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Microvision works wonders in the Microfabrication Laboratory

Imagine an airline pilot being able to view sectional maps and airport landing strip charts without having to look down at the instruments. Or a surgeon able to perform image-guided neurosurgery from an image overlaid into his natural field of view instead of looking up at a nearby monitor.

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These revolutionary capabilities are made possible by a micro-miniature retinal scanning display technology called the Nomad™ Personal Display System, developed by Microvision, Inc. Spun off from technology developed at the University of Washington's Human Interface Technology Lab, the Nomad™ uses MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) technology in a scanning chip that directs a tiny ray of light to transmit images and other information directly onto the wearer's retina. The sophisticated head-mounted display is comprised of a scanner with a one-inch screen, attached to a device like a miner's helmet. The wearer can see right through the scanner screen, which produces an image viewable even in daylight.

Microvision, a Bothell-based company, develops and brings to market novel products that manipulate "information in the form of light," otherwise known as photonics. The company produces components and products that 1) output information -- such as displays, 2) capture information -- as with a camera or barcode reader, and 3) transmit or modulate information -- in the form of light in an optical fiber.

Much of this exciting work is happening right in WTC's Microfabrication Laboratory. The company used the lab to develop the prototype of a video scanner for head-mounted displays and has moved into pilot production of the device. "WTC played a vital role in initial production and getting us to where we are today," says Kelly Linden, Microvision engineering manager who currently works in the lab four days out of five. "The Microfabrication Lab is a unique place where an outside company can work, using WTC equipment and facilities as an extension of itself."

The relationship between Microvision and the Microfabrication Laboratory has been a reciprocally beneficial one. In its six years in the lab, Microvision has helped purchase specialized equipment as well as introduced processes and procedures. This has enabled lab staff to add process capabilities that can benefit other users.

The company will continue as a lab user to refine the Nomad™ and develop other products. They recently partnered with Walsin Lihwa Corporation to develop low-cost manufacturing capabilities for the eventual mass production of key components of Microvision's microdisplay engine intended for consumer and other high-volume specialty applications. The worldwide market for displays is expected to grow from roughly $1.2 billion in 2001 to almost $5 billion by 2005.

Related WTC links:

  • Microvision is a WTC client
  • Microfabrication Laboratory

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    WTC accelerating energy technology industry

    A WTC-led group is focusing on shortening the time for Washington companies to commercialize energy technology-related products. The opportunity is based on the critical need for the nation's energy infrastructure to change.

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    "The transition of our national energy infrastructure over the next several decades provides a huge commercial opportunity," said Lee Cheatham, WTC's executive director. "We must ensure that the companies benefiting from this opportunity are located here, where they benefit our residents and local economy."

    Over the next several decades, the U.S. energy infrastructure needs to make a fundamental transition. It must incorporate innovations in operating strategies, technologies and business models. Three primary national issues drive the necessity of this change:

    -- The 21st Century global economy requires an energy infrastructure that is flexible, scalable and reliable.
    -- Concerns about national security and economic stability require that U.S. reliance on foreign oil must be reduced.
    -- Environmental impacts must be minimized -- to ensure the highest quality of public health and mitigate the impacts of global climate change.

    Local companies are uniquely positioned to take advantage of these changes. The Nortwest's historical leadership in electric energy and the diversity of our resource base are key advantages in capturing the leadership role.

    The Northwest Energy Technology Collaborative is the mechanism to accelerate the industry. Key Northwest organizations, including Bonneville Power Administration, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and AVISTA Corporation, have joined WTC to create the collaborative.

    This collaborative is a framework for planning and communicating, and has the participation of a broad range of industry, government, university and nonprofit organizations. Its two key goals are to establish a roadmap for the Northwest energy technology industry and to create an ongoing communications mechanism that assures broad participation.

