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Consumer apps move MEMS market to Asia

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? accelerometer? gyroscope? sensor?

MEMS inertial sensors share many manufacturing similarities with traditional integrated circuits. However, the well established IC manufacturing model of shrinking the geometry node and increasing the wafer diameter to continuously drive down costs does not exactly apply in the MEMS world. Fundamental laws of physics dictate that an inertial sensor requires mass to function. In fact, the more mass the better the signal. Unfortunately, making the devices smaller, in order to attain more die per wafer and to lower costs per die, results in less mass and, commensurately, less performance. Design engineers are increasingly tasked to find clever constructions that enable the device to become smaller while retaining or even improving its operating performance.

Software development
Another area of great challenge and opportunity is found with the customers of MEMS inertial sensors. Despite the high volume of consumption and the fact that one can now find a MEMS accelerometer in virtually any cellphone with screen rotation, this is a young industry. Customers in the industry have little experience with motion-based sensors and algorithms. More often than not, an electrical engineer with deep expertise in RF design or mobile operating systems is given the task of implementing a motion-based feature using a MEMS sensor, a task for which he or she has little or no formal training. MEMS suppliers are challenged to provide the education, to provide algorithms, to develop drivers for each particular architecture and operating system, and to support their customers at a very detailed engineering level during product design and throughout the early phases of manufacturing. This presents a number of opportunities for professional development and for engineering education.

Clearly, motion-based features have established themselves as a needed part of our portable electronic products. There will be increasing demand for engineers skilled in the subtleties of motion. For the Asia region, this is of particular importance as the design of consumer electronic products with motion-based features is moving more and more to design centers in Asia.

- Gregory J. Galvin
??President & CEO
??Kionix Inc.

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