Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) are a class of miniature devices and systems fabricated by micromachining processes. MEMS devices have critical dimensions in the range of 100 nm to 1000 µm (or 1 mm). MEMS technology is a precursor to the relatively more popular field of Nanotechnology, which refers to science, engineering and technology below 100 nm down to the atomic scale. Occasionally, MEMS devices with dimensions in the millimeter-range are referred to as meso-scale MEMS devices.
MEMS devices can actuate or sense on a micro-scale. MEMS devices can function individually or in combination with other devices to generate effects of meso- or macro- scale. Some advantages of MEMS devices include small size, light weight, low power consumption and high functionality compared to conventional devices. Further, MEMS technology offers cost reduction due to batch processing techniques similar to semiconductor Integrated Circuit (IC) manufacturing. Initially, MEMS technology emerged as an offshoot of the semiconductor industry and eventually established itself as a specialized field of study with a significant market share. According to Yole Développement, the MEMS industry market in 2012 was $11 billion, which is a 10 percent growth from the previous year.
Microsurgical tools Surgery is treatment of diseases or other ailments through manual and instrumental methods. In surgery, the majority of trauma to the patient is caused by the surgeon’s incisions to gain access to the surgical site. Minimally invasive surgical (MIS) procedure aims to provide diagnosis, monitoring, or treatment of diseases by performing operations with very small incisions or sometimes through natural orifices. Advantages of MIS over conventional open surgery includes less pain, minimal injury to tissues, minimal scarring, reduced recovery time, shorter hospital visits, faster return to normal activities and often lower cost to the patient. Common MIS procedures include angioplasty, catheterization, endoscopy, laparoscopy, and neurosurgery. MEMS based microsurgical tools have been identified as a key enabling technology for MIS . A pair of silicon MEMS based microtweezers and metal MEMS based biopsy forceps are shown in Figure below. It should be noted that some of these feasibility demonstrations have yet to be qualified for clinical applications.
Micromachined surgical tools: a pair of metal MEMS biopsy forceps. (Source: http://www.microfabrica.com/).