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J. Micromech. Microeng. 6 (1996) 410–425.

Printed in the UK

Micromechanical engineering: a basis

for the low-cost manufacturing of
mechanical microdevices using
Ernst M Kussul, Dmitri A Rachkovskij, Tatyana N Baidyk and
Semion A Talayev
Institute of Cybernetics, National Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Prospect
Glushkova 40, Kiev 252187, Ukraine

Received 24 July 1996, accepted for publication 15 August 1996

Abstract. Microelectronics-based micromechanics is rather limited for the

construction of 3D micromechanisms with moving parts. We propose to use
microequipment to transfer the technologies of mechanical engineering to the
microdomain. We show that equipment precision increases linearly with decreasing
size. To make microequipment, we suggest a series of equipment generations with
gradually decreasing dimensions. Miniaturization of equipment will reduce power
consumption and floor area occupied. Coupled with automation, it will drastically
reduce the cost of microequipment. This in its turn will reduce the cost of
micromechanical devices manufactured by microequipment. Microequipment-based
manufacturing will also increase throughput by the concurrent operation of large
numbers of low-cost microequipment pieces. The low cost and high productivity of
microequipment-based manufacturing will widen the range of feasible
micromechanical applications, both single-unit and mass. We propose designs for
microvalve fluid filters, capillary heat exchangers, electromagnetic and hydraulic
step motors that could be easily implemented by micromechanical engineering
technologies. Hybrid technologies combining massively parallel microequipment
based manufacturing and batch manufacturing may also be promising.

1. Introduction cromachining [16, 17], anodic bonding [18, 19], etc) belong
to the category of batch processes as well as their parent
Nowadays, technologies for the microminiaturization microelectronics technologies. Others belong to the cate-
of mechanical structures are being developed within gory of individual processes (e.g., micro stereo lithography
the fields that are commonly referred to as micro [20, 21], laser micromachining [22, 23], micro-EDM [24],
electro mechanical systems (MEMS) in the USA [1, 2], microgrinding [25], and other technologies [26] originated
micro system technology (MST) in Europe [3] and in mechanical engineering).
micromachine technology in Japan [4, 5]. The substantial The need for individual processing is caused by the
part of all these technologies is integrated circuit (IC) restriction of materials, the shape of parts, and structures
based batch technologies from microelectronics [6, 7]. inherent in batch processing [27, 5, 13]. Individual
Microelectronics-based technologies enable the creation processing is a basis for mechanical engineering, where
of microdevices that incorporate simple mechanical there is already a wealth of experience in the design
components [8, 9] fabricated mainly from silicon [10]. and fabrication of sophisticated machines and mechanisms
The development of complex microsystems such as including 3D structures and movable parts.
miniature machine tools, manipulators and robots [11, 12] The use of mechanical engineering technologies to
calls for the development of sophisticated mechanical make micro machinery [28–33] raises a number of issues
structures that have 3D movable and complex-shaped parts that are still unclear. These issues concern the limits
made from diverse materials. This spurred on work on of mechanical machining, ways of achieving them, the
the modification of existing technologies [7] as well as the cost and throughput of equipment, and the range and
development of novel technologies [13] to meet the needs cost of potential applications. Some aspects of these are
of micromechanics. discussed in this paper. In section 2 we consider the
A number of technologies which emerged in microme- typical features of both batch and individual processes.
chanics as a result of this work (LIGA [14, 15], surface mi- The dimensional limits of various mechanical machining

c 1996 IOP Publishing Ltd
Micromechanical engineering and microequipment

methods are estimated in section 3. In section 4 we

examine various errors that influence the precision of
machine tools and show that the equipment precision
increases linearly with decreasing in size. In section 5
we propose to make microequipment by using generations
of smaller and smaller machine tools. In section 6
we introduce the notion of micromechanical engineering
and show that microequipment allows reduction of the
unit cost of operation and increases the throughput
by the massive parallelization of manufacturing. The
classification of micromechanical applications as well as
examples of microdevices we are developing are presented
in section 7. A comparison between micromechanical
engineering and microelectronics-based micromechanics is
made in section 8. Discussion and conclusion are given in
sections 9 and 10 respectively.

2. Individual versus batch processes

We interpret a batch process as a process wherein common

machining or assembling operations are simultaneously
performed on the whole batch of workpieces through a
distributed chemical or physical action (figure 1).
Examples of batch processes provided by microelec-
tronic technologies include photolithography, spin coating,
etching, diffusion of dopants, implantation, epitaxy, chemi-
cal vapor deposition, film technology, etc, as well as LIGA,
surface micromachining and anodic bonding. Workpieces
are silicon, GaAs, glass, ceramics wafers, possibly with lay-
ers of other materials formed on their surfaces, copper-clad
glass-cloth laminate for printed-circuit boards and printed-
circuit boards with inserted components prepared for solder-
ing. Operations include light exposing, etching, deposition,
bonding, wave soldering, casting and electroforming.
Under an individual process, each machining or
assembling operation is performed on a single workpiece
(figure 2). Examples of individual processes are provided
by turning, grinding, milling, drilling, broaching, forging,
EDM and stereo lithography.
There are technologies that are widely used in both
batch and individual processing. Casting, molding,
polishing and electrochemical machining are examples.
The necessity of individual processes is dictated by the
fact that batch processes possessing such merits as low
cost, high quality, high throughput in mass production, also
have a number of restrictions due to the peculiarities of
their implementation. Some batch processes can be used
only with certain materials. For example, high temperature
diffusion (e.g., oxide film manufacture, diffusion doping,
bonding) cannot be used with materials that have low Figure 1. Examples of batch processes. (a) Working:
melting or decomposition temperatures. exposure, development, etching. (b) Bonding. (c) Results.
One of the main restrictions of batch processes is that
they result basically in planar 2D or 2.5D [5] parts, that
is, parts with constant cross-sections along some direction. practically achieved by a rigid fixation of each workpiece to
This restriction is caused by the following peculiarities of the 2D planar rigid base (e.g., handle wafer or board) and
batch processes. alignment of the entire base. Distributed working action
For a number of batch operations, the distributed on stationary workpieces modulated by 2D projection or
working action (e.g., polishing, exposure, etching or contact masks results in 2D fabricated parts. Fabrication
deposition) is modulated in the plane by 2D masks. Batch of true complex 3D parts by batch processes requires a
relative alignment of the mask and each workpiece is sequential build up of planar 2D layers. It prolongs the

