Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Purging nano’s innovation bottleneck

10.01.2008
There is plenty of innovation in micro- and nanotechnologies, but bringing new devices to market is often prohibitively expensive. Many micro devices have small production volumes, while design, packaging and testing are costly. Now European researchers are breaking down the barriers by developing design methodologies that focus on manufacturing, packaging and testing.

In laboratories dotted across the continent, dedicated and ingenious researchers work feverishly for years, or even careers, to increase our understanding of science at the small scale. Along the way, they develop new, innovative devices to detect pressure, acceleration, temperature or direction – and that’s just the beginning.

Researchers now explore tiny devices that eject a dose of medicine at pre-determined intervals. They create entire, micron-sized laboratories or computer systems on a chip. They are discovering just how much room there is at the small scale, as physicist Richard Feynman famously predicted almost 49 years ago.

Ugly, but it works

But innovation at the sharp end lags behind scientific advances. Often the devices only exist in the laboratory as a demonstration. These prototype lab demonstrations look ugly, but often work and they prove functionality at the nano- or micro-scale. They also often determine whether the invention will ever see the light of day.

“For certain types of device, targeting very large volumes in sectors like the automotive and, more recently, the computer gaming industry, there is a promising future,” reveals Patric Salomon, a partner with the PATENT-DfMM network of excellence (NoE). “But for many others, the lab is the only place where these devices are ever really used.”

The reason? Up to 80 percent of the unit cost for micro- and nano-devices is in the packaging and testing phase, and the unit cost must often come in under a euro. “Many innovations are just too expensive to commercialise,” notes Salomon.

But not, perhaps, for much longer. The PATENT-DfMM network was set up to find a way to cut the cost of packaging, testing and manufacturing micro and nano-devices. To do it, the 22-strong consortium had €6.2 million funding from the EU.

“We had a lot of control over how we assessed projects for funding within the network,” says Salomon. “As a result, we were able to get quite a significant impact.” In the end, the NoE supported over 60 small-scale projects.

These looked at ways to simplify the “Design for Micro Manufacture” process. In essence, researchers learn about manufacturing constraints before starting a design and they take these into account during the concept phase, to optimise units for manufacturing processes. This drives down costs and the time to market.

The network funded research into ways of re-using one design, or its building blocks, for a different type of product. It also studied more efficient ways to test for robustness and perform quality control. Already, these projects have had an important impact, though Salomon admits that they are difficult to quantify.

The end of the beginning

But that’s just the beginning. PATENT-DfMM also conceived a series of service clusters, groups of specialists in particular areas of micro- and nanotechnology, offering services in design for manufacture, testing and reliability.

“These target specifically SMEs and can provide help for companies seeking to commercialise a nano- or microtechnology,” notes Salomon. So far, PATENT-DfMM has set up two; one specialised in miniaturised health-monitoring systems (HUMS), while another focuses on reliability (EUMIREL).

In all, it offers hope of a commercial life for the thousands of lost innovations gathering dust in labs across the continent, and more importantly, to make sure future inventions are “designed for manufacture” from their initial development phase.

Christian Nielsen | ICT Results
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89405

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Ultra-precise chip-scale sensor detects unprecedentedly small changes at the nanoscale
18.01.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Data analysis optimizes cyber-physical systems in telecommunications and building automation
18.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Algorithmen und Wissenschaftliches Rechnen SCAI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>