Writer - Gastautor - Gast Schrijver
Services and Infrastructure
for Nano- and Microproduction
& Henne van Heeren (NL)
readers know that a large number of applications and markets
could be served by products based on the various micro nano
technologies (MNT). However, the variety of MNT manufacturing
technologies also poses a threat to the commercial breakthrough
of MNT. With so many technologies available, most of them not
yet standardised, and non-availability of standard equipment
for several of them, how can MNT become commercially successful?
certain high-volume markets, such as automotive, computer
peripherals, and communications, the advantages of MNT were
able to overcome the problems that follow technological diversification.
The authors believe that only a good infrastructure of design
houses, foundries, package/assembly providers and equipment
suppliers is able to satisfy the demand in design, prototyping,
and (mass-) production in all the MNT fields. This infrastructure
is needed to provide an efficient route to commercialisation.
Services and infrastructure needed for the commercialisation
and Design Houses play a major role in the supply chain. Foundries,
provide the infrastructure to prototype, fabricate and mass-produce
the designs emanating from the design houses and other companies.
The reason for the customers to rely on foundries can be diverse:
ranging from pure financial reasons (investment, cost-price)
to technical (availability of required technology). The desire
to have a second source of supply can also be a reason for outsourcing.
A ‘fabless’ design house can generally be described as the catalyst
that enables ideas or concepts to migrate towards commercialisation.
In this context, the fabless design organisation manages the
process of technology transfer from R&D to a production
suppliers are another, often not very visible, part of the
infrastructure. Although the diversity in packaging and assembly
for MST/MEMS is notably high, they can be classified into
the following four generic groups:
• Standard available packaging and assembly technologies.
Techniques, which can only be used in a limited number of
cases, often hindered by the (mechanical) sensitivity of
the product, the small dimensions or the special demands
in the field of interconnections with the outer world.
• Specialised assembly, often with special technologies
ensuring ultra precise positioning and/or very careful handling.
• Adapted standard packaging, where use is made of the cost
effective and high quality processing capabilities established
for the high-volume electronics industry. The main trend
here is to use a die protecting method during plastic moulding.
Closure for sealing the package is achieved afterwards.
The lid can be used to accommodate feed troughs for optical
or fluidics access.
• Waferscale package. This method promises a, potentially,
low cost solution which circumvents problems associated
with handling sensitive products in an assembly line, by
providing protection at an early stage of the processing.
the professional infrastructure are the equipment and material
suppliers. The emerging markets for MST/MEMS (Micro Systems
Technologies / Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) products
have created a demand for specialised equipment. The first
to fulfil that demand were suppliers of dedicated MST/MEMS
tools including Deep Reactive Ion Etchers (DRIE), waferbonders
and backside aligners. Those companies (STS, Aldixen, AML,
EV Group and Suss Microtec) are still in the forefront of
this market. Spin-offs from universities were started to fulfil
(niche) demands, whilst established companies entered this
arena at a later stage, offering adapted processing tools
developed for other industries, such as, those specialising
in thin film processing. More interestingly, even the (large)
semiconductor equipment manufacturers have begun to show an
interest. Within this context, there is now available a mixture
of general equipment facilities, designed and developed for
other applications such as semiconductors and also equipment
adapted or specially tailored for Micro-Nano Technologies
(MNT) production. It is noticeable that, although Europe (particularly
Germany) is relatively strong in the area of MNT Back End
equipment, the presence of European manufacturers is less
impressive in Front End equipment production and almost non-existent
in the area of nanotechnology.
Suppliers of MNT production equipment
nanotechnologies are taken into account to
be used with microproduction, the manufacturing technologies
become even more diverse. To investigate the market and distinguish
trends, the authors categorised the production processes for
nanotechnology-based products into four areas (Fig. 3):
down nanotechnology: Top down nanotechnology is mainly based
on processes and equipment for high-end lithography and
similar equipment. Technologies and equipment are aiming
at producing large quantities of products, mostly on flat
• Bottom up technologies: Bottom up technology involves
the building up of nanotechnology products from atom level,
by either mechanical manipulation (using Scanning Probe
Microscopes) or with molecules assembling other molecules
(Molecular Self Assembly).
