“MEMS” the Word

Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems, Lorain County Community College
Elyria, Ohio

Lorain County Community College, located in the suburbs southwest of Cleveland, is a small school with big ambitions. Not content to follow the typical community college route of educating commuter students for low- and mid-level jobs, it has developed a culture more resembling a large research institution.

Example A: Its Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems, an advanced facility for researching, manufacturing, testing and packaging microsystems such as MEMS (MicroElectricalMechanical Systems)— essentially, miniature devices normally produced using semiconductor techniques.

The SMART Center is more than a college laboratory: It is a link between the college and the thriving microsystems industry in Ohio. According to DesignNews, microsystems comprise approximately 50% of the electronics industry in the state—the highest percentage in the country.

SMMA is proud to have designed the cleanrooms and laboratory suites for the SMART Center, in collaboration with Clark & Post Architects of Lorain, Ohio (architect of record), and Lincoln Street Studios of Columbus (design architects).

The SMART Center is a facility that not only teaches students and engages faculty in MEMS technology, but also serves as a valuable resource to small start-up and medium-sized MEMS manufacturers. The College describes the facility as “a unique, multi-user, shared-resource center for microsystems packaging, reliability testing, inspection, and analysis.”

Access, Availability, Accommodation

Customers of the SMART Center can avail themselves of a menu of services. The laboratory suite is fully dedicated to quick-producing and testing MEMS, as well as other semi-conductor devices and commercial sensors. Project management services are available that tap into the deep experience of the Center's experts.

Facility access is also an option, for customers who already have a trained staff, but need a space for working with state-of-the-art equipment. In this way, the Center provides a needed leg up for companies that cannot afford high-cost, highly specialized tools. The overarching idea is that small technology companies have a way of growing into large businesses—and large employers.

Designing the SMART Center space was a truly collaborative effort. There was a process of client education, benchmarking trends in the industry as a whole, and establishing protocols on everything from lab safety to wearing and maintenance of clean room gowns.

Things change so rapidly in the microsystems world that design has to be fully changeable and scalable, able to adapt to new technologies as they hit the market.

SMMA's design contribution comprised Class 100, Class 1,000 and Class 10,000 cleanrooms, general lab space, and customer incubation areas, totaling 8,800 square feet.

A Vision for the Future, Ahead of Its Time

Places like the SMART Center do not materialize out of nowhere—indeed a public/private partnership brought it into being. In addition to financial support from Richard Desich, a native of Lorain County and member of LCCC’s District Board of Trustees for 34 years, the College received a $5.5 million grant from Cleveland State University’s Wright Systems Center for Sensor Systems Engineering. Additional support came in the form of federal, state, and philanthropic grants and gifts, including the Small Business Administration.

Lorain County Community College is betting on the future – and that small businesses will become large businesses that benefit the region, as a whole.