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Combined sensor capability in a smaller package

VTI Technologies Oy
A global leader in low-g MEMS sensors, VTI has recently released a new family of gyro-accelerometer combo sensors for high-performance applications. These combine a 3-axis accelerometer with a near tactical-grade, single-axis gyro in the same robust package.

Recent rapid developments in MEMS inertial sensor technology have made it possible to incorporate inertial sensors into a number of different applications, including consumer products such as mobile phones, gaming consoles, and cameras. Motion sensing can bring new smart features that alter the entire user interface, as in the case of the Nintendo Wii.

These kinds of applications normally use low-cost motion sensors, such as gyros and accelerometers. While these can provide basic motion sensing, imagine if someone could introduce a compact, cost-effective MEMS gyro so accurate that you could use it to measure the speed of the earth’s rotation. Bulky, expensive mechanical and optical units have dominated the high-end gyro market up until now. This is not an issue in aircraft or ship platform stabilisation and navigation and guidance systems, where price or size are not critical but performance is. Cost-effective MEMS gyros have always been very attractive to high-end applications, but the problem has been performance. Until now.

New VTI technology has resulted in a cost-effective, robust gyro-accelerometer combo sensor so sensitive that it can measure the earth’s rotation.

That is because VTI has launched a new gyro-accelerometer combo product for highperformance industrial applications by leveraging its high-performance accelerometer expertise and combining this with proprietary 3D MEMS manufacturing technology to develop a near tactical-grade single-axis gyro. By doing so in one and the same robust package, VTI can offer more performance in a smaller form factor.

This component is set to open up new markets for MEMS gyros and replace some older gyro technologies that, while very accurate, tend to be expensive. One very good example of this are the electric stability control (ESC) systems fitted to almost half of cars produced today.

Two sensors in one component

ESC systems compare a car’s trajectory data acquired from motion sensors with steering wheel angle and accelerator pedal position data and can react instantly if they sense excessive deviations by braking individual wheels and reducing engine output to bring a vehicle back under control. Combining two of the three sensors used – a gyro and an accelerometer – into one component would provide automotive manufacturers with significant cost savings.

VTI’s new concept fits very well with this type of application, as vibration robustness has been one of the cornerstones of its 3D MEMS technology, and sensors in moving vehicles need to be well-protected against vibrations and shocks. Now that VTI’s new angular rate sensor also offers outstanding resistance to shocks and vibrations, as well as a wide operating temperature window, it can be used in tough conditions both on the road and in industrial applications.

> Ville Nurmiainen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2010)