One year after announcing the commercialization program of CEA-Leti's MEMS and NEMS technologies, MEMS foundry Tronics has successfully designed and manufactured the first batch of the six degree-of-freedom (6DOF) MEMS motion sensor chips based on the piezoresistive nanowire technology, with three accelerometers and three gyroscopes on a single die. With a reported die size of less than 4 mm2, the company claims that its 6DOF MEMS chip is one of the smallest in the industry, and further optimization will make it the smallest.
According to Tronics, besides the chip's size advantage, the piezoresistive nanowire technology significantly decreases power consumption and allows manufacturing of all sensor types (accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, pressure sensors and microphones) using a common process flow.
Tronics said that it used its know-how in DRIE, wafer bonding and wafer level packaging to design a manufacturable process flow that combines traditional inertial MEMS blocks and sub-micron processing technology. According to the company, with the delivery of these chips, the main technical challenges linked to the manufacturing of the piezoresistive nanowires have been successfully addressed.
Tronics said that the initial performance results are very promising. The sensitivity, power consumption, and noise characteristics are in line with the design models. This first functional batch is an important milestone towards high volume production. The commercialization work will continue through 2014, with the first commercial samples available in Q4 2014. An ASIC is also being designed and will be available in 2014 to complete the sensor platform.
In addition to the 6DOF device, Tronics said that it has also designed a compact 9DOF monolithic MEMS chip. Samples will be available by the end of this year. Tronics will manufacture medium and large volumes in its European (Grenoble, France) and US (Dallas, Texas) wafer fabs, and will partner with external foundries for manufacturing at very high volumes needed for the consumer electronics market.
Tronics said that the ideal applications for this new generation of inertial devices are those where size and power are especially important. Such applications include wearable devices, smartphones and tablets. "This is a major step in the execution of our strategy to offer innovative technologies for consumer products with the intent to give IDMs and OEMs access to state of the art inertial solutions in terms of process technology, size, power consumption and performance. Tronics is delighted to have already partnered with a leading customer and we are very pleased to dramatically reduce time to market and enable superior end product performance," said Pascal Langlois, CEO of Tronics Group.
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