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MEMS are, in their most basic forms, diminutive versions of traditional electrical and mechanical devices - such as valves, pressure sensors, hinged mirrors, and gears with dimensions measured in microns - manufactured by techniques similar to those used in fabricating microprocessor chips. The first MEMS products were developed in the 1960s, when accurate hydraulic pressure sensors were needed for aircraft. Such devices were further refined in the 1980s when implemented in fuel-injected car engines to monitor intake-manifold pressure. In the late 80s, MEMS accelerometers for car airbags were developed as a less expensive, more reliable, and more accurate replacement for a conventional crash sensor. Taking the spotlight today are optical MEMS (also known as Micro OptoElectroMechanical Systems, or MOEMS), primarily micromirrors, which are used as digital light processors in video projectors and as switches in optical network equipment.
After extensive development, todays commercial MEMS - also known as Micro System Technologies (MST), Micro Machines (MM), or M3 (MST, MEMS & MM) have proven to be more manufacturable, reliable and accurate, dollar for dollar, than their conventional counterparts. However, the technical hurdles to attain these accomplishments were often costly and time-consuming, and current advances in this technology introduce newer challenges still. Because this field is still in its infancy, very little data on design, manufacturing processes, or reliability are common or shared.