They're about the size of a grain of sand, but they look huge to investors.
They're the devices developed using Memgen Corp.'s electromechanical fabrication or EFAB.
It's not just another techno-jargon acronym.
EFAB's inventors and investors believe it could be the next wave of manufacturing. Memgen's proprietary EFAB technology enables the mass production of tiny mechanical and electromechanical devices that could be used to make faster, cheaper, more reliable and more energy-efficient wireless phones, computers, medical devices and a broad range of other technologies.
"EFAB represents a true platform technology, one able to create devices previously impossible, and do so faster and less expensively than before," said Warren Packard, managing director of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. "The market opportunity is vast and extremely varied."
Draper Fisher and DynaFund Ventures are among the VCs that invested $11 million in the startup's first round earlier this month.
EFAB technology was first developed in 1997 at USC by Adam Cohen, who went on to form Memgen in August 1999. USC had hired Cohen, an MIT graduate and founder of three tech firms, as a research scientist to focus on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). He came up with the idea for EFAB while working on MEMS and brought in the initial funding for its development.
Memgen now holds the exclusive license for EFAB technology and USC has taken an equity stake in the company.
"In the same way that a machine tool does milling and can build a huge variety of different structures, EFAB will build a huge variety of different things affecting different industries," Cohen said.
The EFAB process could, for example, facilitate the production of tiny devices that are practical only if large quantities can be produced at low unit costs.Stacking layers
EFAB has its roots in an industrial process called rapid prototyping. Instead of machining a model from a solid block, rapid prototyping stacks up a series of thin layers usually made of plastic that adhere to each other to form a three-dimensional product, usually measured in centimeters.
EFAB creates much smaller objects with layers that are measured in thousandths of millimeters, and the layers are metal rather than plastic.
The process eliminates the need for expensive clean rooms and slashes the time generally needed to manufacture micro-products, Cohen said.
"Memgen's technology represents a new paradigm for the manufacturing of micro-scale devices and will have a major impact on the industry," said Denny Ko, managing director of DynaFund and a Memgen board member.
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