E M Kussul et al

process and causes problems in obtaining quality bonding

of adjacent layers.
Fabrication of 3D structures from 2D parts is very
difficult. This is demonstrated by the fact that commercial
3D ICs are not yet available. For micromechanical
structures, especially with movable parts, this task is
complicated by the constraints imposed by batch assembly
techniques [5, 34] and by limited expertise in the design of
essentially 3D structures from 2D components. Practically,
micromechanical devices are often more the result of
available batch fabrication technologies rather than optimal
Feedback control of batch processes is also limited.
Since the working action is directed upon the whole batch,
it can be controlled by feedback from a representative
workpiece, but not from each workpiece of the batch. To
get identical processing results for each workpiece, the
uniformity of working action, environment, and workpiece
properties should be ensured for the whole batch.
Therefore the peculiarities of batch processing impose
severe requirements on the tolerances of process parameters
at all stages of batch production. This, in turn, necessitates
equipment of increasing complexity and cost, including
clean rooms, as well as the high cost of production set-up,
leading to economical inefficiency of single-unit or small-
lot production by batch processes.
In traditional mechanical engineering there is vast
experience of the design and fabrication of 3D machines
and mechanisms with movable parts from various
materials. Individual machining and assembly are typical
of mechanical engineering production.
In individual processing, each operation is performed
on a sole workpiece. This enables the use of not only
distributed, but also spatially localized working action (e.g.,
working tool) and the ability to move the working tool
and the workpiece arbitrarily in space. Together with the
diversity of processing means, this permits the manufacture
of parts of complex 3D shape from virtually any material.
The possibility of true feedback control over the
individual machining of each workpiece allows tolerable
deviation of process parameters. Unlike batch processes,
individual processes are compatible with intermediate
quality inspection operations, which are inherently
The advantage of individual processes over the batch
ones is most conspicuous in assembly. Alignment of
components for batch assembly demands a special accuracy
of their positioning on the handle base because each
component is rigidly fixed on the base and its position
cannot be adjusted during assembly. For individual
assembly, the adjustment of component position is possible.
Assembling often requires a sequence of movements that
are difficult to implement with the spatial fixation of parts
typical for batch processes. For example, rocking and
rotation of a shaft is needed to insert it into a hole with
small clearance. Again, assembly by bonding limits the
implementation of movable joints.
The drawbacks of individual processes are a lower
Figure 2. Examples of individual processes. Working: (a)
turning, (b) drilling, (c) beam processing. (d) Assembly. (e)
throughput–cost ratio for equipment and a higher processing
Result. cost per work item compared to those of batch processes.

Micromechanical engineering and microequipment

deviation (size tolerances) are determined by the accuracy

of stable approximation of the reference shape required by
the material’s crystal lattice. Tolerance can’t be less than
the surface roughness, reaching the latter for parts of simple
shape. Therefore a part of simple shape with a relative
dimensional error of 0.01 may have a minimum size of the
order of 100 atoms (30 nm for metals).
In practice, the limits of dimensional error are
determined by the accuracy of equipment (discussed in the
next section) and by the machining methods in use. Let us
consider the limits of the following kinds of machining
widely used in mechanical engineering: machining by
removal or deposition of material, and machining by
redistribution of material.

3.1. Machining by removal or deposition of material

For machining by removal of material, the limits of

dimensional error usually relate to the size of the unit
removed [28].

3.1.1. Removal of material by a mechanical tool.

Turning, milling and grinding are the most commonly used
machining techniques falling into this category.
Figure 3. (a) Surface roughness and shape deviation. (b) The processes of material removal by tools involve the
Shape approximation by atomic lattice.
generation of chip(s) that are conglomerates of atoms. The
size of the conglomerate depends on the structure and purity
Also, the cost of equipment for mechanical machining and of processed material and on the tool size. Cutting ductile
assembly of microparts is even higher since ultraprecise and materials proceeds well if the radius of the tool tip is smaller
therefore expensive machine tools and assembly devices are than the thickness of the removed chips. With a cutting tool
necessary. of atomic radius, the thickness of the chips would have to
Comparable characteristics of individual and batch be not less than several atoms. Thus the unit removal for
processes are summarized in table 1. cutting should exceed 2–3 nm.
Thus a comparative analysis of batch and individual Diamond turning is an ultraprecision machining process
processing gives us grounds to anticipate that the using a diamond tool to produce the highest quality
employment of individual processing in micromechanics optical components from contact lenses to telescope optics.
would permit a broadening of the spectrum of materials Current state-of-the-art is about 5–10 nm in roughness
and designs, relieve the requirements on the tolerances of and within 50 nm peak-to-valley on diamond cut surfaces
the process parameters, and use more efficient techniques of [37–39]. Precision 3D grinding with an average surface
process control and quality inspection. However, to assess roughness of 5 nm and less than 0.3 µ shape deviation has
the feasibility of such employment, it is necessary to specify been reported [25]. For micromilling, free standing walls
ways of reducing the cost of individual processing, as well 8 µ wide and 62 µ high as well as 4 µ wide and 10 µ high
as to estimate the limits of its use at the microscale and have been obtained [29] with mean roughness of 65–90 nm.
ways of reaching them. The merit of cutting is that it allows machining of
essentially any kind of material: conductor and dielectric,
3. The dimensional limits of individual brittle and ductile, of high and low melting point, etc. For
mechanical machining example, microturning is suitable for the machining of both
brittle and ductile materials, since even brittle materials
The lower limits of machining size are determined by such as ceramics behave similarly to ductile materials at
the limits of dimensional error. The dimensional error small chip thicknesses [40, 41].
(figure 3) is in its turn specified by size deviation, shape The prospects for cutting accuracy look better than
deviation, and the surface roughness of machined parts for grinding due to more precise tool–workpiece contact.
[35, 36]. Here we will not separate shape and size deviation. During grinding, material is removed by a number of
The theoretical limits of surface roughness are statistically spread abrasive ‘microtools’. However, at
determined by the stepping of the atomic lattice (0.2– present the surface finish using grinding is still better than
0.4 nm) of machined materials or by their molecular that obtained for cutting due to inadequate precision of
dimensions (1–100 nm). The theoretical limits of shape positioning in the latter case.

