SBIR Success Story: InstituTec
2750 E. WT Harris Blvd, Ste 103
Charlotte, NC, 28213
Project Title: High Aspect Ratio Probe for Micrometer Scale Structures
NIST Award(s): SB134105W0840
Technology Developed: This solicitation was awarded to InsituTec, Inc. to employ a novel microprobing technology referred to as a standing wave probe. During the Phase I program, InsituTec successfully achieved demonstration of the technology and the ability to measure high aspect ratio microscale holes. Probe diameter is 7.5 micrometers with upto 700:1 aspect ration. We demonstrated measuremnt of microscale holes at 128 µm.
Key Words: microscale holes, standing wave, microscale sensor, micro-manufacturing, high aspect ratio, metrology
Uses of Technology/Products/Service: Precision motion and measurement tools for nanoscale applications is a pressing need which InsituTec was founded to meet. Specifically our technology is capable of measuring nanoscale features. As a result of the large market opportunity in this area, several metrology companies have been working to develop technologies to meet this same need. However, InsituTec has a patented new technology which overcomes all of the challenges experienced by our competitors. For example, measuring a small hole requires a tiny probe (smaller than a human hair). However, commercially available probes are inherently compliant, susceptible to environmental changes such as humidity, and stick to the measured surfaces, cannot measure deep inside the feature, and are slow. Therefore, commercially available technologies have not met the most difficult challenges in microscale probing and have not achieved measurements with adequate uncertainty levels. Our novel probing technology satisfies all these criteria. Achieving this combination of attributes in a single probe is quite challenging. One key to the success of InsituTec's technology was that we have been able to overcome the fact that microscale probes stick to the surface. Our novel probe because of its standing wave vibration is able to scan along the surface without sticking. Secondly, competitor's technology function in a mode called touch trigger mode. This allows the collection of one point at a time and is inherently slow. We have developed the first high aspect ratio probe capable of scanning a feature. This implies the probe remains in contact with the surface and maps out the contour taking hundreds or thousands of data points per second along the surface.
Benefit to Company: The market for microscale probing technology is potentially significant due to a vast number of products designed with microscale features. Initially, we will leverage partnerships with established companies with a proven track record in high craftsmanship of metrology precision machines. This will enable the standing wave probes to be quickly introduced into the market on a recognized and trusted metrology platform. From this effort, the InsituTec business team will be able to streamline products as well as developing the company's heritage in the metrology market. Over time, we will focus additional research in multidimensional probes employing the standing wave methodology as well as building in-house expertise in complete metrology machine tools, and extensive efforts will be focused to scale down the size of the standing wave probes to nanoscale science. All of these opportunities are expected to be significant to future industrial and research needs and InsituTec aims to be the leader in microscale and nanoscale probing technologies. Based on successful implementation of this technology through these grants, InsituTec expects an average increase in revenues of at least 25-50% a year for the next five years. Presently, projected sales of products and custom design contracts result in growth projections for 2006 of 45% and the same growth is expected again in 2007.
Impact on Company Growth: Strategic
How Product Was Commercialized: InsituTec has just commenced the Phase II project (Aug 2006) with NIST to provide them with a modular gage head unit equipped with the standing wave probe technology. Even at this early stage in the project, we have sold the sensors as stand alone units with kinematic mounts. Our business model is to transition the standing wave probing technology into a commercially viable tool for industry and ultimately be a valuable resource for improving microscale manufacturing. The high-value tool will be manufactured through InsituTec and provided in several different product packages. This will include embedding the tool on pre-existing instruments, working with strategic partners on new complete system packages, and providing a measurement services.