European partnership focusing on nanoelectronics ENIAC Joint Undertaking has granted funding for a project coordinated by Okmetic Oyj. The total budget of the “Processes for MEMS by Inkjet Enhanced Technologies,” or PROMINENT project is 9.4 M€, and the coordination is managed by Spinverse Oy.
MEMS technologies have experienced a fast development during the recent years. Europe has globally a strong position in MEMS manufacturing, but in order to maintain its leadership it must significantly reduce costs. The international European Union-funded ENIAC Joint Undertaking project “Processes for MEMS by Inkjet Enhanced Technologies,” or PROMINENT will develop novel low-cost, digitally controlled additive manufacturing methods that can radically change the manufacturing methods for MEMS and bring a substantial competitive edge to the European MEMS industry. The objective is not to replace the whole MEMS manufacturing process, but rather to introduce a novel flow – more flexible and cost-efficient – by using methods developed in printed electronics.
Integrating printed and silicon-based electronics has only become possible recently, due to the new developments in printing technologies and the introduction of nanoparticle inks. An integrated approach would draw benefits from both technologies.
Additive deposition has a large cost saving potential and straightforward applicability in vertical interconnections and through-silicon vias where it could clearly simplify the process. As an alternative, low cost laser machined vias for vertical interconnections and inkjet-assisted methods will be used for via structure creation. In inkjet filling, a critical challenge is to find a suitable combination of materials and processes to solve the wetting problem perceived with nanoparticle fluids.
Sometimes functional materials are needed within the hermetic cavity of the MEMS device, e.g. for controlling the gas pressure inside the device. The materials used for this purpose are conventionally deposited on the capping wafer by using subtractive methods, but the cap wafer topography may make that difficult. Cost savings can be obtained by using additive methods. As a demonstrator, the current functional materials deposition process will be replaced by the new one in modified MEMS inertial sensors and / or timing devices. Wafer bonding with inkjet printing will also be studied. Surface treatment methods such as local plasma processing – as well as conductive and convective heat sintering – will ensure the printed bonding layer seals the MEMS cavity hermetically.
It is essential that new alternative methods are integrated within existing manufacturing processes without compromising device quality, reliability, yield or throughput. Quantitative methods for detailed assessments of cost reduction, environmental and market impact will be developed.
In particular, executing selected steps in the MEMS manufacturing using maskless, digitally controlled, localized additive processes instead of the incumbent subtractive processes will result in a greatly simplified process sequence. This will result in
- lower initial investment costs for a MEMS line, making it easier for manufacturers to introduce new products
- new features in the MEMS devices, new application areas
- increased flexibility in production, allowing for smaller batches, mass customization and fast changes in the production process
- easier prototyping and shorter time-to-market period in new MEMS devices
- greatly reduced production costs and environmental impact
The net cost effect will include reduction of materials, chemicals and waste water, used energy and processing time, and the capital investments of setting up a new process line.
The multi-disciplinary ENIAC JU project Prominent requires expertise in different technology areas; ranging from MEMS research and wafer manufacturing, MEMS design and manufacturing to inkjet printing machinery and packaging. Thus, the consortium is built of a number of leading experts from universities, small and medium size companies, and large MEMS manufacturers, representing different value chain levels of the MEMS industry. The parties have complementary expertise in conception, design, evaluation and manufacturing of MEMS components, as well as ink, printing and surface treatment equipment development and manufacturing.
Research partners from Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden form the PROMINENT partnership. A total of €9.4M is to be spent on this program over 36 months, from a combination of ENIAC funds, a public-private partnership, member country national budgets, and the participating companies. PROMINENT members include Okmetic Oyj, Murata Electronics Oy, Tampere University of Technology, and Spinverse Oy from Finland; KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Micronic Mydata AB, and SILEX Microsystems AB from Sweden; InnoPhysics BV from The Netherlands; poLight AS from Norway and Nanium SA from Portugal. For more information see www.prominent-mems.eu.
PROMINENT is coordinated by Dr. Markku Tilli of Okmetic Oyj of Finland. Okmetic is the world’s leading supplier of silicon wafers for MEMS manufacturing and a leading silicon solutions provider for the manufacture of pressure sensors, accelerometers, actuators, silicon-based microphones and microfluidic and optical devices. For more information, see www.okmetic.com.
The management part of the coordination is subcontracted from Spinverse Oy. Spinverse is a leader in technology consulting with in-depth expertise, especially in nanotechnology and advance materials. Spinverse takes technology further and offers innovation and tailor-made solutions to its clients, e.g. in the chemicals, energy, electronics, life-science or forest industry. For more information, see www.spinverse.com.
National funding for PROMINENT is provided by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. Tekes grants annually around EUR 600 million towards innovative company and research projects aimed at generating new know-how and new kinds of products, processes, service and business concepts and for developing work organisations. For more information see www.tekes.fi/en.
The preparation of the project was supported by the OSKE-program of the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy.
The ENIAC Joint Undertaking (JU) is a public-private partnership focusing on nanoelectronics that brings together ENIAC Member/Associated States, the European Commission, and AENEAS (an association representing European R&D actors in this field). For more information see www.eniac.eu.