E M Kussul et al

Table 1. Typical features of batch and individual processes.

Batch process Individual process

Number of workpieces Large One
Processing action Distributed Local
Processing agent Liquid or gas Tool
Spectrum of materials Limited Broad
Workpiece fastening Rigid Movable
3D capabilities Limited Arbitrary
Assembly Bonding Joining
Joints Unmovable Movable
Structures Simple monolithic Complex movable
Feedback control Averaged Individual
Quality inspection Partial Full
Process tolerances Stringent Relaxed
Set-up Complicated Moderate
Cost of processing Low High
Processing throughput Low High

3.1.2. Removal of material using an electric field. die or mold, by the plasticity of material, and by distortions
Micro-EDM and electrochemical removal and deposition during removal of ready parts. Additional errors appear
fall into this category. after the removal of ready parts as a result of cooling
Micromachining by micro-EDM is well-known [24] deformations.
and has been used to machine shafts and holes with 5 µ Errors owing to cooling deformations should scale
diameter, radial deviation of less than 0.5 µ, and surface down linearly with the size of parts produced. Errors owing
roughness less than 0.1µ [13]. Micronozzles of 2.3 µ to die or molding filling and removal do not change with
diameter were also reported [42]. The limits of EDM can downsizing of parts produced. Microdie fabrication errors
reach atomic dimensions, because its operation principle are determined in a manner similar to the fabrication errors
does not differ from that of STM, single atoms can be of any other micromechanical devices. Metal casting errors
removed [43, 44]. The drawbacks of EDM are relatively include those due to crystallization.
low productivity and restriction of materials. Thus, the total error for machining by restricted
Electrochemical etching and deposition have reached deformation results from several sources and exceeds the
submicron range [45] and allow the fabrication of 3D error of other techniques discussed above. The size error
structures [46]. Though electrochemical processing deals
is still more than 1 µ, and the surface roughness is more
in principle with the removal and the deposition of discrete
than 0.1 µ (see [3], p 44). However this type of machining
atoms, the statistical nature of chemical reactions prevents
provides high throughput and can be used for fabrication
reaching atomic order accuracy.
of workpieces and parts that do not require high accuracy.

3.2. Machining by redistribution of material

Redistribution of material is accomplished by high pressure, 3.2.3. Semi-restricted deformation. Examples are
at various temperatures and aggregate states of ductile rolling and drawing. The deformation takes place in 1D
materials. (drawing and some kinds of rolling) or in 2D (plate or
foil rolling). Accuracy of these techniques is intermediate
3.2.1. Unrestricted redistribution. Free forging between unrestricted and restricted deformation, and is
(hammering) and diamond burnishing fall into this determined by the accuracy of fabrication and positioning of
category. Among the machining methods considered in equipment (roller or die). Surface roughness is determined
this paper, these two are potentially the most precise. by that of the equipment and may approach the atomic
If the machining material is ductile enough, unrestricted lattice spacing for simple shapes (foil rolling).
deformation should allow the achievement of surface 10 µ diameter tungsten wire with a radial deviation of
roughnesses of the order of crystal lattice spacing, through less than 0.1 µ has been manufactured [48] as has rolled
local action on the individual atoms or molecules similar foil 2 µ thick [49].
to the operation of atomic force microscopes (AFM) [47]. To summarize, shape accuracy of 0.1 µ and average
Diamond burnishing may result in a surface finish better surface roughness of 0.005 µ have been realized
than that obtained with diamond turning [41]. by individual mechanical machining. The limits of
dimensional error are determined by the parameters and
3.2.2. Restricted deformation. Relevant techniques structure of the crystal lattice of the material processed. To
include die forging (pressing), casting and molding. reach the limits, equipment with the appropriate precision is
Dimensional accuracy of parts produced is determined needed. Equipment precision is discussed in the following
by the surface roughness, shape complexity and accuracy of section.

