Menlo Micro’s Digital-Micro-Switch (DMS) technology incorporating Corning’s TGV technology is ready to ramp up production in partnership with foundry Silex Microsystems

By Alex Pluemer, contributing
writer

Menlo
Micro
has announced that its new Digital-Micro-Switch (DMS) technology
platform, demoed in June 2018, has moved from
research and development into production at pure-play MEMS foundry Silicon
Microsystems. The company is now producing samples of its new microelectromechanical
(MEMS) switches on an 8-inch wafer manufacturing line and expects to scale up
production by the end of the year.

The DMS technology
incorporates through-glass-via (TGV) technology from Corning Inc. The TGV
packaging technology is a major factor in the increased performance offered by
Menlo’s DMS products. Package parasitics are reduced by more than 75% by
replacing wire bonds with metallized vias — a change that also provides support
for the increasingly higher frequencies required by communications systems,
test instrumentation, and a variety of defense and aerospace applications. Using
glass instead of conventional substrate materials (such as silicon) reduces RF
losses and enables higher linearity, further lowering power consumption and
increasing overall efficiency.

The company’s
switches are built in a structure that is smaller than a single human hair but
can handle kilowatts of power while operating up to 1,000× faster and for 1,000×
longer than conventional mechanical relays.

Menlo has taken
advantage of advancements in processing, packaging, and advanced alloys to
reduce the size of its components by as much as 60% compared to their
predecessors. The company’s own material science innovations have simplified
the manufacturing process to the extent that Menlo implements 30% to 40% fewer
manufacturing steps than conventional CMOS processes, which helps to reduce
manufacturing costs. Menlo transferred its DMS process, developed at GE Global
Research, to Silex Microsystems.

“In less than two
years, we’ve been able to successfully transition our robust and reliable MEMS
switch process from a research environment to a true production fab,” said Chris
Keimel, CTO for Menlo Micro, in a statement. “In this period of time, we have
also achieved several key technical milestones — most notably, the integration
of Corning’s TGV substrates with Menlo’s MEMS switch process to deliver a
miniaturized, chip-scale-package solution for our products. Scaling the process
to an 8-inch production line is a significant step that brings size, cost,
performance, and manufacturability improvements to Menlo’s DMS products — and
demonstrates that the technology can, indeed, be scaled to commercial levels.”

Menlo
has already shipped over 100,000 units from its existing manufacturing line.
The company, in collaboration with Corning and Silex, plans to scale up
production to bring its high-performance RF and power products into a wider
variety of end markets. The new MEMS switches will bring step-function
performance improvement to applications such as industrial automation, test and
measurement instrumentation, military communications, medical equipment, and 5G
networks, said the company.