Micralyne - Leadership in MEMS Manufacturing
NEWSLYNE - e-Newsletter

Welcome to the fourth edition of Newslyne, Micralyne's quarterly e-newsletter. This newsletter covers topics relevant to the MEMS industry and recent news from Micralyne. We hope you find it interesting, relevant and easy to read.

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Contents - September 2004

Message from the CEO

The COMS 2004 conference arrived in Micralyne’s home base of Edmonton, Alberta on August 29th and sparked five days of meetings on issues related to commercializing micro/nano systems.

Photograph of Chris Lumb
On the opening day of the program I had the opportunity to present a retrospective of the MEMS ‘industry’ starting from the inaugural COMS held in Banff ten years ago to COMS 2004. This talk spurred both interesting discussion and controversy so I thought I would also share a summary with our Newslyne readers.

The main assertion I made was that there was no real MEMS industry in 1994 and there is still no MEMS industry today. However, this statement was based on my definition of ‘industry’, which entails the following two key elements:

1. Customers, suppliers, investors, employers, and employees who share common interests and can readily reference each other.


Sustained value creation through long-term profitability of industry participants.

The rationale behind my assertion is based on what has actually happened over the last ten years: a) the COMS conferences are several times larger in size but the percentage of corporate attendees has not increased; b) in 1994 it was predicted the market would by now be at $8.2B, whereas the actual market size today is in the range of $3B, and still today market analysts continue to forecast double digit growth; c) there has been only one or at best two new major applications over the past decade (in terms of revenue generation); and d) a decade ago there were no profitable MEMS companies and today there are still very few. In essence, a lot of wealth has been transferred in the last decade, but little has been created.

While we can conclude we have the beginnings of an industry, it remains very immature. However, as a group, we have learned valuable lessons that can be applied in the coming years to take a step forward. The first lesson is that during a bubble nobody believes it’s a bubble. The optical bust damaged the reputation of the ‘industry’ and we have to be careful to guard against another such occurrence in the future. Second, consolidation and retrenchment is part of any emerging industry and we should be prepared for more failures and mergers ahead. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. Third, it’s a lot of hard work to make a buck and, even now, very few companies are profitable; measure this on lifetime economics and you’ll find even fewer. Companies need to develop strong overall business models with competencies such as customer understanding, cost-effective manufacturing, quality systems, sales & distribution, IP, and the ability to transfer products into manufacturing, to name a few. The fourth lesson is that killer-apps are few and far between and they’re also hard to predict.

Despite all the ups and downs in small-tech, the future remains bright for small-tech applications and for companies like Micralyne. We believe that most industry growth will come from small and medium volume applications, and indeed this has been what has fueled Micralyne’s growth over the years. By concentrating on real applications with our customers instead of hoping for new ‘killer-apps’, we have profitably grown our company and we think this is where most new growth in the industry will come from. Companies that succeed will place emphasis on revenue through meeting customer needs, not on raising investment dollars.

Today, MEMS and microsystems are currently more a collection of products than an industry and to develop an industry, many product successes will be needed. We are pleased to see that many such new products are now entering the market, and we look forward to seeing a true small-tech industry develop in the next decade.

- Chris Lumb, President & CEO, Micralyne Inc. -

Tech Brief:
DRIE - Deep Reactive Ion Etching

DRIE stands for Deep Reactive Ion Etching and is a dry etch micromachining method. The use of ICP (inductively coupled plasma) allows for extremely high silicon etch rates using standard Cryo and Bosch processes. Cryo is a single step process done at cryogenic temperatures <-100 °C. Bosch is a cycling two-step process altering between deposition and etch steps done at 10-20 °C. Bosch is the more popular of the two methods but each has its own advantages depending on your product's process requirements.

Combdrive Etched With DRIE
When should companies consider using DRIE and what are the main benefits? DRIE is currently the only etch method that can give a high etch rate, good mask selectivity, high aspect ratio, and vertical anisotropic etching required by many of today's MEMS processes. Older non-ICP plasma etchers and wet etches fail at achieving at least one of these four characteristics. Modern DRIE's have the following capabilities:

- High aspect ratios (up to 50:1)
- Deep etching (10µm-700µm)
- High etch rate (4-20µm/min)
- High selectivity (70-150:1 for resist,
100-200:1 for oxide masks)
- Anisotropic and isotropic etches +/- 0.5deg sidewall angle control

However, even with all of its strengths, the DRIE tool still has some challenges to overcome in the coming years. Compared to wet etching, DRIE is very expensive. To start, new tools cost between half a million to one million dollars. Furthermore, materials can also represent a significant cost, such as C4F8 for the Bosch process and liquid nitrogen for the Cryo process. Lastly, although DRIE provides us with high etch rates, it may require processing time of greater than one hour for deep Silicon etches (>500µm). This can lead to throughput issues even with multiple tools as currently only single wafers are processed at a time.

