Tight control of manufacturing flows and yield is one of the essential factors for success with MEMS manufacturers. We recently spoke with Dan Estrada, Vice President of Eyelit, whose company provides software systems to help manufacturers achieve greater fabrication efficiencies and profitability. Eyelit already has a number of clients in the MEMS industry and continues to expand its work with companies in our space.
We were also able to obtain comments from two of Eyelit's customers, Innovative Micro Technology (IMT) and VTI -- Michael Shillinger, IMT's VP Operations, and Sampo Hämäläinen, VTI's Process Development and Manufacturing Manager, provided feedback from their companies.
MEMS Investor Journal: What challenges do you see in the manufacturing flows that are specific to MEMS foundries?
Dan Estrada: The challenges are many with the inherent complexity of MEMS manufacturing. Managing these complex processes and assembly flows as well as associated data elements is difficult. MEMS are typically lower volume as compared to the traditional ICs manufacturers but have a higher product mix.
Additionally, with many MEMS products like accelerometers and ink jet heads you have to combine (stack/bond) wafers to make a die. This adds another layer of complexity for product tracking and genealogy.
Specifically with MEMS foundries, many have not invested in the required manufacturing software infrastructure to deal with these challenges in an efficient and cost-effect manner. The tremendous growth we are seeing in MEMS makes the need to address these challenges much more urgent.
MEMS Investor Journal: How has your system helped to eliminate these challenges? Can you give a few specific examples?
Dan Estrada: Eyelit’s manufacturing solution makes these challenges much more manageable in a cost-effective manner. Eyelit’s manufacturing suite includes modules such as Work-In-Progress Tracking and Genealogy, Asset Management, Product Costing, Quality Management, Factory Integration and Enterprise Integration.
Specifically, our unique ability to implement a solution in a few months helps our customers quickly address these challenges. Unique features such as multi-level tracking, with which a lot, wafers and die can be tracked, simultaneously enable us to effectively track product through the fab and subsequent assembly operations and maintain full product traceability.
For example, one of our customers saw a 50% improvement is cycle time, half of which they attributed directly to the implementation of our system.
In another example, one of our customers saw both yield and cycle time improvements that removed a bottleneck in a fab process which had die waiting to be assembled.
Another customer stated that they didn’t believe they could have achieved their production ramp without our software.
MEMS Investor Journal: Do you see significant differences in your clients' operations based on their region? For example, are there differences between North America, Europe and the Far East?
Dan Estrada: I would say that North America and Europe in general have similarities in that many companies have invested in software or are evaluating software to address these challenges. Companies in the Far East seem to be slower to adapt such systems. This is also influenced by product mix, so as the shift continues with more complex products moving to the Far East it may accelerate software adoption.
MEMS Investor Journal: Based on your experience in the MEMS industry, which manufacturing software applications do you think will be emerging over the next few years?
Dan Estrada: As MEMS foundries mature, the applications that emerge will be those that enable companies to be more responsive to their customers' needs as well as applications that ensure and reduce the cost of compliance.
The term "demand driven" or "demand driven supply networks" is thrown around. In MEMS, most of the supply problems are related to these complex manufacturing flows. It is not uncommon for our customers to have 250 or more steps or operations in single flow. Where a products cycle time ranges from 20 to 60 days. You need real-time detailed visibility into these complex flows to respond to customer requests promptly, cost-effectively and correctly.
Currently, numerous regulations are moving up the supply chain to device makers. For example, regulations such as WEEE/RoHS for electronics, Tread Act for the automotive industry, as well as the CFR 21 part 11 for medical device manufacturers.
MEMS Investor Journal: This next set of questions is for two of your customers, IMT and VTI. How has Eyelit's software impacted your operations?
Sampo Hämäläinen, VTI: VTI's manufacturing processes are based on semiconductor IC processing and have many unique process steps and technologies. We needed a system which could cope with large numbers of manufacturing steps and product types as well as non-standard process technologies. The Eyelit Manufacturing system provided a fast, straightforward implementation that didn’t require a large dedicated IT resource. We now know much more and are making decisions based on facts.
MEMS Investor Journal: What have been some of the challenges?
Sampo Hämäläinen, VTI: One challenge was buy-in from the engineering and development teams. The system does enforce a level of discipline and the following of procedures. But once the data was presented and the team realized that the data was accessible in a single location they were sold on the value.
MEMS Investor Journal: Are you generally satisfied with Eyelit's system?
Michael Shillinger, IMT: IMT is now ramping production on multiple programs, including current shipments of over one million working MEMS switches each week and growing.
Eyelit has helped us to make that ramp happen by providing real-time tracking of inventory position, equipment uptime, and process yields. Eyelit has been extremely supportive and attentive to IMT during the integration and implementation of the MES package, and we are very
satisfied with system performance and usability.
Sampo Hämäläinen, VTI: The Eyelit team seems to be driven by a passion to provide high quality products, meeting and often exceeding customer expectations. This project supports VTI's Six Sigma culture of acting based upon data and facts where both are now more readily available.