DelfMEMS SA (Villeneuve d'Ascq, France), a developer of RF MEMS contact switches, went into liquidation in March 2016 according to court filings.
The DelfMEMS CEO, Cybele Rolland, said that the company had signed several supply contracts, with more in the pipeline, and the company had anticipated shipping in volume in the second half of 2016. However, as we recently learned, this does not tell the entire story.
The company, founded in 2005, raised approximately $20 million in three rounds of financing, but, according to a source close to the company, ran into a process snag when attempting to move its first product, a SP12T switch for phones, into production. DelfMEMS needed at least another 18 months to revise and re-qualify production, which would have required another $25 million or so of investment. Given the costs involved, losses would have approximately equaled the additional investment according to the financial projections, and profits would have been unlikely and quite small until at least the end of 2018. Looking at the company’s historical losses with no immediate hope of profitability and the perceived risks, investors decided to pull the plug.
In seems doubtful that a SP12T from DelfMEMS would have unseated existing SoI products for phones from Qorvo, Skyworks, Murata, and Sony. However, contact MEMS for RF switching is a potential enabling technology for tunable filters. By providing extremely low “on” resistance, contact MEMS switch elements could allow fabrication of high Q switchable, reconfigurable SAW and BAW resonator structures.
Suppliers of CMOS SoI and GaAs p-HEMT switches had often expressed doubts about DelfMEMS and their technology, and in this case, the doubts proved correct. Even so, I think this is a set-back for the industry, but interest in RF MEMS switches remains high, with many companies such as Cavendish Kinetics, Qorvo, Qualcomm, Murata and AAC Technologies, to name a few, active in the technology or very interested in how the technology develops over the next few years. The possible upside of the technology for simplifying the RF front end in mobile phones is huge.