Micromechanical engineering and microequipment

4. Enhancement of equipment precision due to Table 2. Linear dimensions of equipment generations.

Generation Generation downsizing factor
In this section we consider the key factors that influence G GDF = 2 GDF = 4 GDF = 8
the accuracy of equipment. The key sources of machining 1 100 mm 100 mm 100 mm
errors are heat expansion, geometry errors, clearances, lack 2 50 mm 25 mm 12.5 mm
of machine tool rigidity, and feed step [50]. 3 25 mm 6 mm 1.5 mm
Let us compare various kinds of error for two machine 4 12.5 mm 1.5 mm 0.2 mm
tools that are identical in design, material and relative 5 6 mm 0.4 mm 25 µ
6 3 mm 0.1 mm 3µ
precision, but machine tool A and its workpiece are S 7 1.5 mm 25 µ —
times bigger than machine tool B and its workpiece in linear 8 0.8 mm 6µ —
dimension. 9 0.4 mm 1.5 µ —
10 0.2 mm — —
(i) Thermal expansion Since thermal expansion is
proportional to linear dimension, the thermal expansion of
machine tool B is S times less than that of machine tool A.
Thus, the machining error owing to thermal expansion will To summarize, since the absolute error from each error
be S times smaller for machine tool B than for A. source is at least S times smaller for B than for A, the
(ii) Geometry errors Due to the geometrical similarity total absolute error of B will be at least S times smaller
of machine tools A and B, the linear deviation of the than that of A. Thus, equipment accuracy increases linearly
machine tool parts from their reference shapes are S times with decreasing equipment size, and its relative precision
smaller for machine tool B than for machine tool A. Thus remains constant. Therefore we conclude that to avoid
the machining error from this error source will be S times problems of making ultraprecision macroequipment, it is
smaller for machine tool B than for A. expedient to fabricate microparts using microequipment
(iii) Clearances Due to geometrical similarity, the with dimensions commensurable with those of machined
smaller machine tool B has clearances S times smaller than parts (see also [33, 27]).
the larger machine tool A. Thus the error in workpiece
machining owing to clearances will be S times smaller for 5. Making microequipment through smaller and
machine tool B. smaller generations
(iv) Lack of rigidity The rigidity of a machine tool is
proportional to the ratio between the force acting on a part To make mechanical microequipment, we propose to use
of the machine tool and its displacement due to deformation the following scheme [53]. Equipment should be developed
caused by the force. Since the rigidity of geometrically as a sequence of generations. Each generation should
similar objects decreases linearly with size [51], the rigidity include equipment (machine tools, manipulators, assembly
of machine tool B is S times less than that of A. devices, measuring instruments, tools, etc) sufficient for
The error of workpiece machining due to the lack of the manufacture of an identical set of equipment. Each
rigidity of a machine tool depends on the displacement of subsequent equipment generation is manufactured by the
its elements under the action of various forces. To estimate preceding one. The size of each subsequent generation is
these displacements, one must analyse how various forces less than that of the preceding generation.
acting on the machine tool parts depend on of the machine First-generation microequipment should be manufac-
tool size. tured using macroequipment. Second-generation equipment
Let us consider the cutting force, assuming that the should be made using first-generation equipment, having
feed and the cut depth of machine tool B are S times less the same nomenclature but smaller dimensions than the first
than those of A. Since the cutting force is approximately generation. By realizing a series of smaller and smaller gen-
proportional to the cross section of chips [52], the cutting erations, equipment down to very small dimensions could
force of machine tool B is S 2 times less than that of A. be obtained.
Since the rigidity of B is S times less, the displacement of For example, if the dimensions of first-generation
the parts of B due to the cutting force will be S times less machine tools were 100 mm × 100 mm × 100 mm, and
than those of A. each subsequent generation was 4×4×4 times smaller than
Another force responsible for displacement of machine the preceding one, then machine tools of the 9th generation
tool parts is inertial force due to vibration. Since inertial would have dimensions of approximately 1.5 µ × 1.5 µ ×
force is proportional to the masses of machine tool parts, 1.5 µ. Let us define the generation downsizing factor
the inertial force for B is S 3 times less than that for A. (GDF) as the ratio of the linear dimension of the preceding
Therefore the displacement due to this force for B is S 2 generation equipment to that of the subsequent generation
times less than those for A. equipment. For the example above, GDF is equal to 4
Thus machining error due to lack of rigidity will be at (GDF = 4).
least S times smaller for B than for A. The linear dimensions of equipment of sequential
(v) Feed step Determined by the machine tool design, generations (G) for various GDF and a 100 mm first
the minimal feeding step of machine tool B is S times less generation are shown in table 2.
than that of A. Thus the machining error will be S times To implement this scheme, equipment should permit the
smaller for B than for A. fabrication of GDF-times smaller copies of its parts, while

E M Kussul et al

preserving their relative accuracy, therefore reducing their

absolute value by the GDF factor. Thus the geometrical
similarity of machine tools of various generations, and
therefore their relative precision (section 4) will be
In mechanical engineering a number of techniques are
used to enhance the accuracy of equipment [54–56]:
(i) Design solutions have been developed for some
machining operations that prevent transferral of equipment
parts’ error into machined parts error. For example,
the shape error of a part machined by turning may be
considerably smaller than that of the lathe’s slides or
(ii) Many finishing operations have been developed
with the working principle of providing independence of
the part’s shape error from the error of the equipment.
Examples are lapping of mating surfaces (cones, screw
pairs, gear teeth, etc), final grinding of balls, and honing.
(iii) For CNC machine tools, machining accuracy
is being enhanced by controlling the drive using tables
to correct any machine tool inaccuracies or using
feedback from instruments measuring the size of machined
workpieces precisely.
Methods for equipment accuracy enhancement are used,
e.g., in the machine tool industry for the fabrication
of precision parts for ultraprecision machine tools. In
our scheme, with gradually decreasing equipment size,
the requirement for relative accuracy of machine tools
needed for the fabrication of geometrically similar parts
for the following generation of machine tools decreases
proportionally to GDF.
Note that the direct fabrication of mechanical
microequipment by existing ultraprecision mechanical
macroequipment does not allow the creation of machine
tools smaller than 1 mm3 . Therefore, today, the
way to manufacture very small machine tools is
Figure 4. (a) Individual, (b) batch, (c) massively parallel
seen through a sequence of mechanical microequipment manufacturing.
generations. The advantages of this approach consist
also in a gradual revelation of problems that arise in
the course of miniaturization [5, 27, 57, 58]. Furthermore, processes. The costs of macroequipment, labor, floor
microequipment developed using this approach will span area, and energy are assumed to be comparable for batch
the entire range of mechanical micromachining. and individual processes. However batch processing
(figure 4(b)) works entire batches of workpieces at once,
so its throughput is higher and working cost per unit is
6. Microequipment-based manufacturing in lower than those of individual processing.
micromechanical engineering The situation reverses for MbM for to the following
Our approach to the manufacturing of mechanical
microdevices is based on the extension of mechanical (i) Miniaturization of equipment leads to decreased
engineering technologies to the microdomain by a gradual floor area occupied and energy consumed, and, therefore,
miniaturization of equipment. Therefore it may be named decreases associated costs.
‘micromechanical engineering’ (MME), and manufacturing (ii) The labor costs are bound to decrease due to
using microequipment may be named ‘microequipment- the reduction of maintenance costs and a higher level of
based manufacturing’ (MbM). automation expected in MbM.
Individual processes (figure 4(a)), such as mechanical (iii) Miniaturization of equipment by MbM results in
machining, are of major importance for mechanical decreased costs. This is because microequipment itself
engineering. There exists an opinion that individual becomes the object of MbM. The realization of universal
processing is of high cost and low throughput compared microequipment capable of extended reproduction of itself
with batch processing. It is based on the comparison will allow the manufacture of low-cost microequipment in
of microelectronical and macromechanical manufacturing a few reproductive acts because of the low consumption of

