Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MEMS Devices in Global Medical Markets

The microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology, as its name suggests, consists of an electrical mechanical system with components of micro-scale dimension ranging from a few microns to millimeters, or as low as 1 mm to 100 mm. MEMS include the process-based technologies that are used to fabricate tiny integrated devices and systems in order to integrate functionalities from different components into one device. MEMS devices can sense, control, and actuate on the ultra-small scale, and, in turn, can generate effects on the macro scale. The use of MEMS in the biomedical sector is also referred to as BioMEMS.

The electrical systems in MEMS devices are fabricated through several technologies, including a mix of integrated circuit manufacturing and a micro-machining process, wherein the substrate is molded by etching away micro. The most common material used for MEMS devices is silicon because of its semiconducting, physical, and commercial properties. A typical MEMS device usually is made up of mechanical and electrical elements, sensors, and actuators on a common substrate (silicone or other).

Sensors are important components of several MEMS devices, as they gather information from the environment by measuring mechanical, thermal, biological, and magnetic phenomena. The information is then processed by electronics, and the actuators respond to the device function, such as pumping, moving, or regulating. In this way, the environment is controlled to achieve a desired outcome.

MEMS is manufactured using technologies and processes such as bulk micromachining (where the whole thickness of the substrate is used in making micromechanical structures), surface micromachining (where layers are deposited on the surface and used for making micromechanical structures rather than using the substrate itself), and high-aspect-ratio micromachining, or HARM, (where parts of the substrate are selectively removed or structural layers are added).
Some key market drivers include a wide range of products and applications, an aging population, a growing number of chronic lifestyle diseases, technology advents, and a rising focus on research and development in MEMS for the medical sector. Conversely, key market restraints and challenges include a stringent regulatory environment, growing competition in the market due to its highly fragmented nature, and long product development cycles.

MEMS technology holds immense potential that still needs to be exploited in the healthcare and medical fields. Research shows that there are more benefits and applications of MEMS than are currently being utilized. The analysis suggests that future development of several kinds of sensors could support complete measurements ranging from pressure to blood chemistry. Such systems are expected to take the form of wireless miniature chips that could be threaded into a vein or artery and report the data through telemetry.

The above is an extract from the BCC Research report, MEMSDevices in Global Medical Markets (HLC129A). To download the complimentary first chapter, please click here.

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