A new European project is aiming to secure Europe’s lead in the development of micromachined sensors, such as accelerometers and gyroscopes.
The €28m, 30-month Lab4MEMS project plans to develop a pilot line for next-generation MEMS devices augmented with advanced technologies such as piezoelectric or magnetic materials and 3D packaging.
The project was launched by the European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council (ENIAC) Joint Undertaking (JU), a public-private partnership in nanoelectronics.
STMicroelectronics is working with universities, research institutions and technology businesses across nine European countries to establish a complete set of manufacturing competencies for next-generation devices, spanning design and fabrication to test and packaging.
At the same time ST is opening up its existing THELMA MEMS technology as a foundry to universities and design houses to develop new types of sensors.
The Lab4MEMS project will develop technologies such as Piezoelectric (PZT) thin films to enhance current pure-silicon MEMS, enabling improvements such as larger displacement, higher sensing functionality and greater energy density. These are needed to build smart sensors, actuators, micro pumps and energy harvesters meeting the demands of future data-storage, ink-jet, healthcare, automotive, industrial-control and smart-building applications, as well as consumer applications such as smartphones and navigation devices.
The project will also develop advanced packaging technologies and vertical interconnections using flip-chip, through-silicon vias and through-mold vias, enabling 3D-integrated devices for applications such as body area sensors and remote monitoring. A key target is to perfect a PZT deposition process compatible with mass production, and integrate it into complex MEMS processes to enable innovative actuators and sensors on System-On-Chip industrial products.
“Lab4MEMS is an important project that will benefit consortium members and stakeholders, including ENIAC member states,” said Roberto Zafalon, European Programs Manager for R&D and Public Affairs at STMicroelectronics. “Ultimately, we expect the results to translate into long-term prosperity and valuable knowledge-based employment opportunities.”
ST has filed over 800 MEMS-related patents, shipped over three billion MEMS devices and has extensive in-house production capabilities currently producing more than 4 million MEMS devices per day.
It has also opened up its THELMA MEMS sensor technology to universities, research labs and design companies through the silicon brokerage services provided by CMP (Circuits Multi Projets).
The 0.8-micron, surface micro-machining THELMA (Thick Epitaxial Layer for Micro-gyroscopes and Accelerometers) process combines variably thick and thin poly-silicon layers for structures and interconnections. This enables the integration of linear and angular mechanical elements in a single chip, delivering significant cost and size benefits to customers.
ST is releasing this process technology to third parties as a prototyping and foundry service to encourage new developments in motion-sensing applications for consumer, automotive, industrial and healthcare markets.
The CMP multi-project wafer service allows organisations to obtain small quantities--typically from a few dozens to a few thousand units--of advanced ICs manufactured using the same process technologies as would be used on much higher-volume products. The THELMA process design rules and design kits are now available for universities and microelectronics companies and the first requests are already being answered.
The introduction of ST’s MEMS manufacturing process in CMP’s catalogue builds on the successful collaboration that has allowed universities and design firms to accessST’s semiconductor manufacturing processes from the 130nm CMOS, introduced in 2003, up to the 28nm FD-SOI technology, released for prototyping in late 2012, which enables the efficient design of next-generation mobile devices that simultaneously require high performance and low power consumption.
“The small-scale availability of our industry-leading MEMS process alongside CMOS technologies including the game-changing FD-SOI, complemented with CMP’s advanced service capabilities, offers unprecedented access to state-of-the-art in chip manufacturing for start-ups and R&D labs looking to design intelligent sensor systems,” said Benedetto Vigna, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Analog, MEMS & Sensors Group at ST. “With leading-edge industrialized processes, innovators can now concentrate on developing new products rather than investing time and resources in developing technologies.”
“Anticipating huge development in MEMS, CMP was the first silicon brokerage service in the world to offer MEMS technologies as early as in 1995,” said Bernard Courtois, Director of CMP. “Today, CMP is expanding the very successful ST partnership to the THELMA process, offering both the CMOS part and the MEMS part from a single manufacturer. Going beyond inertial sensors, pressure sensors, microphones and e-compasses, the ST-CMP partnership will allow CMP customers to move towards complex, embedded systems, addressing more and more societal needs, as components of the Internet of Things.”
For more information, visit www.st.com