Micromechanical engineering and microequipment

materials, energy, labor, and floor area in MbM. into micromechanics by micromechanical engineering.
The low cost of individual micromechanical machining
Thus the miniaturization of equipment opens the way to
and assembly will make feasible a number of potential
a drastic decrease in the unit cost of individual processing.
applications as well as allowing development of novel
At a low unit cost of individual micromachining, the most
applications that are not at present considered economical.
natural way to achieve high throughput is to parallelize the
This concerns both mass and small-lot applications.
process of individual machining by concurrent use of a great
Mass applications should be manufactured by massively
quantity of microequipment of the same kind (figure 4(c)).
parallel MbM. However, unlike batch production where
This type of high-throughput process may be called
mass manufacturing is an essential prerequisite to
‘massively parallel’ to stress the difference from mass economically attractive applications, because of the need to
manufacturing in macromechanics and microelectronics. In justify the initial costs of equipment and production setting-
microelectronics, mass manufacturing is achieved not by up, the mass of microapplication is not as critical for MbM.
individual, but by batch processes. In macromechanics, the With the availability of low-cost universal microequipment
high cost of macroequipment, the large floor area that it (to be produced by mass and automated micromachine tool
occupies, and the high energy consumption prevents mass industry) and reasonable labor expenditure, the making
parallelization of manufacturing. The number of machine of inexpensive single-unit and small-lot applications is
tools that concurrently mass produce identical parts in the possible. This is especially important for research and
factory does not usually exceed several dozen. prototype manufacture, as well as for the fabrication of
Contrastingly, for a 1 dm3 microfactory exploiting unique microdevices that may have a market even at
massively parallel MbM, the number of machine tools with relatively high cost.
overall dimensions of 1.5 mm × 1.5 mm × 1.5 mm (e.g.,
GDF = 4, G = 4 in table 2) placed 3.5 mm apart (at 5 mm
7.1. Classification of micromechanical applications
intervals) will be 8000. Realization of machine tools with
smaller linear dimension, e.g., 0.1 mm (GDF = 4, G = 6), Let us consider three types of micromechanical applications
will make it possible to place 8 000 000 machine tools in distinguished by their function.
a 1 dm3 factory. Thus, massively parallel MbM presumes
thousands and millions of concurrently performed identical 7.1.1. Applications oriented to the macroworld. There
individual operations instead of single or dozens of such are applications ([3, 30, 60] and references therein) in
operations in mass macromechanical production. which micromechanical devices exert influence on the
Exploitation of such a great number of microsized macroworld. In these applications macroeffect is obtained
machine tools is only feasible if they are automatically by the integration into a single structure of a vast number
operated and the microfactory as a whole is highly of microparts, each performing a microfunction. Such
automated. We expect that many useful and proven applications require supermass production and assembly
concepts, ideas and techniques of automation can be of parts at low cost. Examples are filters (see
borrowed from mechanical engineering. They vary from subsection 7.3.1), heat exchangers (see subsection 7.3.2),
the principles of factory automation (FMS and CAM) to panels, tactile displays, supercapacitors and systems for the
the ideas of unified containers and clamping devices and separation and purification of liquids.
techniques of numerical control. However automation With existing micromechanical technologies, some of
of micromanufacturing has peculiarities that will require these applications are too expensive or difficult to realize.
special development. These will be discussed elsewhere Massively parallel MbM will allow the manufacture of
([59], see also section 9). low-cost devices of this type because of its capability to
To summarize, massively parallel MbM should be manufacture low-cost arbitrary shaped parts and make use
based on individual machining of microparts and assembly of any material, low-cost assembly and mass production.
of microdevices realized by parallel operation of a great
number of automated microequipment. This enables high
7.1.2. Applications oriented to the microworld.
productivity and low unit costs, as for batch manufacturing.
The diversity of materials required, the need to make
Unlike batch processes, there are no problems with
parts of complex shape and the need to assemble
fabrication of 3D parts and assembly of sophisticated
sophisticated structures with movable joints prevents
constructions. These features of massively parallel MbM
complete fabrication of these applications exclusively by
allow revision of the wide-spread belief about poor cost-
batch technologies. For example, it is not practical to
effectiveness of micromechanical production and individual
produce microequipment by batch technologies.
processes and allow the search for new areas of prospective
By their complexity, potential and current applications
micromechanical applications.
of this kind vary from mechanical microtools to microrobots
and include ([3, 8, 9, 60–63] and references therein)
7. Applications microsurgery instruments; microsensors; applications
in microelectronics (microconnectors, packaging, etc);
The fabrication method proposed for micromechanical micromotors (see subsections 7.3.3 and 7.3.4) and
devices will allow a broadening of the spectrum of potential microactuators; microinstruments (including STM and
applications, due to an extension the spectrum of materials, AFM); microsystems for drug delivery; microfluid analysis
machining, assembly methods, and designs introduced system; bio micromanipulation (including cell handling);

E M Kussul et al

Table 3. Design characteristics of valve filters for fluids.

Valve diameter (mm) 1.0 0.2 0.02

Valve number (× 1000) 50 50 12 000
Clearance (µ) 5 1 0.1
Performance (liter per second) 0.6 0.005 0.001
Differential pressure (Pa) 10 000 10 000 10 000
Filter diameter (mm) 80 16 10
Filter height (mm) 60 12 10

micromachine tools and micromanipulators; microrobots

(e.g. MITI’s ); microfactories; etc.

