STMicroelectronics is commercialising its innovative piezoelectric MEMS technology combining high-volume MEMS design and manufacturing with a broad range of new application opportunities offered by piezoelectric technology. ST’s TFP (Thin-Film Piezoelectric) MEMS technology is a foundational process platform that can be customised, allowing ST to work with customers around the world to jointly develop specific MEMS products, optimised for particular applications.
One of the first customers to take advantage of ST’s TFP process is poLight, whose TLens (Tuneable Lens) uses a piezoelectric actuator to change the shape of a transparent polymer film, imitating the focussing function of the human eye. This makes it the ideal solution for camera auto-focus (AF) applications, which up till now have mostly relied on large, power-hungry, and expensive Voice Coil Motors (VCM).
“Piezoelectric actuators and sensors can now be manufactured in our Agrate 8” Fab that has produced billions of motion sensors, taking full advantage of ST’s long-standing position as the world’s leading manufacturer of MEMS devices,” said Anton Hofmeister, Group Vice President and General Manager of Custom MEMS Division, STMicroelectronics. “Our TFP MEMS technology rewrites the script, opening up new cost/benefit scenarios that will, in turn, enable many new applications.”
“poLight will use STMicroelectronics TFP MEMS technology to manufacture its TLens autofocus lens, a product that brings new camera autofocus performance to smartphones,” says Christian Dupont, poLight Chief Marketing Officer. “For example, TLens enables cameras to focus instantaneously, 10x faster for 20x lower battery consumption, as well as to refocus after taking the picture and implement stable continuous autofocus for video recording. This breakthrough combines poLight’s innovative technology and ST’s ability to optimize their TFP process to provide the required strong piezo actuator through a high-volume manufacturing process that is key for our smartphone customers.”
The pilot line for ST’s new TFP MEMS platform was partially funded by the European LAB4MEMS program. The technology has many important potential applications for actuators like inkjet printheads in Commercial, Industrial and 3D printing, but can also be used to develop piezo sensors in fields like energy harvesting. ST is targeting volume production for its pilot customers in mid-2015.