STMicroelectronics has declared that its Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) manufacturing ability will be expanded to 3 million sensors every day by the end of this year to cope with the increasing client requirements for superior performance and cost-effective sensing devices.
Benedetto Vigna, Group Vice President and General Manager of STMicroelectronics’ MEMS, Sensors and High Performance Analog Division, stated that they are upgrading their production machinery to support the utilization of MEMS into emerging markets like automotive and healthcare. He added that their company is in a better position to introduce micro-machined sensors in all major fields.
In 2006, STMicroelectronics was the first company to commence production of MEMS devices on silicon wafers measuring 8”. This initiative minimized unit costs and also augmented improvement of the ongoing applications and formation of new markets for MEMS. ST MEMS were developed in several production plants including Rousset and Crolles, Agrate and Catania, France (logic die production), Italy (sensor fabrication) and Kirkop, Malta and Calamba, Philippines (assembly and testing).
Several sophisticated manufacturing methods of STMicroelectronics benefited the production of the MEMS sensor. The THELMA (Thick Epi-Poly Layer for Microactuators and Accelerometers) surface micro-machining process links variably-sized poly-silicon layers for developing interlinks and structures. This process is utilized for developing accelerometers and gyroscopes. It incorporates linear and angular mechanical elements in an individual chip, resulting in cost and size reduction. Another process termed as VENSENS ('Venice Sensor') enables creation of a cavity in mono-crystalline silicon, resulting in the development of a small pressure sensor with superior functionality.
One of the major challenges faced by the MEMS developers is handling high productivity. The sophisticated MEMS assembly-and-testing platform of STMicroelectronics can control several sensors arranged in parallel and it also produces sustained and recurrent test stimuli from every sensor device, resulting in increased throughput.
Till date, the MEMS sensors of the company have supported motion-driven user interfaces on several major consumer devices like tablets, game consoles, remotes and digital cameras. ST's acceleration sensors are used by computer developers for avoiding free-fall in hard-disk drives of laptop and automotive manufacturers incorporate the company’s MEMS in several applications like improved navigation systems and airbags.