New technology developed by QinetiQ, Malvern, UK, is to be used by Tronic's Microsystems SA, Crolles, France, for the volume production of innovative MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) devices. The technology teams will collaborate to achieve process design and compatibility, including full process statistics.
A team of more than 120 workers in the UK and France will ensure concept feasibility and achieve product design and simulation. This will be followed by the commercialization and fully integrated volume manufacture of these high-value-added components. Product-lifetime costs can be accurately predicted and planned into the product development cycle, according to the two firms.
QinetiQ was formed by privatization of the former British government defense research site, DERA (Defense Evaluation Research Agency), previously RSRE (Royal Signals and Radar Establishment). It develops new technology and prototype products, but is not involved in high-volume production. QinetiQ has extensive experience with inertial sensor, microfluidic, and optical component designs using SOI (silicon-on-insulator) substrates that have been developed in ten years of leading-edge research on MEMS devices and materials.
Tronic's is a 1997 spin-off from LETI (Laboratoire d'électronique de technologie de l'information, originally a French atomic energy research site at Grenoble). Tronic's does not carry out basic research, but usually commences with a prototype design supplied by a customer. Tronic's built a custom MEMS manufacturing line last year which has recently been opened. It can currently process some 5000 100mm wafers/year, but can expand to double this volume and plans to move to 150mm wafers. This corresponds to between 10,000 and 100,000 devices/year, mainly using SOI wafers.
Tronic's currently produces accelerometers, and also is developing RF MEMS products and MOEMS (micro-optical electromechanical systems) for redirecting light beams. The large base of designs and processes developed at QinetiQ is ready for rapid exploitation, and will benefit from Tronic's experience in high-end packaging solutions, including wafer-level encapsulation before dicing and vacuum packaging.
Mike Day, business group manager for MEMS at QinetiQ, said, "QinetiQ's evolution from an R&D company that operates in the MEMS market to one that can supply products has been given a real boost by this agreement." He noted Tronic's capabilities in "delivering a full component fabrication, assembly, and packaging service for our cutting-edge SOI designs."
Chris Pickering, INTEGRAM (Europractice) project director at QinetiQ, told WaferNews that the first products developed under the agreement will be accelerometers using SOI high aspect-ratio micromachining. When asked about the advantages of using SOI techniques for MEMS fabrication, he said, "Deep reactive-ion etching (DRIE) of SOI allows us to produce high-mass, highly anisotropic structures in single-crystal silicon, which has lower defect densities and hence better reliability than polysilicon." This is ideal for inertial sensors, such as gyroscopes and accelerometers with high Q factors, and increased sensitivity and performance, and is compatible with CMOS electronics, he added. "The wafer-level encapsulation at Tronic's will improve yield and reduce costs for the final packaged devices. We offer access to our DRIE process via design kits and a multiproject wafer service through INTEGRAM."
— Brian Dance, European Correspondent