Smaller is better: Basics of Microfabrication

Micro-scale structures have piqued the interest of the scientific and technological communities in recent years. Micrometer-sized materials are gaining popularity due to their unique electromagnetic, thermal, mechanical, and optical applications. Researchers believe that microfabrication will enable the development of a wide range of electronic devices, including photonics and sensing equipment, that will outperform their macro counterparts.

Microfabrication is here to stay, as is nanofabrication as they are poised to revolutionize the world of technology.

How small is a micron?

So, how tiny is a micron? A micron (m) is one-millionth of a meter; 25.4 m equals one-thousandth of an inch. Human hair has a diameter of 50 to 100 m. This scale is typically reserved for infrared red biological blood cells. To carry out the process of microfabrication, you need to be using high-precision instruments to retain accuracy.

What do you need to know about microfabrication?

Microfabrication was introduced to the microelectronics industry and is a fairly modern concept. For microfabrication, engineering companies try to scale down their conventional machining processes allowing them to create microfabricated structures for use in various ways.

The underlying technology behind the design of integrated circuits (ICs), microsensors, inkjet printers, and flat panel displays, among other electronics, is microfabrication. While on the surface, it might seem complicated, the basic microfabrication process is relatively simple.

Microfabrication techniques employ semiconductor manufacturing procedures such as etching, oxidation, diffusion, and special micromachining techniques. Micromachining takes place on a scale of 1 to 100 nm – mechanical components and electronic devices that control them are all built on the same silicon structure.

Microfabrication technologies

Several micro-fabrication technologies are currently available for the fabrication of micro-components and systems. The most successful micro-machining technologies were created as extensions to standard IC and micro-electronics planar silicon-based processing. Others rely on high-precision engineering and laser structuring. However, individual technologies, such as Si micro-machining or laser structuring, are a long way from being ready.

How is microfabrication commonly used?

The scope of what microfabrication can produce is always being explored and expanded. Most commonly, microfabrication is used for the miniature connectors in mobile phones, for example, and in many medical devices.

As the demand for less invasive technology in the medical field increases, so will the scope of capabilities for microfabrication. Areas such as targeted laser beam therapy instruments and microelectrodes that can sense signals sent and received by our body’s peripheral nerves have been housed in microscopic silicon chips.

Another area that benefits from this area is precision industrial tooling when you need to maintain accuracy but to a fine degree that similar instruments cannot match due to size.

Microfabrication has proven to be an efficient area for many industries. As technology advances, so will the demand increase for small, better, and more efficient products. It is only a matter of time before researchers discover a breakthrough that allows them to realize the potential of microfabrication in more areas fully.