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 UT professor develops algorithm to improve online mapping of disaster areas
29.11.2016 | University of Tennessee at Knoxville

nachricht New standard helps optical trackers follow moving objects precisely
23.11.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>