MEMS (micro electromechanical systems), designed to resonate and generate clocks signals, may not dominate the world of timing applications right now, but their popularity is growing. Competing with the long established timing technology based on quartz crystals, the emergence of MEMS comes with significant benefits. We summarized the top benefits provided by MEMS timing products below.

  1.  Miniaturization
    Today’s end system designs face challenges from lack of board real estate. Wearables, IoT devices, drones, payment systems and handheld devices, based on silicon rather than quartz, MEMS technology offers a lower cost and more readily available path toward miniaturization. Taking advantage of lithographic techniques, there is no practical limit to the size improvements offered by MEMS. More specifically, the footprint size and frequency remain independent of one another whereas the quartz crystal and its size directly relate. Tiny crystals, such as the soon to be released, ABM13W with a 1.2x1.0mm footprint bottoms out at 32MHz and ranges up to 80MHz while the ABM12W in a 1.6x1.2mm footprint ranges from 24MHz to 52MHz. In contrast, MEMS devices in similarly small footprints of 1.6x.1.2mm deliver a range of 1MHz to 80MHz. Frequencies below 24MHz are extremely common in power supply, wireless charging and connectivity applications. The ASTMKJ watch-MEMS® also beats other state-of-the-art tuning fork crystal sizes with an even smaller footprint of 1.54x0.84mm. A MEMs oscillator is the best option if you want to shave off that last square mm of PCB area for frequencies below 24MHz.
  2.  Resistance to Shock
    We’re talking about high shock—like getting shot out of a cannon high shock. “Who needs that?” you might ask. Immunity to high shock is not just necessary in projectiles. Many applications such as industrial process monitoring, handheld power tools, transportation, drones and robotics experience routine exposure to shock and vibration. Any equipment at risk of falling, dropping, impacting repeatedly, crashing at high speed, experiencing sharp turns or strong reverberations will benefit from MEMS. The small size of the resonator means it also has low mass, even compared to a quartz crystal. Small mass means acceleration factors less force and allows MEMS to keep on ticking.
  3.  Stability at Wide Temperature Extremes
    Wide temperature extremes, beyond -40C and 85C, must be tolerated by equipment in industrial, transportation, automotive and military applications. Stability of an uncompensated quartz crystal tends to diverge at cold and hot temperature extremes. Temperature compensation required by all MEMS will keep the device under control across temperature, even at the extremes. If you are looking for tight stability across the full temperature range, MEMS timing may be a good option.  
  4.  Weird Frequencies
    Almost all applications use one of hundreds of common frequencies. However, when a new frequency is required, cutting a quartz blank to the frequency may take many weeks of lead time. During urgent projects, the programmability of MEMS can rescue engineers and help continue their designs. In the end, it is possible to go to production with MEMS and switch back to crystals for volume shipments. It can be handy to accommodate new frequencies during the development and prototyping phase.

 Applying technology in the right way, for the right reason always solves challenges. In many applications, MEMS can provide a space saving option, resistant to shock, with better stability and convenience for new frequencies. 

About Abracon, LLC | The Heartbeat of the IoT®

Founded in 1992, and headquartered in Austin, Texas, Abracon is a leading global manufacturer of passive and electromechanical timing, synchronization, power, connectivity and RF solutions. Abracon offers a wide selection of quartz timing crystals and oscillators, MEMS oscillators, power and RF inductors, transformers, RF antennas and wireless charging coils, Bluetooth modules, SAW filters and resonators. The company is ISO9001-2015 certified with design & application engineering resources in Texas and sales offices in Texas, California, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Scotland, India, Israel, Hungary, UK, and Germany. Abracon’s products are offered through its global distribution network.

For more information about Abracon, visit

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