Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are micron-size devices that can sense or manipulate the physical world. MEMS are created using Fab so-called micro machining processes, similar to those used to produce integrated circuit (IC) devices. This allows a two-, or three-dimensional mechanical system to be created in the same small area typical of an IC device. Because the Fab process is similar to that of IC Fabrication, MEMS are most typically created on silicon wafers but can also employ other substrate types as well. Due to their size, tens of thousands of these devices can be fabricated on a single wafer.
MEMS technology has actually been demonstrated in research and development facilities for over 25 years. In some forms it has been in production for over 20 years, specifically in the area of pressure sensors. For example, the auto pressure sensor and disposable blood pressure sensor became a commercial reality in the 1980's. Today, the widespread use of MEMS as accelerometers and gyroscopes in the automotive sector is commonplace. Presently, new techniques have enabled the formation of many more types of surface structures, and true micro-machines have been enabled by recently developed thin film and etching techniques. MEMS now span a wide range of applications including sensors, telecommunications, micro-switches, and medical devices. Everyday industry is realizing new applications for MEMS in different technology areas.