STMicroelectronics, a leading supplier of MEMS devices for consumer and portable applications, is significantly increasing its MEMS production capacity to more than 3 million sensors a day, by the end of 2011 to sustain exploding customer demand for high-performance, cost-competitive sensing devices. "We are leading the MEMS consumer revolution and our mission is to continue to lead the market," said Benedetto Vigna, Group Vice President and General Manager of ST's MEMS, Sensors and High Performance Analog Division. "We are beefing up our manufacturing machine to anticipate and encourage the adoption of MEMS into such high-growth markets as healthcare, industrial and automotive. ST is well-positioned to make micro-machined sensors ubiquitous in all domains of life."
In 2006, ST was reportedly the first major manufacturer in the world to start producing MEMS devices on 8-inch silicon wafers. This move has significantly reduced unit costs and accelerated both the expansion of existing applications and the development of new MEMS markets. Main manufacturing facilities, where ST MEMS are produced, include Agrate and Catania, Italy (sensor fabrication), Rousset and Crolles, France (logic die production), and Kirkop, Malta and Calamba, Philippines (assembly and testing). In 2010, the company's net revenues were $10.35 billion.
ST's MEMS sensor production benefits from the company's unique manufacturing processes. The THELMA (Thick Epi-Poly Layer for Microactuators and Accelerometers) surface micro-machining process, which combines variably thick and thin poly-silicon layers for structures and interconnections, is used for manufacturing both accelerometers and gyroscopes. This enables the integration of linear and angular mechanical elements in a single chip, delivering cost and size benefits to customers. The complementary VENSENS ("Venice Sensor") process allows the integration of a cavity into mono-crystalline silicon, producing an ultra-compact pressure sensor.
The capability of handling high throughput has become one of the major challenges in sustaining MEMS demand growth and a key to success for MEMS manufacturers. According to the company, ST's MEMS assembly and testing platform is capable of handling both the large number of sensor devices in parallel and generating constant and repeatable test stimuli for each single device, therefore increasing the total productivity.
To date, ST's MEMS sensors have enabled motion-activated user interfaces in a number of consumer devices, including smart phones, tablets, personal media players, game consoles, digital still cameras and remotes. Computer manufacturers widely use the company's acceleration sensors for free-fall protection in laptop hard-disk drives and car equipment makers integrate ST's MEMS in applications such as airbags and enhanced navigation systems.