Richard S. Muller


Although MEMS without microactuators is possible, and such important commercial implementations as those for pressure sensing and large-array IR vidicons are built with entirely static micromechanical structures, microactuation opens a universe of important new opportunities to microsystems. These opportunities may be hidden within the systems, as in the extremely important case of providing microactuated mechanical-feedback links, or they may make possible the system function itself, as in an ink-jet or a micropositioner. In the first case, it becomes vital to think in terms of practical compatible electronic or optical-device fabrication procedures; whereas, in the second case, compatible fabrication of the actuator together with the microelectronic circuit is merely preferable, but not critical.

The dual thrust of the MEMS program in Japan -- toward lithography and silicon-based systems on the one hand, and toward ultraminiaturization using downsizing of conventional mechanical design, on the other -- exerts a strong influence on what can reasonably be conceived of as practical approaches for actuation.

Published: September 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian