News

MEMS Industry Fueled By New Technology

Like other sectors, the market for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) stagnated during the economic downturn. According to a report by market research organization Yole Developpement titled “State of the MEMS Industry 2009 Report,” sales of MEMS-based products are slated to reach $6.9 billion in 2009, barely up from $6.8 billion in 2008. The flat market was attributed to a drop in automotive-based MEMS products, offset by a spike in consumer-based MEMS. The good news, according to the report, is that the MEMS market is expected to take off again. Although the MEMS production equipment market is projected to remain flat until 2011, MEMS foundries are expected to exhibit more than 25% compound annual growth starting next year. MEMS foundries are expected to benefit from system manufacturers outsourcing MEMS manufacturing, with semiconductor foundries such as TSMC, UMC, and others jumping into the fray. "The MEMS industry remains highly diverse and as such, the impact of the financial collapse and economic recession has been varied,” said Jean-Christophe Eloy, President and CEO of Yole Developpement. “While established applications have struggled, new ways to package and integrate MEMS devices in systems buttressed the industry. New MEMS devices are indeed growing very fast – two-axis gyros, MEMS IMU, and MEMS oscillators,  to name a few.” The study noted that the nature of MEMS innovations is changing, with most new applications linked to new usage of existing devices. With packaging averaging more than 40% of the cost of a MEMS device, strong efforts are being put to adapting the packaging to drive out cost and enable new applications.

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Robots Doing the Dirty Work

The days of human beings sweeping floors, guarding plants, and doing other mundane or hazardous tasks could someday become a thing of the past. Service robots are increasingly being called on to perform these tasks, according to a new study from industry intelligence organization The Robot Report. According to the report, service robots generated $11 billion in sales in 2008, trailing industrial robots whose sales reached $19 billion. But service robots have a brighter future, the report noted, because the largest group of industrial robot users – car makers – will not return to high purchase volumes as in the past. Robot makers will increasingly seek to deploy their machines in public buildings, oceans, space, cow barns, and fields. There have been a number of reports on robots being developed to clean rooms, help perform surgical tasks, explore the ocean floor, and search hazardous areas for objects or materials. I can certainly welcome these developments from the standpoint of freeing humans from performing risky or unwelcome tasks. But that begs the question of how far robots will go in replacing humans in the workplace and other aspects of daily life. We recently posed that question to our readers in our INSIDER Question of the Week . More than a third of our respondents thought robots would replace humans in day-to-day tasks. What do you think? Feel free to give your thoughts.

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Keep Innovating!

Although this is the last entry for my Design & Manufacturing Midwest show blog, I want to encourage all of you to keep innovating, and to let me know what new products and technologies you’re working on that may be inspiring to someone at next year’s show. Here are the last couple of products I wanted to let you know about: Alicona showcased its InfiniteFocus optical 3D surface measurement device that combines an optical profiler and a micro-coordinate measurement device in one system. It allows the measurement of form and roughness, as well as a range of surface characterization in one measurement. The system also provides wear analysis and the measurement of form deviation to reference geometry or a CAD data set. TUV Rheinland offers certification and testing services worldwide, including ISO standard certification for environmental management systems, quality management systems, and automotive quality management systems. The company also provides AS9100B certification for aerospace quality management. Next year’s D&M Midwest show will take place September 28-30 at the Donald Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. Attendee registration is not open yet, but if you go to the Web site and click on the red button at the bottom of the page, you can request to be notified immediately via e-mail when the Attendee Internet registration site opens. Thanks to Autodesk for sponsoring my show blog.

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Quality Counts

As my post-show coverage of Design & Manufacturing Midwest winds down, the focus is on quality. A number of products were on display that promise to help engineers make the right design decisions, and then ensure that their products are top-notch. Autodesk showcased its Digital Prototyping solutions, including Moldflow Adviser and Moldflow Insight software. Moldflow Adviser simulates and optimizes part, mold, and tool designs by simulating the injection molding process using a digital prototype. Moldflow Insight software provides plastics engineering simulation tools for use on digital prototypes. It lets users simulate the filling and packing phases of the injection molding process to predict flow behavior of plastic melts. Gradient Lens Corporation offers the Hawkeye Pro MicroFlex borescope that lets manufacturers of machined or molded medical parts and components inspect for burrs, surface finish, and other defects inside even the smallest medical components. The scope produces high-quality images via a high-resolution fiber-optic image bundle. The fibers also provide the scope’s semi-rigid flexibility, allowing them to reach into narrow, twisting paths. Thermal Spray Technologies provides a variety of coatings for medical applications, including bio-compatible coatings for implant prosthetics, metallic coatings for EMI/RFI shielding, electrically conductive coatings, and wear-resistant coatings to protect against abrasion, erosion, and corrosion. The types of materials that can be used in the coatings, and the materials onto which the coatings can be applied, are wide in variety. If it melts, it can be sprayed. Tomorrow, we wrap up our post-show coverage.

