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MEMS: small machines for the microelectronics age

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3 Author(s)
Koester, D.A. ; MCNC MEMS Technol. Applications Center, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA ; Markus, K.W. ; Walters, M.D.

In the past few years, the micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) industry has exceeded the $1-billion-a-year mark. Some economic forecasters estimate that the industry will surpass $14 billion by the year 2000. The reason for this tremendous growth is the enabling nature of MEMS, which give engineers and researchers the tools to build things that have been impossible or prohibitively expensive with other techniques. MEMS are micron- to millimeter-scale devices that can be fabricated as discrete devices or in large arrays. MEMS borrow much of their technology from integrated circuit (IC) manufacturing, providing three-fold benefits: miniaturization, multiplicity and microelectronics. First, miniaturization of the devices is inherent in the processing techniques. Modern microelectronics fabrication techniques are designed to build submicron-scale devices. By using the same techniques, engineers can easily leverage this technology to produce MEMS that are orders of magnitude smaller than their macroworld counterparts. Second, the use of photolithography techniques makes producing thousands or even millions of copies of a single device easy. Thus, single devices can be arrayed into systems to produce an effect impossible with discrete devices. Finally, because MEMS technology is so similar to IC fabrication technology, MEMS are integrable with microelectronics

Published in:

Computer  (Volume:29 ,  Issue: 1 )

Date of Publication:

Jan 1996

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