7.1.3. Applications performing size-independent

functions. Into this category we place applications
related to storage and processing of information ([3], see
p 164, [57], and references therein). The application
of micromechanics to this area is directed both to the
miniaturization of available information storage devices
and to the development of novel information processing
devices. Miniaturization of existing systems for recording,
storage, and playback of information, such as magnetic
disk drives, magnetic tape drives, and optical disk drives,
will enable enhancement of unit capacity and reduction
of power consumption and cost. Development of novel
types of devices for information storage and processing Figure 5. Valve filter for fluids. (a) Valve cell, (b) filter
may turn out to be promising from the standpoint of plate, (c) macrocell.
their miniaturization potential, which may exceed that
of electronic devices. Examples of such devices are (ii) Implementation In this filter only one part, namely
microhydromechanical automata, memory and computers the conic valve, is to be made in mass volume. Holes in
[64]. the plates have to be made for the valves, and assembly
consists of one mass operation of setting the valves into
7.2. Applications of micromechanical engineering the holes. Thus, only three types of mass operations are
under development necessary for the manufacturing of this filter. The number
of other operations (manufacturing of plates and a filter
7.2.1. Microvalve fluid filter. The basic idea of the case, and the assembly of the whole filter after the plates are
filter proposed lies in the formation of filter capillaries filled with the valves) is small compared with the number
so the pathway traversed by the fluid within the capillary of mass operations mentioned above. Conic valves can
is as short as possible. This permits a reduction of be manufactured by turning or rolling; other parts can
differential pressure and improves flushing of clogged be manufactured by turning and drilling, assembly can be
filters compared to other mechanical filter types ([60] and realized by a 3 DOF manipulator.
references therein).
Thus this filter design will provide high performance,
(i) Design The microvalve filter contains a huge number low overall dimensions, low differential pressure and is well
of valve cells. A valve cell is shown in figure 5(a). It suited for production by massively parallel MbM.
consists of conic valve placed in a hole. Special protrusions
at the top of the hole hold the valve so there is a thin
7.2.2. Capillary heat exchanger. Micromechanics
clearance between the conic part of the valve and the
allows to enhance performance of heat exchangers through
hole walls. Fluid passes through this clearance, but solid
the increase of the ratio of the heat exchange surface to the
particles larger than the clearance can’t pass. Fluid flow is
volume of the device.
directed from the top to the bottom of the valve cell, so the
solid particle cake is collected at the top of the valve cell (i) Design A capillary heat exchanger (CHEX) includes
and can be removed by back flow of gas or liquid. a huge number of cells. A CHEX cell is shown in
A large number of valve cells are placed on the figure 6(a). It contains a large number of short orthogonal
microvalve filter plate (figure 5(b)). A number of these capillary slots that pass hot fluid in one direction and cold
plates are placed in the microvalve filter case (figure 5(c)). fluid in another (perpendicular) direction. Parallel short
Examples of the rated characteristics of water filters are slots allows for a high flow rate and a small differential
given in table 3. pressure, and their small width allows rapid heat transfer

Micromechanical engineering and microequipment

Figure 7. Electromagnetic step motor.

traversing the cells. The matrix is constructed so the cross

section of inlet and outlet canals is large enough to ensure
a small pressure drop across them. A large number of
such matrices may be arranged in a larger matrix structure
(second-order structure) and so on.
(ii) Implementation Plates and cover plates can be
machined by milling; the openings in the matrix can be
machined by drilling. For assembly, separating plates
are placed on the bottom cover plate and covered by the
top cover plate. All plates are bonded by adhesive or
soldering. Assembled CHEX cells are placed into the
matrix openings and sealed by adhesive or soldering. All
assembly operations can be carried out by an automatic
This design will permit reduction of differential fluid
pressure inside the heat exchanger owing to decreasing
length of capillaries involved in heat exchange.

7.2.3. Electromagnetic step motor. Various microme-

chanical applications may demand motors of various types:
electrostatic, electromagnetic, piezo, etc [57, 58, 65, 66].
Electrostatic motors may have a very simple design. The
dimensions of their parts are not much less than the over-
all motor dimensions, making miniaturization easier. Their
drawback consists in a lower torque (in the micro version)
compared to other motors.
Electromagnetic motors may provide considerable
torque, but are more sensitive to the relative errors of
fabrication (gaps), and the minimal linear dimension of
their parts (wire diameter) is generally two orders less
than the overall motor dimensions, resulting in impaired
miniaturization potential. Our intent was to simplify the
design, fabrication, and miniaturization of electromagnetic
motor development.
(i) Design Our electromagnetic step motor (figure 7)
contains four coils fitted on steel cores. Steel cores are
Figure 6. (a) Capillary heat exchanger cell. (b) CHEX cell fastened on a steel plate and on a non-magnetic plate. The
with covers; (c) CHEX macrocell. ends of the steel cores are equipped with steel shoes to
provide a closed magnetic circuit. The rotor consists of
an axis and a permanent magnet fitted securely to this axis
when the fluid passes the capillary. The capillaries are (e.g., by adhesive). Opposing coil windings are connected
separated by the plates. A CHEX cell has special covers, with each other, and to the electronic circuit for pulse
as shown in figure 6(b), that permit arrangement of CHEX formation. By passing the current in the proper direction
cells in a matrix structure, shown in figure 6(c). through the appropriate coil pairs, one can control the rotor
Hot fluid is input at the top of the matrix, passes through position (total of 8 stable rotor positions).
the cells, and is also output at the top of matrix. Cold (ii) Implementation The steel cores, steel plate, non-
fluid is input and output at the bottom of the matrix, also magnetic plate, shaft, and rotor can be machined by turning.

