We recently spoke with Karen Lightman, the Managing Director of MEMS Industry Group about her views on the current activities in the MEMS industry as well as latest developments in her organization.
MEMS Investor Journal: What do you see as the main challenges in the MEMS industry right now? How are companies addressing these challenges?
Karen Lightman: Manufacturability for mass-market applications is a challenge in the MEMS industry. Companies are addressing this in different ways, including new manufacturing processes and strategic supply chain relationships. MEMS packaging is another big issue. In the MEMS process flow, for example, packaging considerations step between wafer processing and final assembly. Test should not be an afterthought.
We are also seeing some interesting future trends in MEMS packaging. While most people are still working with traditional packaging, we are seeing a definite migration towards MEMS integration with CMOS processes. Wafer-level encapsulation enables MEMS devices to be manufactured by standard CMOS foundries. And although not widely used yet, through-silicon-vias provide higher levels of system integration, which ultimately speeds up time-to-market.
The movement toward more standardized packaging structures and materials will enable our industry to leverage existing infrastructure from the IC industry. In addition to reducing costs, these packaging enhancements will help the MEMS industry take full advantage of the market for consumer applications.
MEMS Investor Journal: What is different about MEMS packaging now than 5 years ago?
Karen Lightman: We are seeing the evolution of CMOS MEMS – which was almost heresy, if you said it 5 years ago. You are seeing convergence with the IC industry. And now MEMS reliability – a major issue 5 years ago – is no longer an issue. Today, we are talking about packaging of the devices, which shows more maturity in the industry.
MEMS Investor Journal: What would you say are the top three market opportunities for MEMS based devices right now?
Karen Lightman: We see the top markets as automotive, consumer goods and especially mobile devices, industrial and medical devices.
MEMS Investor Journal: Based on what you hear from your members, how does the current state of the overall economy affect the MEMS industry?
Karen Lightman: In our conversations with both members and industry analysts like Marlene Bourne, Yole Développement and WTC/iSuppli, we aren’t seeing the economy impacting the MEMS industry at a significant level. However, with the rise in gas prices it’s likely that costs of shipping MEMS devices will increase further squeezing device manufacturers to reduce their overall bill of materials as most, if not all, MEMS devices are shipped around the world before they are finally placed within an Apple iPhone, for example.
MEMS Investor Journal: What’s new at MEMS Industry Group? Which events do you have coming up? What are some of the companies who have joined MIG recently?
Karen Lightman: Last month we launched the MEMS Education Series. We created the series in response to demand from several constituencies –mainly management-level engineering directors looking to educate their engineering staff about the importance of business issues in the MEMS space.
Our first course, “MEMS Business and Management,” focuses on the business-side of MEMS – what are the unique issues of which MEMS managers need to be aware of? We held our inaugural short course on May 9th in conjunction with METRIC (our annual members meeting and technical conference) and we will hold a similar short course on July 18th in San Francisco at the St. Regis Hotel, in conjunction with SEMICON West.
From July 15-17, you can find us at SEMICON West in San Francisco. We’re kicking off our new marketing campaign, “MEMS in the Machine,” which showcases the pervasiveness of MEMS in numerous vertical markets. Our members have provided information on some of their most exciting customer implementations, and we have created an interactive presentation with the content. So when SEMICON West attendees come to our booth, they can “drill down” into Guitar Hero to see Freescale’s 3-axis accelerometer. They’ll be able to see the Analog Devices’ accelerometers and sensors in the Xsens Moven motion capture suit, TI’s DLP in an HD Television, STMicro’s MEMS in a miniature insulin pump from Debiotech, and much more. SEMICON West attendees will truly be able to see “the MEMS in the machine.”
And our membership is going strong. Draper Laboratories, Qualcomm, GE Sensing, Maxim, Taiwan Solutions Systems Corporation are among some of our newest members.
MEMS Investor Journal: What was the overall theme of your MEMS Executive Congress last year? What were the main takeaways from the meeting?
Karen Lightman: There were several main takeaways from our 2007 MEMS Executive Congress – where we had an overall theme focusing on the business side of MEMS:
* Software will enable MEMS to truly take off. For example, as keynote speaker Philippe Kahn said at the Congress, without software, the Apple iPhone is just a “brick.” It’s the software that brings the enabling technology to the iPhone.
* In mobile media, MEMS is integral at every level: for big-screen projection, displays, RF and more.
* In consumer goods, customers care more about performance and cost than whether it’s MEMS inside their application, so supply chain and inventory costs are extremely important. OEMs care about multiple-source suppliers because they want to reduce risk. For example, with the Nintendo Wii, both Analog Devices and STMicroelectronics provided the MEMS component technology, which ensures the integrity of the supply chain for high-volume mass-market applications. As the industry expands, there is increased opportunity for multiple-source suppliers in the market.
* In the biomedical space, MEMS applications are integral to the movement toward home health care. MEMS applications are enabling precise drug delivery systems and patient monitoring. For example, Debiotech’s Nanopump, which is being commercialized by STMicroelectronics, comes close to mirroring the physiological delivery of insulin, and it’s a quarter of the size of existing insulin pumps. Other MEMS-based home health care devices are being used to monitor heart rate and blood pressure.
MEMS Investor Journal: What is the theme for this year’s Congress? Why did you decide to focus on this topic?
Karen Lightman: For this year’s Congress, the focus will be on the convergence of MEMS technology in a growing number of applications and markets. For example, we are now seeing dozens of MEMS devices in single mobile phone –from MEMS enabled RF, silicon microphones and camera stabilization, and in the not-too-distant future, MEMS-based miniature projectors. We focused on this topic because it illustrates the pervasiveness of MEMS.
Karen Lightman became MIG’s Managing Director in June 2007. Formerly Director of Special Projects, Karen helped launch MEMS Industry Group in 2001 with Dr. Ken Gabriel. Over the past seven years, she has been critical in creating the content for the annual MEMS Executive Congress and METRIC conferences as well as sales, marketing and public relations programs. Karen's new role includes strategy, finance, and operations, including establishing and maintaining partnerships with other organizations to advance the MEMS industry.
Karen joined MIG after being the Senior Policy Analyst at Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Economic Development. Prior to Carnegie Mellon, Karen was Senior Associate at Cleveland Tomorrow, promoting public-private partnerships and private capital investment in Cleveland. Karen was also a Program Associate with the Ford Foundation, managing programs that provided significant financial assistance to catalyze development in communities around the United States.
Karen has a BA from the University of Vermont and a MS from Carnegie Mellon's H.J. Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management. Karen is also a mom to two great little girls.