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Developments in MEMS integration

Posted: 08 Mar 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:microeletromechanical systems? MEMS? CMOS processes? sensors? IoT?

The recent years proved to be tough when it comes to integrating microeletromechanical systems (MEMS) with classic CMOS processes, with only incremental gains achieved. However, now that MEMS sensors are foundational to the IoT, there is a renewed sense of urgency around solving the MEMS integration conundrum.

Also, as wearables and the healthcare industries now turn to ultra-low-power devices with a smaller footprint, this only increases the pressure for sensor vendors to create smarter MEMS products that address the cost, footprint, and power issues facing the IoT industry at large.

To help with this, the MEMS industry is tackling the integration challenges head on at the package, wafer, and die levels, respectively, starting with multiple MEMS sensors that are now being integrated into either smart miniaturized modules or in system-in-package (SiP) devices.

SiP integration
Some companies are now looking into packaging bare-die MEMS sensors onto SiP devices. For now, however, more modest SiP solutions for MEMS parts are available, and they offer sensors like accelerometers and the interface chip housed in the same package.

These basic SiPs are mostly found in automotive safety applications. NXP's MPXY8300 is a SiP solution for tyre pressure monitoring sensors (TPMS) that incorporates an accelerometer, pressure sensor, 8bit MCU, and RF transmitter.

However, medical and wearable devices are pushing for smaller and more efficient SiPs that support aggressive form factors and low-power operations. Take ON Semiconductor, for instance, which recently unveiled its Struix SiP with advanced die stacking for portable medical devices like glucose monitors (figure 1).

Figure 1: ON Semiconductor's Struix SiP for precision sensing packages an analogue front end (AFE) along with an ARM Cortex-M3 low-power 32bit processor.

Smart modules
MEMS sensor modules kick in as a good option at the point where integrated SiP devices hit physical barriers (figure 2). Some MEMS companies are pushing the envelope for heterogeneous integration in a single module that incorporates ICs, MEMS, and passives using advanced packaging.

Figure 2: Fairchild's motion tracking module FMT1000 for industrial apps includes accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, 10-ppm crystal, and an MCU.

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