Startup tips first MEMS oscillator samples

April 11, 2006 – Silicon Valley startup SiTime Corp. is readying engineering samples of its first MEMS-based oscillator product lines, based on 200mm standard CMOS manufacturing processes.

The company’s SiT1xxx fixed frequency and SiT8002 programmable oscillator lines are targeted as a tiny (1000x smaller) replacement to consumer grade quartz resonators, as well as for current silicon clock oscillators, in 80% of the same applications, such as digital still cameras, portable media players, and notebook computers.

SiTime’s MEMS resonators are etched on a silicon wafer in low-cost CMOS fabs with 0.18-micron tooling, using a deep-reactive ion etch process licensed from Robert Bosch GmbH, one of the startup’s investors. The resonator is encapsulated in a vacuum chamber formed directly on the wafer by a CMOS-compatible process, enabling any standard IC packaging technology — SiTime’s first products use a slightly modified QFN-type technology to meet quartz oscillator and resonator footprints, with a CMOS driver IC and MEMS resonator forming a complete oscillator.

The company says its device architecture and CMOS-compatible manufacturing process for oscillators reduce or eliminate reliability issues associated with quartz devices, such as cracking, thermal sensitivity, shock and vibration sensitivity, thermal hysteresis, ESD damage, and aging. SiTime’s oscillators also require 30% less PCB circuitry area than quartz resonators for the same package size, reduce BOM cost, and require fewer components/frequency source.

The new devices “represent a fundamental transformation of the timing industry,” stated Kurt Petersen, SiTime CEO and cofounder. “One of the last holdouts of common electronic circuit components to be integrated onto silicon is the quartz crystal. Finally, a smaller, more reliable and cost-effective alternative is available to circuit designers.”


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