What is the Importance of Microelectronics?

To fully admire the benefits and challenges of microelectronics, it’s first essential to address some factors driving companies in this direction.

Fremont, CA: Debatably, consumer demand is the biggest problem. Somehow, this is obvious—consider how cellular phones have advanced over the past two decades, from brick-sized boxes to the slim devices we know today. The same trend can be noticed in laptops, tablets, etc. Electronics firms respond to consumers’ desires for smaller products in these cases.

It’s also crucial to recognize that the fast-increasing popularity of wearables and the Internet of Things drive the development of microelectronics devices and components. In such cases, it’s not mere consumer preference leading to smaller designs. Alternatively, it’s the simple fact that these solutions can only reside thanks to the development and use of microelectronics. As a result, companies are reaching out to design or manufacturing houses, discovering what’s possible in the microelectronics field, and immediately directing their efforts accordingly.

As we explained in this blog post, the IoT market will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars within a few years. And just in the healthcare space, the market for medical devices and wearables—which rely on microelectronics—will be worth billions of dollars in its exclusive right.

The Challenges of Microelectronics

As size shrinks, circuit boards intrinsically become denser. Therefore, designers must pack more input/output into a smaller space and make this array of pads as close together as possible. The issue here is that as the pitch becomes tighter and tighter, so too does the trace and space, which creates signal dependability challenges. On a regular circuit board (as opposed to a micro-printed circuit board—a topic we’ll dive into more deeply in a future blog post), signals on a trace lose their energy as it becomes smaller. This is because it is incredibly hard to ensure uniform traces for signals when depending on subtractive circuit board printing methods on the micro-level.

This could potentially create significant issues for the microelectronics themselves. Perhaps most specifically, weaker signal strength will lead to decreased battery life. This is a progressively important issue for electronics in many spaces, including those highlighted above. Speaking of consumer electronics, there is an evident demand for cell phones and other handheld devices that can last as long as feasible without recharge. However, recharging may be unfeasible or impossible for other microelectronics concerns, such as IoT sensors and implants, as the devices themselves are simply unreachable. In these instances, impressive battery life is a prerequisite for design success.

Any micro design that does not completely account for the challenges of microelectronics posed by increasing board density will run the risk of failing to meet its full potential or may not function whatsoever.

Battery life is a significant consideration for microelectronics designs.

Another less evident and, in a sense, less technical challenge inherent to this space is the fact that the evolving microelectronics market is leading many companies to grapple with this technology for the first time. For instance, a health tech firm may become interested in the potential for a new device that leverages microfabrication to reduce the amount of blood that needs to be drawn for testing. Still, unlike a major electronics developer like Apple or Samsung, this company is unlikely to have its design team work on developing microelectronics. Instead, the company will reach out to a third-party design or manufacturing house with proficiency in microelectronics. This switch into a new space and new relationships creates a great deal of uncertainty and significantly complicates efforts to move forward with new microelectronics applications and designs.

The glad news is that none of these challenges of microelectronics are insurmountable.