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Accelerating Adoption of MEMS Timing

Recently there have been two major announcements in the MEMS (microelectromechanical system) oscillator market. Market leader SiTime breaks into high-precision OCXO timing with Stratum 3 compliant solutions; and {complink 2646|Integrated Device Technology Inc. (IDT)} jumps into the MEMS oscillator market with a piezoelectric MEMS resonator.

SiTime has introduced the SiT5301 and SiT5302, which address the highest-performance applications for timing devices. SiTime is targeting replacement of OCXO and TCXO quartz oscillators for the telecom and networking infrastructure market. The Stratum 3 oscillators have very stringent standards for frequency stability over temperature, 24-hour holdover, and 20-year stability. SiTime's SiT530x family offers shock resistance 10 times better than quartz and 7 times better on vibration.

However, what is very notable is a reliability/MTBF rating of 500 million hours. This is 25 times higher than quartz. {complink 7526|Semico Research Corp.} sees this as a key advantage for SiTime's MEMS oscillator, since the target applications have long lifecycles, and customers want to reduce service calls. Another key feature is that power consumption is less than 75 mW, compared to quartz OCXO at more than 1 Watt.

SiTime will have samples in December 2011, with production in the first half of 2012.

IDT is a supplier of timing circuits, but this is its first entry into the MEMS area. The pMEMS resonator has been in development since 2007. The company claims it is the smallest hermetically sealed wafer level package (WLP) resonator. IDT also states that it is offering the first commercially available oscillators incorporating piezoelectric MEMS resonators.

IDT has demonstrated the long-term frequency stability of its pMEMS resonator. The company is also touting the extremely small size and targeting consumer, communications, and cloud computing applications. This is a technology announcement; product announcements are expected over the next few months, with full production in 2012. Currently IDT is sampling its pMEMS oscillator evaluation boards to qualified customers.

This is Semico's spin on these announcements:

The total oscillator market is about $3 billion, but MEMS has a very small penetration. For the most part, MEMS oscillator vendors have taken an opportunistic strategy by supplying their products in standard quartz packages, which allows them to be an easy drop-in replacement. The latest offerings from SiTime and IDT offer many advantages over quartz. MEMS oscillators have lower cost, lower power consumption, configurable frequency, and improved reliability and stability.

It has not been easy getting designers in established products to consider an alternative to quartz, because quartz has been around a long time. However, in addition to the standard quartz packages, both SiTime and IDT are taking advantage of the small size of MEMS and offering new innovative packages that are extremely small. This will open up opportunities for MEMS oscillators in new applications. IDT is a supplier of traditional timing circuits, including crystal oscillators. This could give the company sales opportunities with existing customers.

10 comments on “Accelerating Adoption of MEMS Timing

  1. FLYINGSCOT
    December 9, 2011

    Many articles now saying MEMS is hot topic for 2012 so watch out…..

  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 9, 2011

    Tony and Scot–I'm going to take your word on MEMS. I know they are a really cool technology and I actually visited a MEMS fab a long time ago. Aside from that I'm lost, but it's good to see articles of the caliber on the site:-)

  3. Wale Bakare
    December 11, 2011

    Thanks for the article, very informative. And kudos to both SiTime and IDT on MEMS new development. Am waiting to see its full production come 2012.

  4. mfbertozzi
    December 12, 2011

    Good point WB, it seems one of key production should be the area named “heterogeneous integration” of which aim focusing on the possibility to move current single device approach, on sip – system in package. According to recent studies in the sector, it seems production could potentially address a market size about 10B US$ by 2015.

  5. Wale Bakare
    December 12, 2011

    Thanks mfbertozzi. Yes you are right as per heterogeneous integration. I also came across an article by a group of researchers working on  heterogenous 3-D electronics by use of dissimilar semiconductor materials.

  6. prabhakar_deosthali
    December 12, 2011

    As the operating frequencies for processors and associated timimg circuits are reaching new highs,  alternate solutions were required to have greater accuracy, stability and long life. MEMS looks to have fulfilled all these requirements and has become a viable alternative to the conventional quatz oscillators

  7. Wale Bakare
    December 12, 2011

    Yes Prabhakar, I quiet share your assertion. High degree of MEMS accuracy should be most priority since its applications cover wider area of Medical sector, as well as Biotechnology.

  8. FLYINGSCOT
    December 12, 2011

    I am seeing a big uptick in mechanical MEMS for position sensing and gyros which are creeping into many consumer products like phones and games controllers.  I also see a lot of R&D in MEMS for medical where “electronic pills” are swallowed and monitor the body as it passes through.  Very exciting times for MEMS.  The holy grail will be when we truly can integrate MEMS with the necessary analog and digital processing on the same piece of silicon.

  9. stochastic excursion
    December 13, 2011

    I remember TI was at the forefront of MEMS technology some years ago.  I wonder if they are involved in the latest product line, either former employees or from a licensing standpoint.

  10. t.alex
    December 13, 2011

    What are the pros and cons of MEMS timing versus quartz? How about in terms of costs?

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