Insights from industry

The Importance of an On-Site Wafer Fab for MEMS Production

In this interview, AZoSensors talks to Shiva Pallinti, director of engineering at Merit Sensor, about Merit Sensor's capabilities in the MEMS market, and why an on-site wafer fab is a great benefit to the company and its customers.

Why does Merit Sensor continue to own and operate a wafer fab on site, especially when many others have gone away from doing so?

Having our own wafer fab allows us to keep our unique technologies in house. These unique technologies have given Merit Sensor a competitive advantage for years. Having our own fab also allows us to monitor and control our processes very closely. As a result, we have produced sensors with consistent performance over the years, and we have been able to resolve process and equipment issues promptly.

Our fab gives us flexibility with new product development and also process development and allows us to reduce the time it takes to bring a new product to market. A related advantage is our ability to accommodate inputs from our customers regarding performance or features beyond that which is specified in our datasheets. If the request and the amount the customer is willing to pay make business sense for us, we have the ability to satisfy special requests because we do have our own fab as well as our own special in-house processes.

Another advantage is that we are able to control the supply chain of critical raw materials and manage the inventory, which reduces our susceptibility to market fluctuations.

There are challenges too. Operating a fab is very expensive. Increasing the capacity of a fab is difficult. However, Merit Sensor is committed to maintaining high quality and keeping up with the growing market needs.

Merit Sensor: Designer and Manufacturer of MEMS Piezoresistive Pressure Sensors

Would Merit Sensor be considered a MEMS foundry?

No, Merit Sensor is not a MEMS foundry.

Could you explain why?

Our equipment and processes have been optimized for our own products, not for just anyone who makes a design request.

Would Merit Sensor be interested in becoming a MEMS foundry?

We are not interested in becoming a foundry. However, we will continue to work with the right customers to develop products for them and adapt their designs to our own processes.

What are your responsibilities as director of engineering for MEMS sensing elements?

In my role as a director of engineering, I oversee process engineering and new-product development for all MEMS sensing elements (die). Our process-engineering group ensures that all wafer fab and dicing processes run at an optimum level to produce the best-quality products. Our NPD group develops new MEMS die to meet our customers’ unique requirements and to address general market needs.

What role do you see the development of new MEMS die playing in the growth of your company?

Merit Sensor's NPD group believes that bringing new MEMS die to the market at regular intervals is a key factor for the growth of the company. For the last 10 years, the NPD group has successfully introduced various pressure-sensor die to the market, such as the HM Series for harsh media, D Series for low cost, and L Series for ultra-low pressure. We are very excited to release our new S Series die this year. The S Series is a 1.5 mm x 1.5 mm die with a very high output—100 mV at 5 psi. It also has excellent stability and performance in regard to thermal hysteresis. The unique capabilities of the S Series are due to the new process platform on which it was designed, called the MeritUltra process.

The development of new MEMS sensing elements not only addresses market needs but also plays a vital role in the growth of Merit Sensor's assembly group. Our sensing elements have played a major role in the development of various pressure sensor packages, such as the TR Series, TVC Series, HTS Series, and LP Series.

About Shiva Pallinti

Shiva joined Merit Sensor in 2006 and was an integral part of transferring the company’s wafer fab from California to its current location in Utah. During his time with the company, Shiva has also worked as a new-product-development engineer and engineering manager. As director of engineering, he will continue to oversee all efforts in the wafer fab and will continue to work closely with customers on design inputs for MEMS sensing elements.

Shiva holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Utah.

Shiva Pallinti

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