Modelers at Sandia National Laboratories are helping micromachine designers choose the device they want fully fabricated through new nano-modeling programs.
The need for previewing is important because microdesigns for telecommunications, inkjet printing, and medical and auto safety devices – to name just a few – are fighting for dominance in new, still unestablished fields, the research lab said.
For this reason, researchers Vic Yarberry and Craig Jorgensen at Sandia have crafted 2-D and 3-D modeling programs to work with MEMS developers. The 3-D program allows designers to twirl their virtual microdevices like airplane parts, the researchers explained, so the still-imaginary part can be viewed from any perspective.
Unworkable portions of the design can be changed or eliminated before – not after – fabrication work is paid for at the foundry. The simulation process takes time, anywhere from seconds to hours, but it’s still a lot faster than waiting months to see what modifications should have been made.
“It’s not intuitive how the layers interact,” says Jorgensen. “MEMS are wonderful in that they come out thousands at a time, all in one piece with no assembly necessary, but there’s nothing about fabricating them that is simple. You’re building patterned layers on top of other patterned layers, which can create a complex 3-D geometry.”
Added Yarbery, “It’s not easy for former macro-world designers to combine 2-D mask geometry with newly learned information about the MEMS fabrication process itself and, on the first try, to create functional 3-D structures.”