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Were You at D&M Midwest?

I met a lot of people at last week’s Design & Manufacturing Midwest show, and I saw a lot of innovative new products. I’ve had the chance to share with you what I saw last week from the show floor, and this week as we do a final wrap-up. What about you? If you were at D&M Midwest – or any of the five co-located shows – I’d love to hear what you saw that you thought was especially innovative, and how you plan to use that technology. Inficon introduced the T-Guard Leak Detection Sensor that works with simple chambers at atmospheric pressure, eliminating the need for high-vacuum chambers and pumps. The sensor uses Wise Technology, which has no wearing parts or ion source filaments. Intelligent internal software enables the sensor to recognize and communicate leak rate signals quickly. It’s an alternative to pressure decay and water bath leak detection. At the Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) show, The Modal Shop introduced Resonant Inspection nondestructive test systems for manufacturers or users of metal injection molded parts in the medical device industry. The NDT-RAM systems test the whole part, internally and externally, to alert of anomalies and structural flaws in components, such as subsurface cracks or microfractures. The entire process can be achieved in as little as one second per part. Don’t forget to send me your comments on the show, and let me know what inspired you.

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Streamlining PC Board Production

Given increased time-to-market pressures, design engineers are caught in a never-ending quest to streamline design and production processes. The challenges are formidable: proprietary or incompatible software, poor design tools, incomplete parts documentation, equipment issues - all can slow down prototyping and production. Although the government and industry associations have undertaken efforts to standardize tools and processes, such efforts take time and often only succeed when major companies decide to follow. Printed circuit board solutions provider Sunstone Circuits is taking a grassroots approach to knock down the roadblocks in the design-to-production process for printed circuit boards. Called the Sunstone ECOsystem®, the process would encompass the entire design and supply chain of IP, vendors, tools, and libraries needed to take boards from concept into production. It intends to find and make use of low- or no-cost design tools and produce quality working prototypes in fewer turns at a lower cost. Sunstone is known for its ability to provide quickturn printed circuit board prototypes and short-run electronic assembly services. It is partnering with several industry heavyweights to help achieve this goal: Digi-Key, National Instruments, NXP Semiconductors, and Screaming Circuits. Digi-Key is a global distributor of electronic components for more than 400 manufacturers. National Instruments supplies graphical programming software to automate pc board design. NXP is the semiconductor giant founded by Philips, while Screaming Circuits also provides pc board prototyping and assembly services. When the group gathered with journalists at a recent roundtable meeting in Boston, it became clear that the companies’ efforts have gone well beyond the initial discussion stage into concrete action. There is already an online link between National Instruments and Sunstone Circuits, and a link between Sunstone and Screaming Circuits to facilitate quoting and ordering will be announced in early October. The group showed a ECOsystem® step-by-step roadmap to create a seamless pc board design and production process over the next 18 months. One participant cited an industry association’s statistics stating that 75% of the total cost of a printed circuit board was in design and 30% of an engineer’s time was spent resolving parts issues. In a market where any loss of time and cost can adversely impact a company’s bottom line, the Sunstone ECOsystem® effort appears to a step in the right direction.

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More New D&M Midwest Products

Last week’s Design & Manufacturing Midwest event in Rosemont, IL, was a hotbed for new product introductions to the industrial, medical, automation, assembly, and design areas. Here are more new products you should know about in case you missed the show. Optical Gaging Products introduced the Focus Lite 14” Horizontal Contour Projector that features what the company claims is a world-first for optical comparators: all-LED illumination using TruLight LED illuminators, which include a high-brightness, monochromatic, green LED profile light. The Focus Lite optics are completely telecentric, yielding inverted and reversed images that are undistorted on its angled 14” viewing screen. Magnification lenses are internally mounted with room to store others, and a magnification identification system automatically displays the magnification of the lens currently in use. Bosch Rexroth introduced ED02 pressure regulators with compact dimensions of only 3x2.4x1.2”. They are built with two directly controlled proportional valves, and exact regulation is controlled by a microprocessor. Four pressure regulators can be linked to each other without a base plate. Compressed air supply is possible from both sides, permitting extremely flexible use in a system. The supply voltage, analog set point, and actual value are electrically connected via a central M12 plug. Kistler Instrument Corporation introduced the Type 9129AA compact, multicomponent dynamometer for measuring machining forces. It measures the three components of the resultant force vector and the three components of the resultant moment vector. A piezoelectric sensor system measures the forces with virtually no displacement. It’s designed for use in confined spaces, and for measuring the machining forces involved in milling and grinding. Tomorrow, we’ll feature more new products introduced at the show.

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