MEMS design for an accelerometer which was created with the new design tool developed by IMMS. Photograph: IMMS.
MEMS design for an accelerometer which was created with the new design tool developed by IMMS. Photograph: IMMS.


Schematic-Based Design of MEMS for Applications in Optics and Robotics

The IMMS tool automatically generates mechanical designs. MEMS can be simulated and verified as an entire system.

MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) are one of the keys to innovative manufacture of plant and equipment. As such, they are an element of the Industry 4.0 strategic project. MEMS are being developed at enormous rates with quantities and revenues going into the billions worldwide. One of the aims of the MEMS2015 project was the combination and harmonisation of the design process for the mechanical and the electronic components of MEMS. A newly developed type of comprehensive design methodology can be expected to enable SMEs to compose their own individual, tailor-made solutions using a flexible MEMS and electronics construction kit so that they can capture a share of the MEMS boom.

The new systematic methodology IMMS developed was validated by a MEMS accelerometer. Furthermore, IMMS staff has developed a micro-chip for a MEMS module, integrating the knowledge it brought them into the new methodology.

MEMS2015 project website

  • MEMS Design at the press of a button – The methodology of synthesising MEMS exemplified in an accelerometer

    There is a need for new procedures and tools in the field of MEMS design to enable smart, up-to-date, high-performance sensor-and-actuator systems to be developed. The tried and trusted modular principle from microelectronic design has been adopted by the Institute and transferred to mechanical systems and to MEMS. The two design procedures have been combined into a systematic start-to-finish procedure. As a result, MEMS can now be simulated and verified as an entire system, which means that errors can be recognised and remedied early.

    One outcome is a special design tool that supports XM-SC, the SOI technology of X-FAB AG, by providing a sensor design system for computer-aided design of the electromechanical unidimensional sensors known as accelerometers.

    In future, it is hoped that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be able to use the system to design their own MEMS without possessing much design experience. The tool works by using a mathematical algorithm developed at IMMS to compute the various design possibilities that might match the customer's requirements. The tool is, furthermore, a source of sensor models which the user can integrate into the design tools made by our research partners Coventor and Cadence. It will generate the necessary mechanical layouts for the manufacturing stage.

    In validation of this new methodology and the new tool, IMMS has used the content of the new tool to design an accelerometer (acceleration sensor with high-precision signal evaluation) and then characterise it after fabrication.

    Further developments take place in the context of the RoMulus project, the design tool (originally for a unidimensional sensor) is being extended to 2- and 3-dimensional sensors.

  • Readout circuit for a smart force sensor MEMS

    There is often a requirement to test the surface quality and other properties of microsystems during their manufacture at a resolution in the nanometre range. For the analysis of the mechanical properties, there is a variety of measurement methods and equipment, all of which have proved valuable in the laboratory but are hardly suitable for use on the production line.

    Together, TETRA and IMMS have come up with solutions in the MEMS2015 project leading to a compact sensor head capable of measuring surface quality at a resolution of less than 100 nanometres in the industrial setting.

    The product developed unites a sensor and analogue signal processing unit into a tiny space. The force sensor which has been developed by TETRA is based on a MEMS cantilever. The ASIC developed by IMMS has been adapted both mechanically and electrically to the properties of this cantilever. The task of the ASIC is to convert and amplify the high-resolution signal so that transmission to the readout unit is parasitic-free.

    IMMS integrated functions into the circuit which are not supported by conventional components. The ASIC includes an amplifier operating on a zoom principle developed by IMMS that achieves a measuring range of up to 100 μN at a resolution in the two-digit nano‐Newton range. To support precise analysis of the surface quality from the measured values, the chip also registers the cantilever temperature. IMMS has also equipped the ASIC with an error detection circuit, which recognises any cantilever defects and provides the basis for verification of the measured values.

  • Funding

    The MEMS2015 project is funded by the BMBF (German Ministry of Education and Research) in its IKT 2020 programme, with the reference 16M3093.


2012 – 2015