MEMS processing equipment is used to create micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) sensors and wafers. MEMS processing equipment includes machinery and systems for the fabrication and micro-machining of MEMS devices typically used in semiconductor materials processing. Wafer processing equipment makes micro-electro-mechanical systems through bulk or surface micromachining. Bulk micromachining involves etching a structure into the silicon wafer substrate. Surface micromachining involves depositing and etching layers one on top of another.
MEMS processing equipment may be used in commercial semiconductor manufacturing or university laboratory settings, wafer fabrication facilities, and MEMS research and development facilities. MEMS processing equipment includes silicon etching tools, wafer grinders, lapping and polishing machinery, and planarization equipment. MEMS production equipment is used to manufacture a wide variety of MEMS sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes used in inertial sensing applications, such as indicators to control the deployment of vehicle airbags. Geophones are another type of MEMS sensor. A geophone is used in seismic sensing applications or to monitor the vibration of machinery and predict component failures. MEMS sensors are also used in pacemakers and pressure and temperature sensors.
Wafer fabrication involves creating thin wafers from silicon crystals grown specifically for use in semiconductor manufacturing. MEMS wafers consist of a layer of silicon or other substrate that is built up layer by layer and etched using photolithography, a wet etching process that uses an acid, or a dry etching method that may use an ionized gas or plasma to shape the micro machine on the wafer. MEMS processing equipment can create all kinds of complex structures, including components that have moving parts or can incorporate optical devices. MEMS processing equipment is used to make other types of micro machines, including optical switches, inkjet print heads, and actuators for operating read/write components. Suppliers of MEMS processing equipment conform to a variety of quality standards and are located across the United States and around the world.