With nearly 7000 exhibitors in 27 buildings clustered on a site the size of 65 football fields, Hannover Fair 2002 offered something for nearly everyone - from factory automation and process technologies, to material handling and energy management.

One of the newest display categories of this year was the Micro-Technology Fair, which made its debut in 2001. Hannover Fair is providing Microsystems (as MEMS is generally referred to in Europe) an incomparable worldwide stage on which to showcase the technology. There is no other venue of its kind in the MEMS industry.

Cahners In-Stat/MDR reports that this year there were more than 300 (mostly European) exhibitors with three joint exhibits from the US, Netherlands and Russia. The majority of displays were equipment manufacturers, research consortiums and foundries. While the hall was a bit light in terms of commercial products, a good cross section of devices, markets and applications were represented.

Most apparent was the difference between European companies and their US counterparts in terms of materials and fabrication processes. Much of the focus in Europe is on the use of polymers, with a heavy emphasis on laser micromachining. This is largely due to the fact that Europe, as a whole, does not have the kind of semiconductor infrastructure as the US does. The use of polymers also explain the prominence of life science applications being pursued by European companies.

Taking into account the unproven "newness" factor of this trade show (for MEMS), coupled with the cost of exhibiting (particularly in terms of personnel logistics), and the fact that most companies in the MEMS industry are start-ups, it is not surprising there were not more commercial products exhibited.

However, given that many of the industrial applications in which MEMS play a role are already being showcased throughout the fairgrounds, there are many potential customers here. As such, Hannover Fair has all the elements to become the "can't miss" event for the MEMS industry.