E M Kussul et al

The motor operates as follows. Working liquid under

high pressure is fed to the a–a pair of openings situated at
opposite sides of the housing. At the same time, other
openings are connected with the low-pressure pipeline.
Under pressure of working liquid the a–a balls move to
the center, and the elliptical cam rotates so its major axis
becomes perpendicular to the a–a axis. This completes the
first step of motor operation. The high pressure is then fed
to the b–b openings, and the major axis of the elliptical
cam rotates to become perpendicular to the b–b axis, etc.
Obviously, such a step motor completes one revolution in
six steps.
The advantages of this motor are the simplicity of its
Figure 8. Hydraulic step motor. design, parts, and assembly.
(ii) Implementation The body, cheeks, housing, shaft,
and cam are machined by turning. All holes and openings
All the holes can be drilled. The shoes can be made by are made by drilling. Workpieces for balls are made by a
forging and finish turning. special kind of rolling and are finished by grinding.
The coil windings can be implemented without In motor assembly, the bush is press fitted into the
insulated wire and the coiling machine as follows. An bottom cheek. The shaft, with pressed-in cam, is inserted
insulating bush is fitted over and bonded to the steel core. into the bush hole. The body is fitted over the cam, and the
Another bush of a well-conducting material (e.g., copper) balls are inserted into the holes. The housing is then fitted
is fitted over the insulating bush and is also bonded to it. over the body, and the cheek, with pressed-in bush, is fitted
Thereafter the helical flute is cut in the copper bush so a over the shaft. The housing and the cheeks are bonded by
coil with single-row winding results. the epoxy adhesive round the outer diameter.
For the motor assembly, the cores with coils are fitted
onto the plate. The plate and then the shoes are fitted over
8. Micro mechanical engineering and comparison
the cores. The whole structure is filled with epoxy adhesive.
with microelectronics-based micromechanics.
After hardening, the central hole is drilled for the shaft and
a final turning of the shoes for the rotor is made. The rotor An approach to the miniaturization of equipment and to
is press-fitted on the shaft, is magnetized, and is fitted into the low-cost micromechanical production discussed in this
the central hole of the motor. paper is based on the following principles:
(i) extensive use of individual micromachining
7.2.4. Hydraulic step motor. The potential of
(ii) provision of equipment precision by miniaturization
miniaturization for hydraulic motors is better than that
(iii) realization of miniature equipment by a sequence
for electromotors, because the parts of hydraulic motors
of smaller and smaller machine tool generations
are of the same order as their overall dimensions. In
(iv) a decrease in the cost of micromechanical
addition, the theoretical limits of torque for hydraulic
manufacturing by automation and miniaturization of
motors are two orders of magnitude higher than those
of electromagnetic motors, and three orders of magnitude
(v) an increase in the throughput of micromechanical
higher than those for electrostatic motors. This is because
manufacturing by the parallel use of a great quantity of
the pressure of working liquid in hydraulic motors can be
low-cost microequipment
as high as 100 MPa, whereas the analogous parameter for
(iv) creation of new applications due to the potential
electromagnetic motors [65] does not exceed 1 MPa and for
capabilities of low-cost individual micromachining.
electrostatic motors, 0.1 MPa. The drawback of hydraulic
motors is difficult power supply. Therefore an electromotor Let us compare the typical features of two ap-
is more expedient as the drive for a single device. If a lot proaches to the production of micromechanical devices:
of drives with high torque are to be placed in a limited the microelectronics-based approach, most commonly em-
volume, hydraulic motors are more appropriate. ployed now, and the micromechanical engineering approach
We have developed a hydraulic analog of an being discussed in this paper (table 4).
electromagnetic step motor that consists of approximately The principal distinctions are determined by the fact
the same number of parts (figure 8). that materials, as well as machining and assembly methods
(i) Design A ring body contains six holes. A ball of targeted here for the employment in micromechanical
diameter equal to that of the hole is placed inside each hole. engineering, have been worked through and refined in
The engine body is covered with a housing that prevents the mechanical engineering exactly for the manufacture of
balls from falling out of the body. Opposite each hole there mechanical devices with movable 3D parts. Whereas
is a smaller opening in the housing for the working liquid microelectronic technologies have been developed for the
feed. Inside the housing there is a shaft with a permanently manufacture of quite different, non-mechanical products,
fixed elliptical cam. Housing faces are closed with the and only thereafter have been tailored for the manufacture
cheeks supporting the shaft bearings. of micromechanical devices.

Micromechanical engineering and microequipment

Table 4. The typical features of microelectronics-based and mechanical engineering based micromechanics.

Microelectronics-based Mechanical engineering

micromechanics based micromechanics
Working techniques Batch Individual or batch
Basic materials in use Silicon-based, some metals and polymers Metals, alloys, polymers and ceramics
Component geometry Planar, 2.5D Complex, 3D
Assembly methods None or bonding Joining, bonding
Possible designs Planar or stack devices Machines with moving parts
Equipment precision enhancement By equipment design By equipment downsizing
Basic type of process control Feedforward Feedback
Quality inspection Final Final and intermediate
Quality control By process tolerances By inspection and replacement
Automation methods Conventional To be refined
Equipment size Macro Micro
Production volume High High or low
Unit operation cost Low Low
High output By batch macroproduction By massively parallel microproduction
Applications Planar mechanical microparts, MEMS 3D parts, machines and mechanisms

8.1. Machining techniques 8.5. Possible designs

In micromechanical engineering, material working inherent In microelectronics-based micromechanics, planar compo-
in the production of mechanical macrodevices is intended nents and assembly by bonding result in two basic design
to be used. These are mainly individual processes, such concepts: planar components fitted on a horizontal base-
as turning, milling, drilling, grinding, and electrochemical plate or a vertical stack of planar components.
machining, as well as molding, casting, punching, etc. In micromechanical engineering, 3D component shapes
Batch processes are used as well. and the variety of assembly techniques make possible not
In microelectronics-based micromechanics, batch pro- only simple designs, but also sophisticated 3D machines
cesses such as photolithography, etching, film deposition, with movable parts.
etc, are used extensively. Individual processes are avoided
since they are the bottlenecks in the course of production.
8.6. Miniaturization and equipment precision
8.2. Materials in use The limits of component miniaturization are determined by
A wide selection of machining methods in micromechanical the availability of at least several atoms of material at its
engineering will allow the use of a broad spectrum of thinnest part. Thus the minimal volume of a 3D component
materials, including metals and alloys, as well as polymers (micromechanical engineering) will be less than that of a
and ceramics. planar component (microelectronics).
In microelectronics-based micromechanics silicon- To attain the limits of miniaturization, enhancement
containing materials are primarily used, along with metals of equipment precision is needed. Precision enhancement
and polymers that are amenable to evaporation, deposition, of up-to-date macroequipment for batch microelectronic
and other microelectronic technologies. technologies is a difficult task. Miniaturization of
equipment in micromechanical engineering should increase
8.3. Shape of components its precision in proportion to the reduction in its size.

