The new silicon-based sound transducer principle from the Fraunhofer IPMS no longer has a conventional membrane. Instead, this is installed inside the body of a silicon chip as a series of bending strips similar to the strings on a harp. New electrostatic actuators called Nano E-Drives are integrated inside the just 20 µm wide bending strips, which are energized by vibrations from the audio signal voltage. These vibrations are heard as sound. As these components can be directly integrated into the silicon chip, they take up less space and are significantly more energy-efficient than conventional loudspeakers. This new type of extremely small micro loudspeaker is therefore perfectly suited for future, highly-integrated in-ear headphone or hearable applications, such as instant translation, pay functions and other speech-based Internet services.
"With our spin-off company, we wanted to introduce new audio technology to the market and thereby make a contribution to the competitiveness of Germany’s industry," explains Prof. Harald Schenk, Institute Director for the Fraunhofer IPMS. "We are therefore very happy about the successful completion of the first financing round."
“Thanks to technology from the Fraunhofer IPMS, Arioso Systems GmbH is one of the first companies on the global market to provide a CMOS-compatible chip solution for loudspeakers. This is a technological revolution," explains Prof. Hubert Lakner, who manages the Fraunhofer IPMS together with Prof. Schenk. "Above all, as the technology is based on silicon semiconductor processes, it is also more easily scalable than competing technologies."
Arioso Systems’ chips are based on what is known as the complementary-metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) manufacturing process. CMOS technology accounts for more than 90% of the worldwide manufacturing capacity for micro-electro-mechanical-systems (MEMS). Arioso Systems’ all silicon micro-speakers are therefore perfectly suited for large-volume production.
The spin-off company Arioso Systems GmbH has exclusive marketing rights to the new audio technology from the Fraunhofer IPMS. The start-up can be further developed, and the integration of the new technology in audio devices can be driven forward thanks to the funds from the first financing round. In addition, the start-up financing will also enable further development and testing of technology at the Fraunhofer IPMS.
"The start-up phase has been completed in a way that promises success thanks to first-rate collaboration with researchers from the Fraunhofer IPMS and from the field of professional cleanroom engineering," explains Dr. Herrmann Schenk, Chief Operating Officer of the spin-off company. "The market is highly interested in MEMS-based micro loudspeakers. Thanks to the successful financing, Arioso now has a very promising commercial basis. I am therefore highly optimistic and looking forward to seeing the further developments by Arioso Systems GmbH."
The seed financing round, which reached € 2.6M, was spearheaded by Brandenburg Kapital, Potsdam, and further supported by HTGF, Bonn, TGFS-Basic Fonds from Dresden (managed by MBG) and Business Angels. Both the Fraunhofer IPMS site in Dresden and the IPMS-ISS division in Cottbus are working on further developing NED technology.