STMicroelectronics Delivers MEMS Microphones in Plastic for Sleeker and Sturdier Gadget Designs


MEMS champion leads the way with industry-unique, patented packaging process

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STMicroelectronics, a global semiconductor leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications and the leading supplier of MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) for consumer and portable applications 1), is the first company in the world that mass-manufactures MEMS microphones in plastic packages. The patented technology breakthrough saves space and increases durability in consumer and professional voice-input applications, from mobile phones and tablets to noise-level meters and noise-cancelling headphones. While other MEMS microphone manufacturers still produce devices with metallic lids, ST leads the way with industry-unique, innovative plastic packages. ST's novel microphone-assembly process ensures superior electrical and acoustic performance, unbeatable mechanical robustness, and slimmer form factors, while simultaneously advancing the microphone chip size reduction to 2x2 mm in devices that will soon arrive in the market. This technology development paves the way to introducing microphones embedded in silicon cavities as the ultimate step in device miniaturization. ST's MEMS microphones are suitable for assembly on flat-cable printed-circuit boards that simplify design in today's space-constrained consumer devices. The patented package technology allows equipment manufacturers to place the 'sound hole' either on the top or the bottom of the package to ensure the slimmest possible design and shortest acoustic path from the environment to the microphone. While the microphones with the sound hole on the top (top-port) suit the size and sound-inlet position requirements of laptops and tablets, the bottom-port microphones are mostly used in mobile phones. Stringent compression and drop tests have shown that microphones in plastic packages also outperform traditional metallic-lid devices in durability. When subjected to a force of 40N 2) - equivalent to placing a 4kg weight on the tiny chip - microphones in metallic packages collapsed, whereas ST devices in plastic packages remained intact. Similar results were obtained when devices from both categories were exposed to 40 drops from a height of 1.5 m with a static force of 15N applied on the package. The superior robustness holds for both flat-cable printed-circuit boards (PCB) and traditional rigid PCB designs. ST's plastic-package microphones integrate an internal shielding cage for uncompromised electromagnetic immunity and are compatible with standard surface-mount assembly machinery and conventional pick-and-place equipment. ST's MEMS microphones suit a great variety of audio applications across existing and emerging market segments, including mobile phones, laptops and tablets, portable media players, gaming equipment and cameras, as well as noise-cancelling headphones and potentially even hearing aids. The microphones pair perfectly with the Company's Smart Voice processors for multi-microphone applications and Sound TerminalTM audio processing chips, forming a complete one-stop offering for advanced sound-input applications.