Technology advancements in electronics and materials have brought significant improvements to sensors. Since the sensor or a combination of sensors provides the starting point for any system to distinguish the current situation and detect changes that occur, new sensors and improved sensing techniques provide exciting, new capabilities to products from cameras to cars. With the ability to see, hear, feel, smell and even taste, computing and control systems provide safety, security, comfort, convenience, performance, and efficiency that was not previously possible. In addition, sensors provide the means to produce a variety of products more consistently by detecting variations or errors in processing.
Don’t Forget Packaging
For specific applications, the sensor packaging is frequently the determining factor for a novel idea to become a successful product. Something as simple as an easy-to-use package can open or expand new markets. For example, at less than 3-cm long, Kavlico’s P6000 pressure sensor provides a fully calibrated, temperature compensated 0.5V to 4.5V linear analog output. The small footprint piezoresistive pressure sensor targets dry media medical applications such as respirators, oxygen concentrators, and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) equipment. The integral barbed connection on one version is a subtle, but highly useful packaging approach to simplify the sensor’s use. In addition, the miniature 4-pin connector is an option that could be replaced with either flying leads for remote mounting or lead wires for through-hole PCB mounting. These external variations combined with the appropriate integration level and sensing technology provide a useful systems approach.
Using Sensors to Advance Technology
Manufacturing fine geometry Integrated Circuits (ICs) requires sophisticated sensors. The advanced semiconductor processing performed at 65 nm today and even mature processes require exceptional particulate control. Portable products such as AEROTRAK’s Model 8220 optical particle counter with 2.83 lpm (0.1 cfm) flow rate provides improve detection capability in clean rooms and other areas. With added sensing capability of temperature, humidity and air velocity, these sensors provide the consistent environment required to produce critical IC technology.
Three Specific Sensor Trends
Three technology trends have emerged recently that will continue to advance both the sensor and system development:
Use MEMS technology
Maximize the integration
Sense in color
MEMS technology has expanded from single-axis sensors, such as accelerometers, to multi-axis structures including accelerometers and gyroscopes.
Integration is frequently part of the MEMS approach, such as Analog Devices iMEMS. However, integration also means including the appropriate amount of signal conditioning, processing and even communication with any sensor to simplify the overall system design, improve performance and reduce cost.
The transition from basic monochromatic vision sensing to color sensing seems obvious but identifying the right approach to meet the cost and performance requirements is not as obvious.
These three areas provide the focus for several recently introduced products.