To kick off our new blog, I wanted to spend a little time exploring the pure play philosophy and why we think it is so critical to the fabless model. Unfortunately, ‘Pure Play’ has evolved into a term that has to be explained, as more diverse companies enter into the MEMS manufacturing space. If a company services internal product lines, but has a separate GM or business unit for the foundry, is that Pure Play? If a fab is primarily an IC foundry but has added one or two tools to provide MEMS foundry services, is that Pure Play? If a company does MEMS foundry, but then launches its own set of standard product design blocks to help the tier two companies get into the market, is that Pure Play?
For Silex, our business was built by partnering with the industry’s most innovative MEMS companies. We learned early on that process and product design go hand in hand in creating a winning MEMS solution, and the level of trust between the two needs to be maintained at the highest level. Innovation in MEMS devices comes from new ideas and new techniques in product design, product construction, use of materials, and the employment of new manufacturing techniques. As MEMS devices are primarily physics-based (as opposed to circuitry-based) devices, there is a first-level relationship between MEMS manufacturing and product performance. And while MEMS borrows tools and techniques from the IC world, it is definitely not IC manufacturing.
To that end, MEMS product developers need to choose a manufacturing partner that (a) brings the engineering expertise and operational excellence to develop robust, high-performing MEMS processes, (b) will not starve or divert foundry resources because of internal product demands or other business unit needs, (c) has a substantial internal library of processes to draw on, to develop a custom MEMS process without ‘reinventing the wheel,’ and (d) can be trusted with ideas and IP without any unknown motivations of re-packaging the product design and reselling it to someone else.
So, our definition of Pure Play means no IC focus, no internal product focus, an engineering competence based solely around MEMS processing, and a dedicated commitment to our customer’s IP protection. Pure and simple.