Chris Melkonian of Midwest MicroDevices took some time to chat with MEMS Industry Group
Q: It’s our round – what are you having?
A: It's winter here in northern Ohio, and we just got done digging out from our latest Mega snowstorm, so I’d say we are ready for a Great Lakes Brewing company Christmas Ale, proudly brewed in Cleveland OH.
Some people may be wondering, what is a MEMS foundry doing in the middle of the country, far from the warm and sunny beaches of California? As part of the world center of expertise in rapid prototyping, Midwest Microdevices has been in Toledo since 2004, leveraging the knowledge of the great research universities around us. We enjoy an exceptionally well-trained workforce and offer customers access to our materials knowledge, rapid cycle times, and fabrication expertise.
Speed is everything in developing products for the Internet of Things. For the past decade Midwest MicroDevices has demonstrated that it is cheaper and faster to move out of a vertically integrated MEMS lab and leverage our company’s knowledge of materials processing. Our willingness and expertise in working with alternative materials such as gold, platinum, silver, bismuth and antimony, as well as specialty substrates like SOS, SOI, glass, quartz, and flexible substrates, helps our customer’s create next generation, cutting edge MEMS devices.
Q: A great picture is worth a thousand words – please show us yours.
Q: What’s hot in MEMS and sensors and what is your company’s role in it?
A: Consumer driven demand for mobile technology started the race, but now the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is sustaining it. The demand for ever smaller and cheaper sensor devices of all kinds, in all things, and in all industries, has accelerated adoption of MEMS solutions.
As a world class MEMS contract foundry, Midwest MicroDevices produces no products of its own, i.e. we are a Pure Play foundry. Unlike many of our competitors, who sell MEMS foundry services as a way to offset their high overhead costs, our foundry was designed from the ground up for this one purpose. This makes Midwest MicroDevices an ideal partner for the growing number of fabless MEMS device designers and manufacturers. Midwest MicroDevices’ investment in automation and MEMS specific processes, combined with our low overhead and skilled workforce advantages, positions us to support the increasing number of device manufacturers, both efficiently and cost effectively.
Q: Where is the MEMS and sensors industry heading, and how are you engaging the MEMS and sensors supply chain?
A: Based on everything we see the consumer mobile device market is the main driver of the MEMS industry today, and the IOT (Internet of Things) will obviously greatly expand on this growth.
As a contract fabricator of MEMS devices, MMD is directly involved in this effort working with the “High Value” and “Emerging” MEMS products being developed and manufactured today.
Q: We’re giving you a ‘mulligan’ – what would you do over?
A: Hindsight is always 20/20. When we started MMD slightly more than 10 years ago we thought we wanted to be a general service MEMS contract fabricator, looking for any and all MEMS applications, hoping all the while that one or more opportunities would prove to be that silver bullet that would grow our young company at the rate we were seeking. But through the years we have come to understand that most high volume silver bullet products are going to be serviced by existing, large multinational MEMS foundries who can handle that type of extreme growth and the necessary economies of scale. MMD's focus today is instead on the growing “Emerging” MEMS market with its lower volumes, but higher value solutions. This is what we are good at and where we feel we can shine.
Q: What is the biggest hurdle limiting MEMS commercialization?
A: There exists today a very wide gap between the necessary initial development of new MEMS devices and their full scale commercialization. The lack of commercial MEMS production facilities that are willing to get involved in the low volume and emerging MEMS market is hampering the growth of many new and exciting MEMS devices. MMD is positioned specifically to bridge this gap. We do this by leveraging our 10-plus years of experience in building a wide range of specialty MEMS devices. By using our extensive MEMS fabrication experience we have repeatedly lowered our customer’s overall investment costs, increased their product yields, and helped them come to market more quickly.
And for those occasions when our customer’s success leads to product demand that threatens to exceed our current capabilities, MMD has forged long term partnerships with world class high volume commercial foundries to help them make a seamless transition to high volume MEMS manufacturing.
Q: What are one or two MEMS and sensors products you can’t live without and why?
A: As a leader of a high technology company my personal mobile device is indispensable. As we all know, the current mobile phone device incorporates a number of key MEMS technologies, from cameras and video recorders, to global positioning and location capabilities. These amazing devices would not be possible without the innovations coming as a result of MEMS manufacturing.
Q: What are the MEMS and sensors products you can’t wait to see?
A: Personally, I’d like to see the promise of round-the-clock personalized medical health monitoring for all ages. I have an aging parent who wants to remain independent but suffers from ongoing medical issues. It would be a big relief to know that she has remote monitoring of her health and automatic emergency intervention should she need it. But there is also no heartbreak like that of a son or daughter who suddenly develops Stage Four cancer or electrical failure of the heart before anyone saw it coming. MEMS will grant us all the advantages of early detection and intervention, whatever the patient’s age.
Some of this is happening today, of course, but the ever-shrinking size and cost of the specialty medical sensors needed to make this remote monitoring health service economical for every situation is one of the drivers of our business.
Q: Anything special you wish to comment on to the MIG newsletter audience?
A: For more than ten years, Midwest MicroDevices has been providing an extensive range of contract manufacturing services for ever more advanced MEMS devices to the aerospace and defense, electronic instrumentation, automotive aftermarket, biomedical, and high-end communications customer markets. All these technologies are moving so fast, by the time an OEM implements MEMS fabrication they are often being left behind. That’s why so many leaders in the field choose an independent foundry with a track record like Midwest MicroDevices.
For more on Midwest MicroDevices’ capabilities, please visit http://midwestmicrodevices.com.