• Nanoparticle production: In nanoparticle production extended
traditional physical and chemical methods are utilised to
create particles with smaller sizes and special properties.
• Nanotube production processes. Nanotubes are seen as a
very promising material due to its unique properties.
should be noted that the top down and bottom up approach (except
Molecular Self Assembly) are mostly equipment oriented. Molecular
Self Assembly, nanoparticle and nanotube production are much
more process oriented. Top-down and bottom-up nanotechnology
equipment benefit from the equipment infrastructure for semiconductor
lithography and deposition and the ample availability of Scanning
Probe Microscopes. Most of the development of processes for
the production of nanoparticles is done in-house. The equipment
market for nanoparticle production is not well developed,
although it benefits from knowledge from the chemical/physical
process equipment market.
of MNT based products is growing in a number of application
and markets, ranging from life science to telecommunications.
Besides a few notable exceptions, the MNT market is still
a sum of niche markets. There is a general consensus that
the overall market will grow, but that commercialisation will
take longer than was anticipated a few years ago.
still remains a bottleneck introduced, belatedly, at the end
of the design cycle, and often delaying or even preventing
industrialisation and commercialisation. It is well known
that selecting the appropriate packaging method may be the
decisive factor that determines a product’s success or its
premature failure. Choosing the right technology, therefore,
is not a marginal concern, but pivotal to the product design.
The existence of professional suppliers of packaging and assembly
is an essential element in the supply chain and critical for
the manufacturing and commercialisation of MNT-based products.
In addition, the incorporation of packaging and assembly techniques
at the front-end of the engineering cycle will pay back in
terms of financial savings and shorter timescales to market.
Methodologies for a ‘design for micro nano manufacturing’
approach are under development.
working in the field of nanotechnology aim at the extension
of semiconductor equipment to suit the market needs (the so-called
“top down” approach). Also several companies are offering
equipment based on chemical and physical processes for the
production of small particles and nanotubes. The “bottom up”
approach, aiming to build nanotechnology products practically
atom by atom, is less prevalent. There is an ample supply
of Scanning Probe Microscopy based tools, but such instruments
are not yet able to combine nanotechnology precision with
industrial volume demand. Processes for molecular self-assembly,
which are potentially more suitable for economical mass production,
are still in development and far from industrialisation.
as a whole could benefit from exchange of information and
consensus over process and product specifications and related
equipment specifications. It is however unlikely that industry
wide roadmaps will play a role similar to the one played for
the semiconductor industry. This is due to the fact that there
is no MNT equivalent to the transistor and it is not to be
expected there will be one. It is more likely, however, that
application roadmaps will extend their influence into the
MNT arena. In essence, the customers and the end users will
determinate the roadmap and not the (equipment) suppliers.
This will undoubtedly lead to a more diverse set of processes,
equipment and standards in MNT as compared to semiconductors.
A situation that is likely to create a much wider range of
opportunities for smaller (equipment and material) suppliers,
as long as they are able to combine flexibility with quality
and staying power. However this lack of commonly shared technology
platforms is a serious threat to the realisation of reliable
and low cost products.
to the availability of a services infrastructure, the availability
of a wide ranging, industry-based intelligence information
is of vital importance in order to optimally select from this
array of enabling capabilities. This array of information
is provided through the enablingMNT Industry Review series:
Design and Engineering Companies, Foundries, Packaging and
Assembly Suppliers, Equipment Suppliers (MEMS Front-End, Back-End,
Nanofabrication), MNT Web Directories / On-line Communication
Channels, and Materials for MST/MEMS Production. Reports on
Test and Measurement Services & Equipment and Design Tools
are underway. All reviews cover worldwide activities and sell
at € 280 each.
research and consulting services offered by enablingMNT range
from market research, business development support and partner
search for industrial customers to benchmarking and exploitation
strategy development for public bodies.
Patric Salomon, Germany
Henne van Heeren, The Netherlands
© 2004 Patric Salomon
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