Sensors have always been an important part of the industrial environment and measure variables such as temperature, pressure and load. But the keyword was “industrial” and included relatively large and relatively simple devices.
The appearance of MEMS technology in the 1980s has changed all that. Suddenly, the sensors have become much smaller and can be integrated into a range of new applications. And in connection with electronics, these sensors have become intelligent.
The miniaturization of sensors continues to the point where smartphones are equipped with devices that can measure angular rotation and gravity, or even the quality of the air.
Bosch Sensortec, a pioneer in the MEMS sensor industry, emerged from Bosch’s automotive business and is now an independent company. “But we have a deep connection with Bosch,” said Wolfgang Schmitt-Hahn, Head of Strategic Marketing, “and shares his processes.”
He admitted that much of the Bosch Sensortec production was supplied to the smartphone sector. “We offer acceleration sensors for low-end phones,” he said, “as well as sensors for wearable devices like fitness trackers.” Now we’re developing a strong position in VR. ”
To date, Bosch Sensortec has manufactured more than 9 billion sensors, of which 75% are delivered to consumer electronics, such as gyroscopes and magnetic sensors.
“Today, sensor development is also about packaging, the addition of intelligence and writing software and algorithms,” continues Schmitt-Hahn.
Although many sensors designed for smartphones may not be suitable for industrial use, some benefit and system developers benefit from it.
“While the consumer electronics industry is driven by cost pressures, industrial users want these products to be available for more than five years,” said Schmitt-Hahn, “and the costs are not that important to them.” t develop devices for use in harsh industrial environments; Instead, industrial applications are used where sensors for consumer products can be developed. “In this way,” he continues, “industrial customers can benefit.
One problem is that while smartphones, for example, have a clearly defined sensor requirement, the industry has a multitude of potential use cases. “Still, we can see how an accelerometer designed for a smartphone can be used to measure vibrations on a machine,” he said.
Ralf Schellin, Head of Product Management, said that this could lead to problems, especially when upgrading the sensors. “We saw how our sensors were added to the air conditioners, but they need to be properly connected – if you have a pressure sensor, it must be connected to a pressure tube inside the air conditioner, which means that two different materials need to be connected There are mechanical elements in electronics that can complicate work.
At the Consumer Electronics Show 2018, Bosch Sensortec introduced the BMI088, an inertial measurement unit (IMU) for drone and robotic applications. The device has an extremely stable gyroscope, low noise and low drift.
“Difficult applications such as drones and robots require extremely stable and powerful IMUs,” said Dr. Stefan Finkbeiner, CEO of Bosch Sensortec.
The BMI088 consists of a 16-bit triaxial accelerometer and a 16-bit triaxial gyroscope integrated in a 3 x 4.5 x 0.95 mm case. With a so-called polarization stability of less than 2 ° / h and a temperature compensation coefficient of 0.2 mg / K, the accelerometer can measure ± 24 g.
Schellin explained that although BMI088 had been demonstrated on a drone at CES, the device was robust enough for industrial use. “The sensor was mounted on a printed circuit board in a rugged housing that can withstand electromagnetic interference and operate at temperatures from -40 to 85 ° C. If we know the field better, we can better tailor the sensors to our customers’ needs.”
Industrial users can also take advantage of the power consumption of sensors designed for consumer applications. Schmitt-Hahn illuminated the applications of the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. “If you plan to upgrade sensors in these applications, you’re likely to be using a wireless device, and you can certainly imagine applications that require not just low-energy sensors, but also a low-power solution.
Although it may be interesting to use a small sensor in an industrial application, such as: For example, to integrate robotics, it is still important to use wisely generated data. And that means that the software has become as important as the sensor itself.
“We can do it in many ways,” said Schmitt-Hahn. “There are sensors that only provide a library of pilots to the device, but there are even more complex parts, for example, a motion sensor can include an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a surveyor, each with three axes.
“It manages nine axes, and for this raw data to be useful, we need to develop the software because we know our sensors better.”
Data throughput is also an important factor, especially in the rapidly evolving VR space. “The software makes it possible to aggregate data from a range of data,” he added.
Understanding data from a large number of submissions drives companies like Bosch Sensortec to integrate intelligence into the package. “We do this either by integrating microcontrollers into the package or by integrating a microcontroller core,” says Schmitt-Hahn. “This local intelligence is provided by optimized MCU structures for the process, and it is important to emphasize that it wastes no space or energy.”
But the amount of software that the company can develop for its sensors is limited. “Whenever we can support an application, we do it. Although we help our customers solve application problems, we do not have specific solutions for specific applications.
“When it comes to combining sensor data with other algorithms such as vibration measurement, the know-how must be provided by the customer, and what we need to do is bridge the gap between the sensor and the customer’s system,” said Schmitt-Hahn.
“Sensor development is also about packaging, adding software and intelligence, and writing algorithms.”
Schellin affirmed this point. “The customer knows the domain and builds the application layer, our job is to create bridges by adding an intermediate layer, then it depends on the application.
“In a step-counting application, the result is the number of steps and the client’s job is to display that data, and for more complex applications, Euler angles can be the result, meaning that the customer has to do more than just to develop an HMI.
Process technology plays an important role in producing smaller sensors that use less energy. “We use state-of-the-art CMOS technology,” says Schmitt-Hahn, “and we always try to minimize devices as much as possible and switch to different process nodes, but we need to find a balance between cost and power consumption smaller nodes more energy losses occur.
Most Bosch Sensortec products are delivered as compact systems with MEMS and CMOS elements as separate chips. “The challenge is to decide how many cubes to bundle in a single package,” concluded Schmitt-Hahn, “and how we can integrate these things into a package without stress and bending problems.”
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The device meets the needs of customers who develop application-specific sensor fusion algorithms, including robotics.Tags: Tech News