Microtech2010 2010

Challenges and New Strategies for Inertial MEMS Testing

L. Zana, M. Tschirky
Acutronic, US

Keywords: MEMS, inertial sensors


New micro–electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)-enabled applications have spawned a large growth in the MEMS industry. One of the highest growth areas is a class of devices known as inertial sensors. The pervasive nature of MEMS inertial sensors is illustrated by new applications in mobile phones, motion-enabled gaming devices, digital still cameras, notebook computers, and automobiles, to name just a few. There is a clear trend in the MEMS industry toward fab-less companies and outsourcing. In addition to fabrication, the outsourcing trend is growing in all aspects of MEMS design, development, and test as well. The motivation for this is three-fold: i) the nature of MEMS testing, ii) the challenges of MEMS testing (especially inertial), and iii) the high cost of setup for a MEMS test facility. i) Whereas traditional semiconductor devices can use a single generic tester for a wide variety of tests, MEMS devices require a physical stimulus (e.g., precision movement in the case of inertial sensors). This means there is no one test system that can handle functional testing for all MEMS devices. Each class of device not only needs a test system capable of providing the required stimuli, but the test equipment designer must also understand the physics of the stimulus, how it affects the device, and how to interpret the resulting measurements. It is a significant challenge to perform dynamic testing. For many MEMS companies, this expertise either does not exist in-house, or the company cannot afford to dedicate scarce resources to the design and maintenance of test equipment. ii) Inertial sensor testing presents many challenges, including fixturing, temperature control, motion stimulus, cross axis coupling (multiple degrees-of-freedom), slip rings, device calibration, device effects, sensor alignment, sensor position offsets (relative to center of rotation), test protocols / algorithms, data acquisition, data analysis, off-axis compensation, parasitic effect compensation, sensor + table data, data management. ii) It can typically require 12–18 months to design, develop, test, debug, and validate test facility at a total cost of $500K to $2M. One MEMS inertial sensing company spent the last three years developing their test own equipment. Another has estimated a cost of $1M to $2M to setup a test facility for a new MEMS gyro sensor. ACUTRONIC offers an alternative, two-fold approach to address these challenges: a test facility offering turnkey and customized inertial testing services and turnkey inertial test equipment for in-house development and production. This approach provides continuity across the entire product life-cycle.
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