Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 137–143 | Cite as

Failure Analysis of Thermal Actuators, Comb Drives, and Other Microelectromechanical Elements

  • T. F. Tan
  • K. Weber
  • C. K. H. Dharan
Peer Reviewed


This paper reports on an investigation in which several standard Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) elements consisting of thermal actuators, inchworm drives, and comb drives were subjected to vibration loading representative of the environment seen in space applications. Finite-element analysis of the MEMS devices showed that sufficient margins existed under the expected environmental loading. Vibration testing, however, resulted in several failures in the devices, and analysis showed that progressive failure initiated from large local displacements. Debris transport and entrapment was another source of failure leading to shorting of thermal actuators. The results illustrate the importance of debris control and packaging design for reliable MEMS operation. Suggestions for improving the reliability of MEMS devices through practical layout and packaging guidelines are made.


Failure modes MEMS Reliability Spacecraft Vibration 



The preceding work was performed under grant C00-213 of the California Space Authority’s Competitive Space Grant Program with close collaboration of Space Systems/Loral, Palo Alto, CA, USA). Assistance provided by Jun-Hyuk Choi and Matt Last of the Berkeley Composites Laboratory, Mechanical Engineering Department, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© ASM International 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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