Microdevice Manufacturing Technologies
Microdevice manufacturing technologies have the long-term potential to change and influence many areas. Many machine tools can be significantly improved with better sensors and finer control over tiny details. By creating tiny devices, microdevice manufacturing technologies may make possible new classes of much lighter satellites.
Many microsensors, including biosensors and chemical sensors, have the potential to be mass produced once the individual steps are created. Thus, microfabrication techniques have become very important to sensor technology as miniaturized, integrated systems have become possible. New instruments, such as ever finer atomic force microscopes and derived instruments, involve such technologies and create improvements to infrastructure for world class science. In the longer term, there is a possibility of creating integrated computers and small machines for a variety of applications.
Many of the applications described above would be useful for both commercial and military purposes.
The United States is the world leader in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)--miniature mechanical devices integrated with microelectronic devices on the same substrate. Japan and Europe (Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) all have MEMS R&D programs, with Japan's being the largest. Much of the Japanese research is geared toward medical and industrial microdevice applications. MEMS is not limited to silicon micromachining but may also include metallic and polymeric micromachining technologies as well as other microelectronic fabrication techniques.