not just designing revolutionary applications, but also for reducing production costs increasing product effectiveness and manufacturing accuracy, and saving time. Our mission is to help telecommunications and life science companies pioneer new applications using MEMS technology and stay one step ahead.
At Silex Microsystems we are applying micro-electro-mechanical-systems (MEMS) technology and manufacturing techniques to design and make components, such as sensors, actuators, and precision structures, for integration with customers’ end products. By using integrated-circuit (IC) production technology with special processes for constructing mechanical structures, we can fabricate extremely small components, with unique electrical and mechanical functions leading to higher performance and lower overall system cost.
At Silex Microsystems we have a team of world class MEMS people with the ability to solve technically advanced problems, reformulate them into MEMS terms, and develop prototypes an order of magnitude more rapid. We offers large scale fabrication of high quality components via state-of-the-art foundries and we work closely with our customers all over the globe and we keep the lines of communication open every step of the way, from concept to finished product.
Silex Microsystems was founded in 2000 by 5 experienced people from Acreo and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. We are today 23 employees where, 11 work in development, and 8 in manufacturing. Six of the employees have doctorates in MEMS. Our main office is in Kista (Stockholm) and we have production facilities in Kista, Uppsala and Gothenburg.
We will continue to grow. Last year the revenue was 12.8 MSEK and we expect to double the revenue for 2002. (First half year 2002 shows that we are on the right track). To date we have 17 customers world wide and we are winning new customers every month. We make specialized components on demand to be integrated with customers’ products. Our key processes are: bulk micromachining with etching and bonding, surface micromachining with multi layer polysilicon, ultra-stable and precise polysilicon resistors, actuators with thermal and electrostatic excitation, component passivation for liquids and component testing with automated probe stations.
Miniaturization makes it possible to create life-saving applications that were impossible before. Lab-on-a-chip devices that conduct standard techniques such as electrophoresis, PCR and DNA sequencing have advanced significantly in the past few years. We’ve designed and manufactured a number of standard applications that can be used separately or together as a lab-on-a-chip. We have also created a number of devices for medical applications. In figure 1, for example, there is a picture of spiked electrodes beside a human hair that is used for measuring bio-signals. The individual spikes are designed to penetrate the human skin and are typically 40 µm wide and 150 µm high. The spike array is fabricated using deep reactive ion etching and is a promising alternative to standard electrodes in biomedical applications.
For drug delivery applications we develop and manufacture a micropump (shown in figure 2) for the company Debiotech in Switzerland. The pump chips are 6×10 mm and the pump demonstrates linear and accurate (±5%) pumping characteristics for flows up to 2 ml/h. We also develop chip-based solutions for high-throughput ion-channel characterizations for Sophion Bioscience in Denmark. A pressure sensor that is used for measuring the blood pressure inside coronary arteries is shown in figure 3. The chip size is 0.1×0.1×1.3 mm and is developed for a Swedish company called Radi Medical. In addition, we design and manufacture a variety of microfluidic devices for biotech applications.