Contents - December 2004
Welcome to the fifth 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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On behalf of all of us at Micralyne, we want to wish you the best over the holidays as well as a healthy and prosperous new year.
As we turn the calendar to 2005, we wanted to talk about some new activity we see in our customer base and in particular the comeback of the optical communications market and how this might impact the MEMS industry as a whole.
It was only five years ago when a flurry of venture capital investments were targeted towards the promise of using MEMS technology as a means for creating an all-optical switch for telecommunications networks. Literally billions of dollars were invested in technologies and production capacity for a market that unfortunately never materialized. It also lead to a “nuclear winter” for the optical telecom equipment industry and most companies who targeted MEMS as a technology solution either failed or went into hibernation.
Today, in contrast, the industry is seeing a comeback with the remaining players making significant investments in customer-driven product development and manufacturing capacity. Micralyne works with a number of companies targeting the optical telecom industry who, in the space of the last six months, are benefiting from a significant amount of customer traction and end-user orders. It is too soon to say if this will translate into a prolonged pattern of revenue growth but it is a vast improvement as compared to a few years ago. The reemergence of development activities in this space is again attracting the attention of the venture capital community and more importantly indicates that the telecommunications industry is accepting MEMS-based products as viable and powerful options for their networking infrastructure.
For Micralyne, most of our customers are renewing their development efforts and investing more resources into transferring prototype products into a high volume manufacturing environment.
We are also seeing other applications for MEMS switches emerging such as in the display and other markets. In fact, the subject of this month’s Tech Brief, by our Chief Scientist Glen Fitzpatrick, is a technology that Micralyne has under development called the Spatial Light Valve or SLV. The SLV, as we are finding out, has several different market applications that we are now pursuing along with potential customers.
We hope and expect that MEMS-based products will be a key part of the next generation telecom networks and in turn generate new and higher revenue streams for the MEMS industry. I will not go so far to say that optical MEMS will be the tide to float the entire MEMS industry, but as most MEMS foundries in the world today have at least some activity in the optical telecom market, this is a positive sign and one that we should keep a careful eye on.
We hope you enjoy this version of Newslyne and, as always, if you have comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Micralyne Spatial Light Valve (SLV)
Micralyne has been working on a fast optical switch array for five years now, and is now exploring a number of potential applications and configurations.
The main focus of this product research to date has been solving the materials and process issues associated with surface micromachining - issues unavoidable when using thin films as structural parts. This research has been worthwhile; the resulting diffractive thin film structures provide a high speed and versatile switch with a minimum of process steps.
Examples of diffractive switches include Silicon Light Machines’ Grating Light Valve (GLV) and Kodak’s Grating ElectoMechanical Switch (GEMS). Both devices sacrifice reflectivity at the zeroeth order (direct reflection) in order to be used at the first diffractive order. This is consistent with their intended use for high-contrast projection display applications. The Micralyne SLV can operate in this mode to achieve such high contrast, but can additionally be used in the zeroeth order to achieve over 96% throughput of the laser wavelength being used. Using the first order to gain contrast requires wasting up to half of the source laser energy, as well as complicating the optical system. In addition, the SLV structure affords exceptional switching speeds, in the tens of MHz. This enables data throughput in the tens of Gbit/second rates, useful for high resolution displays or high pixel count graphic arts applications.
The manufacture of the SLV device is a dedicated MEMS process, with just three masks and no polishing steps. Others, including TI for their DMD process, use a compromise CMOS-like process, adding consideraton for optical and film stress issues. This adds processing cost and increases optical system costs down the line. The SLV can be tuned through an analog range in the "on" reflective state to compensate for laser and optical system inhomogeneity, and can be used at a variety of angles to simplify optical design. This makes the SLV a low cost and high performance device to design optics around.
The MEMS process used to make the SLV has also shown switching of wavelengths which no other device on the market can handle, from CO2 laser wavelengths of 10.6 microns at high power, to designs which function at short UV wavelengths with low losses. Arrays of up to one thousand elements have been developed, and further growth is readily possible. We hope to pursue this high power CO2 switching ability to move the present state of laser marking from tens of kBits/second data rates to the GBit/second area, enabling marking of complex images on irregular shapes instead of the familiar dot matrix printer look of present CO2 laser marked date codes. The high throughput efficiency for UV applications will allow the expensive laser energy to be switched with practically no energy loss.
In summary, the SLV offers a high speed and high throughput linear array of switch elements useful for a wide range of wavelengths and applications.
Micralyne Announces Winner of 2004 Microsystems Design Award
Micralyne announced the winner of its annual Microsystems Design Award for 2004. The winning design was a dielectrophoretic bio-analysis platform that uses lexel (electric field element) arrays. Jeffrey Keilman, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Calgary, submitted the design.
::Read Full Release
Micralyne CEO Appointed to BioAlberta Board
Micralyne announced today that Mr. Chris Lumb, President & CEO, was appointed to the Board of Directors of BioAlberta, effective September 23, 2004.
::Read Full Release
MEMS Fabrication Demands Close Collaboration
By Bruce Alton
Our company, Micralyne Inc., is a MEMS foundry and our customers range from startups to Fortune 500 firms. In most cases, they come to us with a computer model or a one-off prototype of a MEMS-based product. They say, “Here’s one. Now we need you to make a million of them.”
::Read Full Story
Alloy Electroplating: The best solution for Au-Sn solder?
By Dr. Siamak Akhlaghi & Bryan Smith
Gold-tin (AuSn) solder is becoming the preferred answer to many modern packaging challenges. An innovative solder deposition method promises to improve AuSn solder performance while reducing costs and complexity.
::Read Flipchip.com Tutorial
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:
NanoMEMS Edmonton Website - NanoMEMS Edmonton is dedicated to fostering the development and growth of micro/nano-based commercial enterprise across the greater Edmonton region.
LabAutomation 2005 - The world’s premier conference and exhibition on emerging laboratory technologies.
OFC/NFOEC 2005 - The optical communications industry's leading event.
MEMS Industry Group - The MEMS Industry Group (MIG) is the premier trade association representing the North American MEMS and Microstructure industries.