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Booming MEMS Business

Market and Technology Update

MEMS business has steadily escalated for years and has really taken off in 2015.  Starting with less than $5,000M to around $12,000M this year, it is expected to grow to over $20,000M by 2020.  Why has this happened and what can we expect in the future?

MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) applications are practically limitless.  Basically, the function of a MEMS chip is to detect subtle changes and communicate them electronically to a display screen.  The identified changes are determined by the type of filter attached to the MEMS chip.  Filter examples include those for light, heat, sound, gas, vibration & movement.  

Common Applications

Automotive applications

• Automotive - IR sensors for cabins, pressure sensors, brake boosters, inertia switches, gyro & accelerometers for electronic stability control, bolometers for night vision
• Smartphones - BAW filter for WLAN (WiFi), auto focusing for cameras, humidity sensors, pressure sensors, compasses for navigation,  joysticks for gaming
• Others - CO and CO2 sensors, temperature monitoring, security systems, motion detection,  3D sensing for game systems, wearables such as shoe sensors, activity-monitoring bands

Internet of Things and Wearables

Internet of ThingsTechnology is just beginning to grasp all the exciting ways MEMS sensors will be able to interact with each other for the benefit of consumers. For example, a possible scenario for someone who possesses a smart car and a smart house could easily be: your house “knowing” when you are in transit home and able to open your garage door, turn off your security alarm, turn on your lights and music, adjust the room temperature and start your dinner!
One of the biggest drivers of MEMS innovation is “wearables.”   It is hard to believe, but the field of wearables actually began in 1970 with the introduction of the digital watch that doubled as a calculator.   Now technology has introduced us to the iphone, iwatch,  fitbit, google glasses and more – all dependent on MEMS to perform.  Common multi-functional features include voice activation, low power consumption, WiFi connectivity, motion and environmental sensors, data compiling and alerting capabilities – plus a highly sought after “coolness” factor!  For MEMS to keep pace with the consumer appetite for these devices, optimal performance is a key factor which relies on components such as:

• Technology expertise - to drive innovation and develop new materials
• Reliability of materials - Need high purity PVD materials for the construction of the MEMS
• Sensor packaging - striving to be multifunctional, smaller and less expensive
• Battery life - either for the device to use less power or batteries to last longer  

Materion and MEMS

As the MEMS market evolves, Materion Advanced Materials Group is uniquely positioned to support the developing technologies. Our diverse product offerings work together to drive innovation. We are the leading supplier of high purity PVD materials in precious and non-precious metals including commonly used MEMS metals such as: Au, Ag, Ni, Cu, Cr, Ti, W, Pt, Al alloys and other advanced alloy materials. Materion Precision Optics specializes in filters and filter arrays for a plethora of sensor applications such as IR, gas, 3D sensing and thermal imaging.  Combined we have the capabilities to customize sensor packaging to meet rigorous specifications for extreme environments. Our inorganic chemical division supports the battery industry by developing premium chemical materials to generate longer cell life.

What does the future hold?

There are multiple paths currently being explored for future MEMS applications. Ideas extend into fields such as energy harvesting, gas sensors, touch screens, photonics and medical devices. The gas sensor arena holds the most promise for growth due to the advantages that MEMS provide over the current system.  MEMS could offer such benefits as reduced size, high reliability, and similar manufacturing processes in gas sensing with a corresponding cost reduction.  

Medical is also an upcoming area to watch. Both the medical and semiconductor markets have been trending on similar innovation paths and merged technology would be the next logical step.  With the MEMS market, that could mean sensors that auto focus, detect imbalance, improve vision and hearing, replicate speech and react to touch. The medical field would require these devices be designed for application to the human body - creating blood pressure sensors, respirator sensors, ingestible smart pills, time-automated needles for drug delivery, ultrasonic transducers & receivers and devices capable of diagnosing diseases and analyzing cell characteristics.

In the not too distant future, the once thought impossible will be possible. We may start our smart car, and it will play music selections based on our blood pressure and body temperature…as it drives us home to our smart house which will be able to detect and neutralize any cold bacteria before it spreads within the family…or alerts the doctor’s office to any physical irregularities…so the proper drug will automatically be dispensed via a medical implant.  Whatever MEMS technology unfolds, Materion will be the perfect materials partner to make innovation happen. For more information, contact Matt Willson, Director of Marketing at