Horizon Microtechnologies has pioneered a template-based 3D microfabrication technology that enhances the functionality of plastic micro-AM components, finding significant applications in the realm of micro electrical-mechanical systems (MEMS) packaging. The MEMS device market is experiencing rapid growth, attributed to the devices’ numerous benefits, including small size, low power consumption, and high reliability. This expansion is primarily driven by the escalating demand for miniaturization as electronic devices continually decrease in size.
The increasing popularity of wearable electronics has led to a rising need for smaller, more versatile MEMS devices. “MEMS devices are also benefiting from the increasing demands for reliability and safety in electronic systems. With the ever-growing range of applications that MEMS are considered for, there is also a growing need for components that can withstand harsh environments or extreme conditions, fit a small form factor, and operate reliably. MEMS devices need housings for a variety of reasons, and these housings are an essential part of the system since they constitute the interface of the actual MEMS to the rest of the device and the rest of the world,” said Andreas Frölich, CEO of Horizon.
Housing for MEMS devices serves multiple purposes, including protecting delicate components from physical damage and preventing dust or contaminants from interfering with device operation. Additionally, housing must accommodate everything the MEMS device requires to function, such as electrical power, light, radio signals, or other media. Housing also enables the device to be securely attached to larger systems, like printed circuit boards or chips. In some cases, housing must also dissipate heat generated by the device or provide electromagnetic shielding for protection against interference.
Horizon recognizes that utilizing AM for MEMS housings presents numerous opportunities for manufacturers. AM provides substantial design freedom, enabling the creation of intricate shapes that are challenging to produce through traditional machining methods. Moreover, micro-AM can create precise, micrometer-scale features critical for MEMS and optics applications.
Horizon offers an in-house post-build coating technology that further expands the possibilities provided by micro-AM-produced MEMS packaging. This technology enhances functionality by introducing conductivity and environmental resistance. After producing the part on a polymer-AM platform, Horizon coats it either wholly or selectively with a conductive layer – achieving homogeneous coverage even in challenging areas such as long, narrow channels and undercuts. Furthermore, microfabricated 3D templates can be coated with metal oxides to ensure compatibility with aggressive chemical environments and, in some cases, significantly increase resistance to high temperatures and mechanical stresses.
“While additive manufacturing is not typically considered a mass-production technology, the reduction in the size of electronics and optics – and the accompanying shrinkage of packaging – has made micro-AM a viable production alternative for MEMS housings for small to medium batch sizes. In addition to the precision offered by micro-AM, and the ability to build geometrically complex housings, an intelligent use of our post-processes can increase the functionality of the packaging, for example by reducing stray light in the infrared, having integrated electrical conductors, or making an off-the-shelf MEMS system usable in a harsh environment by adapting the right packaging,” continued Frölich.