Micromechanical engineering micromachining technologies

enable the manufacture of microparts with complex 8.7. Process control
3D geometry. Microelectronics-based technologies have For batch processes, the working action can’t be controlled
limited 3D capabilities. individually for each workpiece, and process monitoring is
performed by some representative workpiece. Therefore
8.4. Assembly methods the uniformity of characteristics of working action,
Assembly in micromechanical engineering is mainly environment, and workpieces should be ensured to obtain
individual and includes both bonding and techniques identical working results for each workpiece.
providing detachable and movable joints. Individual processes permit individual workpiece
Attempts to avoid assembly in microelectronics-based machining feedback control using information on and
micromechanics constrain the choice of feasible designs. condition of both the workpiece and the working tool.
Batch assembly by bonding has a number of drawbacks
due to the enhanced alignment accuracy required, and a 8.8. Quality control
limited set of joints. In many cases individual assembly is
still needed at the final stages of batch production, and its For batch processes, quality inspection at intermediate
cost may be well above that of batch processes. stages of the production cycle is carried out, at best,

E M Kussul et al

selectively because of the individual character of inspection 9. Discussion

Since the parts and devices in micromechanical Contemporary micromechanics has grown from microelec-
engineering will be mainly machined individually, it would tronics and is virtually based on the technologies developed
be possible to carry out quality inspection at intermediate for microelectronic devices. No other ready technology has
stages of production. achieved so much success in the mass production of small
For monolithic devices produced by batch technologies, devices containing huge numbers of low-cost components
defect of any component tends to make the whole device exemplified by VLSI. It is not surprising that these achieve-
inoperative. Under individual fabrication, a single defective ments stimulate attempts to adopt and modify microelec-
part can be replaced by an operable one. tronic technologies to the fabrication of micromechanical
devices, however progress in this direction has been rather
slow [3, 7, 57].
8.9. Automation techniques We believe this is due to a great difference between
mechanical and electronic devices. This difference
Techniques for automation of equipment, and production
manifests itself in the operating principles of these
processes developed for microelectronics may be applied
devices, in their designs, in the requirements imposed on
for the automation of batch micromechanical production. materials, and in the machining and assembly methods.
Automation in micromechanical engineering is more In our opinion this causes a great technological difference
complicated, both because massively parallel individual between micromechanics production processes and those
micromachining will require automation of a large number of microelectronics. So, it is not surprising that
of equipment units and because many of the automation commonly there is no completely ready microelectronics-
techniques from mechanical engineering have to be revised based technology for new micromechanical applications,
at the microscales. and that their design has to be customized to the available
technology, or a novel technology has to be developed.
8.10. Operation cost On the other hand, in the macroworld there exists
a lot of technology for the manufacturing of mechanical
Miniaturization of equipment in micromechanical engineer- parts and devices. For centuries, these have been
ing, together with the automation of its production, will en- specifically developed for mechanics, but up to now their
able considerable reductions of cost, energy consumption, wide use in micromechanics has not been feasible since
floor area required, and labor. These should reduce the special microequipment for mechanical micromachining
unit cost of individual processing to the unit cost of batch has not been developed. We propose the successive
processing and below. transfer of mechanical engineering technologies into
the microworld by smaller and smaller generations of
mechanical engineering equipment. We believe that
8.11. Volume of production equipment downsizing will solve the problems of precision
For micromechanical devices produced by batch technolo- and cost of mechanical micromachining.
gies, small-lot production is not expedient because of inef- We have also preliminarily examined a number of
ficient use of equipment and large costs of production set- peculiarities that we consider to be characteristic of
up. Mass production of complex micromechanical devices micromechanical engineering. Some of them relate to
solely by microelectronics-based technologies also presents the necessity for changes in machine design due to
downsizing [5, 27, 57, 58]. This is required to assure
a problem. Introduction of individual operations performed
operation of micromachines on their own, and in interaction
by macroequipment usually leads to bottlenecks in the pro-
with the environment. We consider the principle of
duction process and increases the cost of microproducts.
gradual downsizing of equipment to be useful for gradual
For micromechanical engineering, both small-lot and
modification of machinery design due to the problems
mass production may be beneficial. Mass production is
encountered at the microscale.
achieved by the parallel operation of a large number of
One of the most important properties of this approach
pieces of microequipment.
is of the possibility of supermass individual machining due
to the low cost of individual operation and the emerging
8.12. Range of applications possibility of massive parallelization of machining. This
feature of massively parallel MbM looks more like that
The commercial potential of microelectronics-based mi- of microelectronics, however in microelectronics such
cromechanics is for applications that require mass batch a supermass production is provided by batch processes
manufacturing of planar or 2.5D parts which do not require that have essential restrictions from the standpoint of
individual assembly, as well as for applications that require mechanics. Therefore hybrid technologies combining
integration with electronics (MEMS). massively parallel MbM and batch machining may be very
The range of application of micromechanical engineer- promising. As an example, 2D parts could be manufactured
ing should expand, through structures consisting of 3D mi- by batch processes, parts with complex 3D geometry
crocomponents, microstructures demanding complicated as- could be manufactured by parallel individual machining
sembly and including movable parts, and for small-lot mi- using microequipment, and assembly could also be mass
croapplications. individual.

Micromechanical engineering and microequipment

To realize the idea of massively parallel MbM, microdevices produced, especially for mass production. In
a very high level of automation is required. It is such a way, the range of cost-effective micromechanical
necessary both to realize control of miniature equipment applications is supposed to be extended through a
and to decrease the cost of human labor. One of widening of the scope of feasible microdesigns and
the problems in automation of microequipment is the low-cost manufacturing and assembly of mechanical
miniaturization of controllers. This problem appears microcomponents.
since the pace of microequipment downsizing may be
well ahead the pace of miniaturization of electronic
controllers. Solutions to this problem may be provided Acknowledgments
by the development of non-electronic controllers that
could become the object of micromechanical engineering The authors would like to thank Jiri Soukup for valuable
[64], as well as by feedforward automatic control comments, Fred Runyan and Tanya Olar for their help
over a number of machine tools performing identical and suggestions, Toshio Fukuda and Naomi Akao for
operations using a single controller. On the other hand, providing the most useful Proceedings of the International
the low cost of microequipment will permit automatic Symposiums on Micro Machine and Human Science.
maintenance (the operation that defies automation in
macroproduction) by automatic replacement of defective or
worn microequipment.
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