Järfälla, Sweden, May 13, 2013 — Silex Microsystems, the world’s largest pure-play MEMS foundry, today announced that it has joined an international European Union-funded program aimed at developing a new MEMS manufacturing platform based on advanced inkjet-based printing technologies. The program, “Processes for MEMS by Inkjet Enhanced Technologies,” or PROMINENT, is leveraging the proven benefits of inkjet technologies to enable higher manufacturing efficiencies, increased product innovation, faster time-to-market, and lower costs throughout the entire MEMS manufacturing process. Silex’s contributions in this effort will include new low-cost technologies for through-wafer vias, hermetic high-vacuum seals for wafer-to-wafer bonding including advanced material deposition, advances in piezo-MEMS fabrication, and other functional materials processing.
As an innovation-driven industry, MEMS manufacturing depends on continuous innovation and exploitation of new technologies such as ink-jet processes. Ink-jet technology is one of the most mature MEMS technologies, having been in production since the late ‘70s and a mainstream of the digital printing industry since the early ‘80s. Similar to the impact that inkjet printing has had on the printing industry, the technology offers the promise of direct-to-wafer digitally-based patterning of wafer processing which can allow highly flexible prototyping and low-volume production for MEMS devices. In addition, advances in materials, electronics, and thin film compounds in recent years have opened up new avenues to apply ink-jet techniques to traditional manufacturing challenges such as metallization patterning using metallized inks. PROMINENT has been formed to exploit these new techniques and to advance the competitiveness of the European technology community.
“As a key partner in the PROMINENT project, Silex brings its extensive experience in metal TSVs and wafer bonding which will help end-users, partners in the consortium, and future customers advance the use of inkjet technologies for production purposes,” says Dr. Thorbjörn Ebefors, Chief Technologist at Silex Microsystems. “These new technologies have the potential to reduce costs and speed development time of new MEMS products, at no loss of performance for the customer.”
“Printed electronics have recently achieved considerable progress due to new printing technologies and the introduction of nanoparticle inks, paving the way towards integrating these capabilities within silicon-based nanoelectronics,” says Dr. Markku Tilli of Okmetic Oyj, PROMINENT project coordinator. “The objective of the ENIAC JU project PROMINENT is to demonstrate significant cost reduction in MEMS manufacturing by using printing technologies to reduce materials, chemicals and energy consumption, waste water production, processing cycle time and capital investments.”
PROMINENT will develop novel low-cost, digitally controlled additive manufacturing methods that can radically change the manufacturing methods for MEMS and bring a substantial competitive edge to the European MEMS industry. The objective is not to replace the whole MEMS manufacturing process, but rather to introduce a new way of making its selected steps flow in a different, more flexible and cost-efficient way using methods developed in the printed electronics field.
By using maskless, digitally controlled, localized additive processes instead of the subtractive processes currently in use, selected steps in MEMS manufacturing can be done with a simplified process sequence. This will result in:
- Lower initial investment costs for a MEMS line, making it easier for manufacturers to introduce new products.
- New features in the MEMS devices, new application areas.
- Greatly increased flexibility in production, allowing for smaller batches, mass customization and fast changes in the production process.
- Increased flexibility, easier prototyping and shorter time-to-market for new MEMS devices.
- Greatly reduced production costs and environmental impact.
Areas of process development under the ENIAC funded program PROMINENT
Technologies developed by Silex through PROMINENT will have direct applicability to the company’s MEMS customers as well as the growing market for silicon interposers. Silex’s ongoing work in PZT and AlN piezoelectric materials will also directly contribute to PROMINENT’s projects.
The multi-disciplinary ENIAC JU project Prominent requires expertise in different technology areas; ranging from MEMS research and wafer manufacturing, MEMS design and manufacturing to inkjet printing machinery and packaging . Thus, the consortium is built of a number of leading experts from universities, small and medium size companies, and large MEMS manufacturers, representing different value chain levels of the MEMS industry. The parties have complementary expertise in conception, design, evaluation and manufacturing of MEMS components, as well as ink, printing and surface treatment equipment development and manufacturing.
Silex Microsystems AB is one of the ten top-tier industrial and research partners from Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden forming the PROMINENT partnership. A total of €9.4M is to be spent on this program over 36 months, from a combination of ENIAC funds, a public-private partnership, member country national budgets, and the participating companies. Aside from Silex, PROMINENT members include Okmetic Oyj, Murata Electronics Oy, Tampere University of Technology, and Spinverse Oy, all from Finland; The Department of Micro and Nanosystems at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Micronic Mydata AB from Sweden; InnoPhysics BV from The Netherlands; poLight AS from Norway and Nanium SA from Portugal. For more information see www.prominent-mems.eu
PROMINENT is coordinated by Dr. Markku Tilli of Okmetic Oyj of Finland. Okmetic is the world’s leading supplier of silicon wafers for MEMS manufacturing and a leading silicon solutions provider for the manufacture of pressure sensors, accelerometers, actuators, silicon-based microphones and microfluidic and optical devices. For more information, see www.okmetic.com. The management part of the coordination is subcontracted from Spinverse Oy.
About ENIAC JU
ENIAC JU (European Technology Platform on Nanoelectronics Joint Undertaking), a public-private partnership between the European Commission, 21 European countries and various nanoelectronics actors funds 1.4 M€ of PROMINENT budget. National public funding from the participating nations covers 2.5 M€, and the remainder comes from PROMINENT partners. For more information see www.eniac.eu
National funding for PROMINENT is provided in part by VINNOVA, the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems. VINNOVA invests in research and strengthens Sweden’s innovative capacity for competitiveness, sustainable development and growth. VINNOVA’s efforts range from programs for R&D projects in small companies and at universities, to long-term development of strong research and innovation environments that attract R&D investment and expertise from around the world. For more information see www.vinnova.se/en