The Challenges of Micro-System Product Development

By James J. Allen

Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM

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Micro‐system technology has been developed over a number of years, with the first coherent vision for this technology being eloquently stated by Dr. Richard Feynman nearly fifty years ago. Twenty years after Dr. Feynman’s talk, micro‐systems remained largely a laboratory curiosity with the bulk of the research being performed to develop fabrication processes and integration techniques to produce useful devices.

Recent years have seen an explosion of products which have been developed to enhance our daily lives in such diverse areas as automotive, health care, communications, and displays. Micro‐system applications encompass a broad spectrum of physics, such as optics, fluidics, radio‐frequency devices, etc. This spectrum of applications and smaller size scale make new and coupled physical phenomena available to the engineer to exploit. This has necessitated the development multi‐physics analysis tools and measurement techniques to provide design information for these devices.

This talk will discuss the historical development of micro‐system technology, the products that have been developed and the challenges to development of a reliable product. The newly formed PRISM center at Purdue is uniquely poised to address these issues and impact future development of micro‐System technology.


James J. AllenJames J. Allen worked as a grad student at Herrick Laboratory receiving his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1981; he was named an “Outstanding Mechanical Engineer” by Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering in 2006. He is a registered professional engineer in the state of New Mexico. Jim has been at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, NM since 1985 and worked in MEMS technology for 13 years where he is currently a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff in the MEMS Device Technology department. He has published a number of papers in the areas of MEMS, dynamics and controls over his career. Dr. Allen holds 12 MEMS device patents, with 3 additional patents pending. He has recently published a book by CRC Press on MEMS design: Micro Electro Mechanical System Design, as well as contributed 2 book chapters on MEMS technology in other books. Dr. Allen was the chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) MEMS division 2006‐2007 and is a Fellow of ASME.


Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under Contract DE-AC04-94AL85000.

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  • James J. Allen (2009), "The Challenges of Micro-System Product Development,"

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