Monday, August 08, 2005

"NANOTECH: MEMS spinoff joins medical, consumer drive"

Joining a lengthening line of large companies that have spun out entities with a MEMS focus, sensor vendor Robert Bosch GmbH has formed a subsidiary to centralize its microelectromechanical systems activities. Bosch Sensortec (Kusterdingen, Germany) will not compete with such MEMS giants as Analog Devices Inc. and Motorola Inc., which are mainly addressing the much larger automotive market, using MEMS for use in airbags and anti-lock brakes. Instead, Bosch Sensortec will concentrate on the emerging consumer and medical MEMS-chip markets. In doing so, the startup will compete with young companies like Kionix Inc., Cornell University's commercial MEMS licensee. Earlier this year, Kionix claimed the world's smallest triaxis accelerometer, which measures just 5 x 5 x 1.2 mm. Bosch Sensortec's own first product is also a triaxial accelerometer for consumer and medical applications, measuring 6 x 6 x 1.45 mm. Based on 17 years of MEMS development at Robert Bosch (Stuttgart, Germany), Sensortec's offering uses a high-aspect-ratio, deep-reactive ion-etching process. Bosch Senortech joins other large companies that have spun off MEMS enterprises in recent years, including Freescale Semiconductor, which last year was spun out from Motorola and includes a MEMS division. In 2003, Infineon Technologies acquired SensoNor; in 2002, GE bought NovaSensor. Some large companies are targeting the consumer and medical markets specifically. One of those is Oki Electric Industries Co. Ltd., which has announced a triaxial accelerometer measuring just 5 x 5 x 1.4 mm.