    "Establishing the Energy Technology Collaborative is a key step for Washington to fulfill our leadership responsibility," said Martha Choe, director of Washington's Department of Trade and Economic Development. "This industry will ensure that Washington continues to lead the U.S. in providing innovative products to markets all around the world."

    The collaborative is expected to be formally launched in April 2002.

    Related WTC links:


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    SBIR networking event draws a crowd

    On February 28, 2002, WTC hosted an SBIR networking event on the University of Washington campus. Sponsored by the WaFAST program, the breakfast seminar drew over 60 people interested in learning more about the SBIR and STTR programs. A panel of experienced SBIR winners shared their experiences, the challenges they faced, and how they successfully leveraged the award within their companies.

    Panelists included Doug Hansmann of EKOS Corporation, Rob Beckius of MesoSystems, Tom Clary of The Clary Company International, Dennis Lowenthal of Aculight, and Andy Branca of UW Engineered Biomaterials (UWEB). Panelists and participants alike enjoyed a truly unique networking opportunity!

    The next WaFAST networking event in Seattle will be June 6, 2002.

    Related WTC links:

  • SBIR Program

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  • Microfabrication Laboratory news

    Lab wins Telly Award, adds new process equipment

    WTC's Microfabrication Laboratory was notified in March 2002 that its Laboratory Orientation and Safety Training video was a finalist in the 2001 Telly Awards competition. Founded in 1980, the prestigious Telly Awards recognize excellence in non-network film and video production. The video, directed and produced by Carol Geertsema, UWTV Productions, in association with the WTC, demonstrates proper cleanroom practice, safe chemical handling, emergency response and other topics essential in providing a clean, healthy and safe working environment for the lab's staff and clients. A total of 11,114 entries were received in the recent competition.

    The lab's complement of equipment continues to expand. Trion Technology of Tempe, AZ has selected the Microfab Lab as the recipient of a new Mini-Lock II Reactive Ion Etching (RIE) system. This generous donation includes a 1500-watt inductively-coupled plasma (ICP) source, a vacuum load-lock and an electrostatic chuck with helium backside cooling to update the WTC's current Trion Phantom I RIE. When combined with the lab's Deep RIE system, this addition expands both the lab's process capability and capacity for specialized surface and bulk micromachining.

    In addition to the new RIE, the lab will soon be home to a new plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) system. Acquired under funding awarded to the UW's Microscale Life Sciences Center by the NIH's Human Genome Research Institute, the PECVD will allow UW EE Professor Karl Böhringer's research team to deposit thin films of low temperature silicon oxide, controlled-stress silicon nitride, and polycrystalline silicon in support of his research in biochip materials for genome analysis. The PECVD will be available to all lab users.

    Related WTC links:

  • Microfabrication Laboratory

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  • Premier nanotechnology center in the neighborhood

    The University of Washington has established a strong presence in nanotechnology. Since its inception in 1997, the Center for Nanotechnology has established a level of excellence in teaching, research, and public outreach.

    The Center's primary goal is the instruction and training of future scientists and educators. In April 2001, the UW and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory formed the Joint Institute for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology to study an area of science that holds the promise to dramatically change the way we live in the new century.

    A centralized Nanotechnology User Facility (NUF) is located on the UW campus in Fluke Hall. The NUF is equipped with the start-of-the-art imaging tools for mapping nano-structures on the surface.

    The NUF is available to the UW community, other academic institutions, researchers, and industrial users as a cost center. NUF staff members will provide training and support regarding the use of the start-of-the-art tools. Users who successfully complete the training sections receive access to reserve the use of the instrumentation online.

    Related external links (will open a new window):

  • NanoTech User Facility at the UW

    Related WTC links:

  • Microfabrication Laboratory

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  • WTC newsletter to be all-electronic

    We are planning to produce an all-electronic newsletter beginning with the next issue, Summer 2002. Distribution will be via e-mail. Therefore, it is essential that we have your correct e-mail address. We will be contacting you in the next few months to verify this information.

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