Industrial-academic partnership speeds advanced silicon MEMS technology to market

Collin Twanow, VP of Sales and Marketing, Micralyne (right), with Alex Edwards, VP of Commercial Operations, CMC Microsystems: partnership to bring MicraGEM-Si process to market

Edmonton-based Micralyne is honing its competitive edge while providing leading-edge opportunities for Canadian researchers. 

Micralyne Inc., an innovative Canadian developer and manufacturer of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), recently launched a faster, more versatile and affordable manufacturing process designed to help academic researchers build advanced silicon MEMS. Complex, powerful and exceedingly small, MEMS are the differentiators of a wide range of devices and products, from automobile airbags and cellphones to lab-on-a-chip medical diagnostic tools.

Micralyne’s path to market was shortened and streamlined thanks to its partnership with CMC Microsystems, which connected the company with researchers in Canada’s National Design Network (NDN) who trialled Micralyne’s MicraGEM-SiTM process.

Both sides benefited from the collaboration: The researchers were able to use the platform to advance their investigations into optical MEMS devices for telecommunications and other applications; and Micralyne received validation that their innovative process worked. Now the Edmonton-based MEMS foundry is ramping up its activity in this emerging technology space, and at least one of the collaborating researchers is reporting novel results from his work.

The driver of their mutual success was CMC Solutions, a collaborative, shared-cost program managed by CMC Microsystems. The program, which offers technology and supply chain expertise, helps clients pursue innovative R&D, while also stimulating the creation of next-generation platform technologies that are then made available to researchers across the NDN.

“Our company had developed a state-of-the-art MEMS fabrication process that was fairly novel, and CMC Solutions gave us the opportunity to demonstrate a challenging technology produced in high yield,” says Collin Twanow, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Micralyne. “We already had an established relationship with CMC, and we saw this as another opportunity to work together.”

For CMC, working with Micralyne was an opportunity to introduce the company’s advanced MEMS technology to NDN researchers in electrical engineering and biomedical engineering disciplines who were investigating MEMS applications in micromirrors, optical switches, resonators and biosensors. As part of the project, researchers were provided with a cost-effective avenue for having their devices prototyped by Micralyne, through CMC’s cost-shared multi-project wafer (MPW) service. This part of the project was familiar ground for both parties—Micralyne did its first MPW collaboration with CMC in 2005.

CMC managed the project for both parties. It recruited researchers for a “beta test” run of the process, and Peng Yang, a microsystems scientist specializing in MEMS at CMC, consulted with the researchers on their designs, and incorporated that feedback into robust design rules that were developed in collaboration with Micralyne. This support helped to validate the design kit for the platform technology, enabling Micralyne to offer it to early adopters.

“The researchers tested the process and found that it saves time, and increases their chances of getting their prototypes right on the first try,” says Mr. Yang.

“CMC has experience working with process design flows in many areas including MEMS, so that depth of experience was helpful to us,” Mr. Twanow says. “Their approach was a good fit with our model because it enabled us to demonstrate the capability of our technology to the world.”

Building on the success of that trial, CMC is now offering three MPW runs a year with Micralyne, open to both academic and industry clients. Micralyne expects to do a “first build” of NDN designs later this year.

“The MicraGEM-SiTM platform offers novel process options, and our joint MPW service decreases development costs and shortens time to market while reducing manufacturing risk,” says Alex Edwards, Vice-President of Commercial Operations at CMC Microsystems. “Together they provide a distinct value-add to both academic and industrial researchers.”

Looking ahead, Micralyne is in the early stages of planning a next-generation process flow for creating more complex MEMS devices.


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Learn more about Micralyne at www.micralyne.com

Learn about MicraGEM-Si, available through CMC