About Sandia Capabilities Programs Contacting Us News Center Search Home navigation panel
News Releases
April 4, 2001
back to News Releases Sandia National Laboratories


Sandia, Ardesta join forces to commercialize MEMS and microsystems

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia National Laboratories and the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company Ardesta have joined forces through a new partnership agreement to transfer Labs-developed microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and microsystems technologies to start-up companies in the commercial sector.

Sandia has agreed to grant Ardesta a nonexclusive right and license to make and sell products using Sandia’s SUMMiT technology. SUMMiT (for Sandia Ultraplanar Multilevel MEMS Technology) is an advanced five-level polysilicon surface micromachining MEMS technology that produces more reliable and complex devices than previously possible.

Microsystems are devices smaller than a human hair built on silicon wafers using standard integrated circuit manufacturing. Batch-produced and inexpensive to make, they contain electrical circuitry, optical devices such as lasers, and MEMS — tiny machines that can sense their environment and take action.

“MEMS devices, once a research novelty of arrays of spinning gears, are now finding their way into a broad range of commercial applications,” says Jerome Jakubczak, Manager of Sandia’s MEMS Science and Technology Department. “MEMS application areas include ink jet printer heads that dispense carefully controlled amounts of ink onto paper, automotive air bag sensors that reliably deploy a car’s critical safety device, display devices that visually project information from a computer onto a large screen or wall, and even video games where the player’s physical motion becomes part of the game.”

The agreement between Sandia and Ardesta also identifies key areas of intellectual property and technology that will be further developed through future cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) between Sandia, Ardesta, and companies that Ardesta may form in the process of commercializing MEMS and microsystems. Sandia, a Department of Energy laboratory, will become a shareholder in Ardesta and the companies started based on Labs-licensed technology and intellectual property.

“This new partnership is key to the commercialization of MEMS and microsystems devices — something we see as important to our national security mission,” says David Williams, Director of Sandia’s Microsystems Science, Technology, and Components Center. “Before we can use MEMS and microsystems in critical weapons systems, it must be shown they are manufacturable and reliable. The best way to demonstrate this is to commercialize them and use them in everyday products. Ardesta will help make this happen.”

Ardesta is an ’industry accelerator” dedicated to developing the microsystems industry. It invests in start-up and early-stage companies, provides business and technical resources to support these companies, and develops industry-building resources such as publications, web sites, and trade shows.

Rick Snyder, Ardesta CEO, says the new partnership will allow Sandia and his company to share with one another “what we do best.”

“I look forward to working with Sandia to advance the entire industry of microsystems,” Snyder says. “Through this alliance we can take intellectual property out of the laboratory and create commercial success much faster than if we were each working independently.”

New facility for New Mexico
Snyder adds that Ardesta is committed to begin the process of evaluating the market demand and feasibility of constructing a microsystems prototyping and fabrication facility in New Mexico within three years.

Ardesta’s corporate headquarters will remain in Ann Arbor. Sandia will provide Ardesta with fabrication capability in its Albuquerque facility until Ardesta’s fabrication unit is completed. Within one year after executing a license agreement with Sandia, Ardesta will develop a design and training center in Albuquerque based on Sandia’s SAMPLES™ (Sandia Agile MEMS Prototyping, Layout Tools, Education and Services) prototyping model, which serves as a supporting infrastructure to the SUMMiT process. The ultimate objective of SAMPLES is to help users develop innovative products by leveraging advanced design, fabrication, and characterization technologies originally developed for national laboratory applications.

Ardesta’s other investments include Sensicore of Ann Arbor, Mich; Micronics of Redmond, Wash.; Ion Optics of Waltham, Mass.; and HandyLab of Ann Arbor, Mich. The company’s Web site is www.ardesta.com.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia media contact:
Chris Burroughs, coburro@sandia.gov, (505) 844-0948

Ardesta media contact:
Colleen Robar, colleenrobar@ardesta.com, (734) 994-7000

Sandia technical contact:
Jay Jakubczak, jayj@sandia.gov, (505) 844-9196


Back to top of page || Questions and Comments || Acknowledgment and Disclaimer