MEMS Packaging Issues
Miwako Waga (Director, Global Emerging Technology Institute)
While MEMS holds great promise for the development of radically innovative systems, cost-effective packaging solutions must be established in order to realize the full potential of this enabling technology. Usually MEMS devices require customized packaging solutions specific to the target application. They consist of delicate micro-structures such as thin beams and diaphragms, making the packaging of these devices an expensive, challenging task. Industry experts say that packaging can account for 70-80% of the total cost of a MEMS component.
The challenge of reducing costs presents opportunities for research and business development. Promising solutions were discussed by several specialists at the recently held International Conference on Electronics Packaging (ICEP 2002) in Tokyo.
Microelectronics packaging provides the technological base for most future device packaging, whether it be in electronics, optical/photonics, sensors, MEMS or biological devices, according to Charles Bauer, president of the International Microelectronics And Packaging Society (iMAPS). Issues relating to the manufacturability, standardization, and reliability of such packaging must be addressed in order for widespread, cost-effective deployment, he added.
MEMS packaging would provide new, niche market opportunities for small, low-volume packaging companies, according to a spokesman from Taiwan. For the IC industry in Taiwan, where more than 200 IC companies do business and where over 75% of the world IC foundry revenues are concentrated, it is crucial to remain competitive by allocating resources to advanced technologies while constantly reducing production costs and exploring new market opportunities. The Industrial Technology Research Institute develops packaging technology and facilitates the transfer of such knowledge to industry. ITRI has served as the catalyst toward the establishment of several new MEMS businesses in Taiwan in recent years.
Singapore's strategy in advanced packaging is to develop the so-called "Multifunctional System in Package" over a 5-6 year period. Singapore universities and research institutes are very well positioned to develop the building blocks necessary to achieve such a goal. The Institute of Microelectronics is expected to play a central role in addressing some of the challenges in the area of MEMS packaging.
Overall, conference participants made two points clear. First, it is important to develop microelectronic packaging expertise in order to address the MEMS packaging challenge. Ideally, a mission-oriented team of device and system designers, process engineers, packaging engineers, and even materials scientists should be formed in order to effectively incorporate packaging expertise into the product development cycle. At the very least, increased communication between MEMS researchers and electronic packaging specialists should be encouraged. Secondly, priority has been given to government-industry cooperation in some countries in regard to moving up the value-added chain of production. Singapore and Taiwan have been making coordinated efforts to develop competencies in "system in package" capabilities that include the integration of electronic, photonic, MEMS, and other components into a small form factor. The government has played an important role in relation to the above, since it is imperative for these economies to move up the value-added chain of development in order to remain internationally competitive. These coordinated efforts in various countries are clearly producing results, and should continue to deserve more serious attention.