Indian MEMS startup INFAB shares perspective on surging domestic market

Prasanth Aby Thomas, DIGITIMES, Bangalore 0

Muthuraman Swaminathan, CEO, INFAB Semiconductor. Credit: INFAB

India's interest in developing a semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem has been the subject of much discussion. However, there are other closely related segments that offer just as many opportunities but receive less attention. One such area is MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems), which are becoming increasingly important components in various industries.

It is not surprising that few Indian companies have expressed interest in the MEMS sector. However, Bangalore-based INFAB Semiconductor is taking significant steps towards innovating in this segment. In a recent interview with DIGITIMES Asia, Muthuraman Swaminathan, the company's CEO, noted that INFAB is leveraging the momentum in the semiconductor manufacturing industry to further its efforts in the MEMS space.

"Domestic chip manufacturing could potentially lead to heightened competition, which may affect the prices and margins of MEMS devices," Swaminathan said. "Therefore, it makes sense for us to align ourselves with the chip manufacturing industry since MEMS and IC chip manufacturing rely on about 80 percent of the same equipment and facilities. However, there is still a lack of awareness regarding MEMS, despite the significant demand for these devices in the domestic market, particularly in the aerospace and automotive sectors."

Catering to a broad market

INFAB's devices are ideal for various industries, including healthcare, automotive, aerospace, and consumer electronics. These devices are designed to provide high precision, accuracy, and reliability, making them well-suited for these markets.

In healthcare, microfluidics MEMS devices are popular in areas such as drug delivery, diagnostics, and patient monitoring. New methodologies such as organ-on-a-chip are also emerging.

"In the automotive industry, our devices are useful for tire pressure monitoring and vibration measurement to gain insight into tire wear and tear," Swaminathan said. "In aerospace, we are currently developing sensors for hydraulic systems and have applications in pressure, temperature, altitude, and navigation. Our devices are also used in consumer electronics, such as RF antennas in mobile phones. In the defense sector, our MEMS devices play a critical role in strategic applications such as missile guidance systems."

Ensuring reliability in a complex segment

INFAB begins by first creating a conceptual design based on customer specifications. After validating and refining the design through simulations and testing, they proceed to the prototype and production phases, using microfabrication and high-volume manufacturing techniques. The company also collaborates with other teams in areas such as electronics integration and packaging, ensuring that their devices perform optimally in their intended environments.

Several strategies are employed to ensure quality and reliability in the devices. During the prototype phase, the company runs extensive reliability cycles, which can last up to a million cycles. This rigorous testing is essential, as these devices are utilized in various critical applications.

"Furthermore, we adhere to strict quality control measures by following industry-specific standards," Swaminathan continued. "For example, in the defense sector, we comply with military standards even before beginning the design process. These precautions are essential because reliability is a key requirement for our devices."

In addition to adhering to established standards and methodologies, INFAB also employs advanced tools for quality assurance and reliability testing.

Innovating and collaborating to stay ahead

The MEMS market is expected to grow significantly due to increased demand from areas like IoT, wearable devices, autonomous vehicles, and the aerospace industry. Healthcare applications, such as microfluidics for faster diagnostics, drug delivery, patient monitoring, etc. have also gained prominence.

"To stay competitive, we are focusing on key areas, investing in R&D, and developing innovative products for future needs," Swaminathan said. "One example is a low-cost, initial cancer screening device that can deliver results in just a few hours. Additionally, we are exploring new packaging methodologies and optimizing processes to remain relevant for the next decade. Equipped with the necessary resources, we are prepared to face market challenges and maintain a competitive edge."

INFAB is also keen to collaborate with companies from countries like Taiwan, Korea, and Japan to explore more growth opportunities. Swaminathan pointed out this could be something like a joint research and development project focused on developing some MEMS technology and processes. The company is also interested in better understanding the packaging industry in Taiwan.

"We believe that collaborating with countries like Taiwan and Japan can help us to stay at the forefront of innovations in the MEMS market and can better serve the needs of the customers," Swaminathan said. "We haven't done this yet, but it is something we would like to explore."


Looking forward, India's push for semiconductor self-reliance presents a significant opportunity for MEMS solution providers. Companies like INFAB Semiconductor, with their focus on innovation and collaboration, are well-positioned to benefit from this trend. As India continues to develop its semiconductor industry, Indian MEMS companies can play a crucial role in building a robust ecosystem and meeting the growing demand.