3D Optical Mirror Etched by DRIE

Micralyne has been aggressive in building DRIE know-how and has both Cryo and Bosch etching capabilities. As well, Micralyne recently purchased what we consider the most state-of-the-art production DRIE system available on the market – the Alcatel AMS200 I-Speeder. This tool is a high throughput and fully automated DRIE system that can give etch characteristics and performance that are not obtainable on many other systems, including a very high etch rate of up to 20 µm/min. This new tool is in addition to the established Oxford DRIE system that is more focused on early stage product development programs.

In summary, DRIE has become extremely popular over the last couple of years as it is the only method capable of doing many of today's advanced MEMS designs. As MEMS product companies use DRIE more and more there will definitely be a need for new production equipment but as volumes begin to ramp up the business case will no doubt exist. Micralyne looks forward to continuing its leadership in DRIE and to helping the industry take the necessary steps to ensure a sustainable future for this exciting process technology. Micralyne currently has tens of customer projects that utilize DRIE and we would be more than happy to speak with you about the needs for your MEMS product.

- Jeff Raaphorst, Process Engineer, Micralyne Inc. -

::View Website::Make Inquiry

Micralyne News

Alcatel AMS 200 DRIE
Micralyne Installs Volume DRIE System
Micralyne announced its completed implementation of an AMS 200 SE (Silicon Etcher) from Alcatel Micro Machining Systems, a leading supplier of deep silicon etching equipment (DRIE). In evaluating the available DRIE tools, the ALCATEL AMS 200 stood out among other available tools for its volume capabilities, precise control, high etch rates and cost-effectiveness.
::Read Full Release

Scientist Wins Second Award for AuSn Solder Research
Micralyne announced that Project Scientist, Dr. Siamak Akhlaghi, has received a Silver Medal Award from the American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society (AESF). Dr. Akhlaghi was presented the Abner Brenner Award, for the second straight year, for the best paper published in the Plating and Surface Finishing Journal during the year 2003. The award winning paper, Effect of Processing Parameters on the Electroplating of Au-Sn Solders, focuses specifically on a co-electroplating process that has been developed for depositing Au/Sn alloys, from a slightly acidic, chloride-based solution using pulsed currents, onto patterned or blanket metallized ceramic and semiconductor substrates.
::Read Full Release ::Read Dr. Akhlaghi's Paper

Chris Lumb to Sit on Panel at MEMS Executive Forum
MEMS Executive Forum
Micralyne announced President and CEO, Chris Lumb, will be participating in a panel at the upcoming In-Stat/MDR MEMS Executive Forum in San Jose, California, October 4, 2004. Chris Lumb will join two other MEMS executives to address the topic: Design, Packaging, Test and the Customer. Micralyne is also proud to be a Corporate Sponsor of the MEMS Executive Forum for 2004. The MEMS Executive Forum provides senior-level executives with the opportunity to interact with an intimate group of peers representing many segments of the MEMS value chain.
::Read Full Release


Micralyne Hosts Successful BBQ for COMS Delegates
Guests at Micralyne BBQ & Tour
Micralyne hosted an Alberta BBQ and Facility Tour for over 200 COMS 2004 conference delegates on Monday, August 30th. Six coach buses transported COMS delegates to Micralyne's fabrication facility in South Edmonton. Delegates were treated to a BBQ feast, live band, guided tours of Micralyne's MEMS manufacturing facility, and sports games. The event provided excellent networking and a lot of fun, including a ball hockey game near the end of the evening that attracted Americans, Austrians, Australians and Canadians among others.

Micralyne Launches Goldtinsolder.com Domain Name
Micralyne recently launched a new domain name, www.goldtinsolder.com, to better educate customers on its Gold-Tin Solder Alloy Electroplating offering. As gold-tin (AuSn) solder is not always associated with a MEMS Foundry business, Micralyne wanted to ensure the proprietary technology was prominently presented online. Having a unique domain name focused on AuSn solder will allow Micralyne to effectively spread the word on the advantages of this technology.

Hard eutectic Au-20 Sn (wt% ) solder is commonly used for device packaging in optoelectronic and microelectronic industries due to its superior mechanical and thermal properties. Micralyne’s AuSn solder electroplating process is an attractive alternative to current deposition techniques, owing to low production costs, and a firm control over thickness and composition.

For more information on AuSn solder, please contact Bryan Smith at +1.780.431.4412 or by email at bsmith@micralyne.com.

::Go to www.goldtinsolder.com

Additional Reading & MEMS Industry Resources

Some additional reading that might be of interest to you in regard to Micralyne or the small tech industry is:

New NanoMEMS Edmonton Website - NanoMEMS Edmonton is dedicated to fostering the development and growth of micro/nano-based commercial enterprise across the greater Edmonton region.

Small Times Article on COMS 2004 - Laura Severs writes about the perspectives on the state of the industry based on presentations at COMS.

MEMS Executive Forum - An important networking event for senior-level executives within the MEMS value chain.

MEMS Industry Group - The MEMS Industry Group (MIG) is the premier trade association representing the North American MEMS and Microstructure industries.

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