As the world continues to recover from the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraged by the outlook for the MEMS industry and for memsstar’s business. We closed our fiscal year at the end of December, and results for both our remanufactured equipment business and our ORBIS™ systems for volume MEMS production were strong. Moreover, 2023 got off to a flying start in terms of orders, with a solid backlog.
The MEMS market itself is healthy, thanks to demand from the automotive, industrial, healthcare and other key end markets whose requirements for MEMS and sensor content continue to accelerate. One key factor is the rising use of automation, for which MEMS devices are vital due to their affordability, high precision and robustness, as well as their small size. MEMS and sensors are also affordable to manufacture and offer lower implementation costs, as they can increasingly be soldered directly to a circuit board. Research firm Report Linker has predicted that the global market for sensors and MEMS will experience a CAGR of 8.4% between 2022 and 2028, reaching US$131.8 billion by 2028.
With that said, the semiconductor industry is likely to see an overall slowdown this year, as material and supply delivery times continue to lag. However, the industry is starting to catch up, and we expect to begin seeing overcapacity in some areas as the year progresses. For memsstar’s part, slowdowns aren’t necessarily bad news. Despite some challenges, we tend to do well during a downturn, particularly our semiconductor equipment remanufacturing business.
ORBIS™ going strong
On the MEMS production side, our ORBIS™ platforms continue to do well. In the past year, we have sold a number of our fully automated ORBIS 3000 systems to manufacturers throughout Europe and Asia, while the balance of ORBIS orders have been for our ALPHA oxide and silicon etch R&D platform. Our market share for advanced MEMS has increased due to increase in applications for more advanced MEMS that require higher process performance. Currently, high-volume manufacturing (HVM) for MEMS and silicon differ greatly; with many types of MEMS available, having a flexible system is key, since one size doesn’t fit all.
With that said, finding a CMOS application that involves CMOS-type wafer throughputs for MEMS would be ideal. The convergence of CMOS and MEMS is, in many ways, the golden egg being sought to improve MEMS performance, as well as enable smaller packages and lower packaging costs. There are some practical challenges to overcome in CMOS-MEMS integration– in particular, the technologies’ opposing process requirements. Unlike CMOS, MEMS processes require high temperatures and thick layers, some of which are sacrificed to allow the MEMS devices to move.
Researchers continue to investigate approaches to CMOS-MEMS integration, such as depositing compound semiconductor materials like silicon germanium (SiGe) onto CMOS to create a MEMS material. We look forward to seeing new CMOS-MEMS devices emerge in the not-too-distant future and to the new business opportunities they will afford for memsstar and our advanced ORBIS platforms, as well as our XERIC™ oxide and silicon etch production systems.