The SAES® Getters Group, world leader in getter technology for high vacuum applications, and STMicroelectronics, a leader in the manufacture and sale of MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) devices, have signed a co-operation agreement that will support development and production of next-generation MEMS gyroscopes. STMicroelectronics’ gyroscopes will integrate SAES’ PageWafer®, the most advanced getter thin-film solution for high vacuum maintenance in wafer-level packaged MEMS, to deliver higher device sensitivity and stability.
Integrated circuits containing MEMS are revolutionizing the semiconductor industry by exploiting both the unique electrical and outstanding mechanical properties of silicon. While the electrical properties have served as the foundation of the semiconductor business for the past 40-50 years, exploiting silicon’s mechanical properties is a relatively recent phenomenon. And MEMS gyroscopes, smaller than the diameter of a human hair, are a relatively new frontier.
The new gyroscopes – devices that measure angular speeds – will complement ST’s portfolio of two- and three-axis MEMS accelerometers to offer customers a complete inertial sensor platform. Combining small size, high sensitivity and low power consumption, ST’s MEMS gyro will enable new uses for a wide range of consumer applications such as mobile phones, portable devices, MP3/MP4 players, PDAs, gaming and navigation devices. ST expects to ramp to industrial volume production in the first half of 2008.
The gyroscope market is growing fast in a number of application segments. In addition to automotive electronic stability systems and GPS receivers, industry analysts predict MEMS gyroscopes will take off in the consumer segment, including motion-user interfaces in portable communication devices and image stabilizers in camcorders and digital cameras. Analysts expect the total available market for MEMS gyroscopes to triple in the next five years, from $400 million in 2006 to more than $1.2 billion in 2012.
In November 2006, STMicroelectronics inaugurated a new state-of-the-art 200mm (8-inch) semiconductor wafer fabrication line at Agrate, in the Milan area, dedicated to MEMS devices. ST’s first-generation gyroscopes, which are currently under pilot production and qualification, will share this production line with its range of linear accelerometers.
SAES has recently upgraded its PageWafer production line at its headquarters in Lainate, to process 8-inch size wafers, in addition to the already available 4-, 5- and 6-inch format process. SAES’ 8-inch wafer processing line became fully operative for industrial volume production at the end of 2006 and is already serving ST’s 8-inch wafer line.
PageWafer has been engineered by the SAES Getters Group to guarantee long-term stability to a vacuum or an inert gas atmosphere in wafer-to-wafer hermetically bonded MEMS devices. It consists of a wafer with a patterned getter film, a few microns thick, that is placed onto specific cavities, defined in shape and depth according to customer requirements. By acting as the cap wafer of the MEMS package, PageWafer provides maximized sorption of all active gases like H2O, O2, CO, CO2, N2 and H2, thus increasing the device reliability and lifetime.
Distinctive advantages of the getter film technology integration into large substrates, such as the 8-inch format, are pressure distribution uniformity and substantial reduction of process time.
In addition to supplying PageWafer technology, SAES Getters will support STMicroelectronics with technological consulting for the hermetic package design and characterization, as far as vacuum requirement definition, and it will also provide outgassing and residual gas-analysis service.
“We are particularly pleased with the partnership with such a key player in the MEMS global market as STMicroelectronics is,” commented Marco Moraja, Getters for MEMS Business Development Manager at SAES Getters. “The market for MEMS motion sensors in consumer electronics is one of our most challenging targets and the integration of PageWafer technology into STMicroelectronics' advanced MEMS gyroscopes surely represents an important qualification of our getter film products for use in these MEMS applications, in addition to the demanding applications in the automotive industry that we already serve.”
“ST has a long and successful history in partnering with leaders such as SAES Getters,” said Benedetto Vigna, General Manager of STMicroelectronics’ MEMS Product Division. “The integration of SAES’ expertise in getter film technology into ST’s industry-leading MEMS technology will ensure that ST’s customers get the finest quality in MEMS gyroscopes, an area that offers a significant opportunity for ST to further expand its fast growing MEMS business.”