The Zen of Sensor Design

Contributed by Mike Stanley

Originally posted on Freescale’s Smart Mobile Devices Embedded Beat Blog

About two years ago, I joined the Freescale sensors team, which focuses on accelerometers, pressure sensors, and touch sensors.

Prior to that, I spent a number of years in the Freescale’s microcontroller solutions group, where I was an architect for several digital signal controller and microcontroller product families. One of the first things I learned when I moved into the sensors group was that certain “rules of the game” that relate to microcontroller design needed to be adapted when dealing with sensors. An example is package selection. With most microcontrollers, package selection is based upon number of functional and power pins required, PCB assembly processes targeted and (sometimes) thermal characteristics. Performance considerations are often secondary, if they exist at all. Sensors interact with the real world. Mechanical stresses introduced during both package assembly and PCB mounting can affect electrical performance of the device; often showing up as additional offset or variation of performance with temperature. Even the compound used for die attach has a demonstrable effect on sensor performance, and must be considered early in the design process. Continue reading

Evolving Intelligence with Sensors

Contributed by Michael Stanley, Freescale Semiconductor

Originally posted on Freescale’s Smart Mobile Devices Embedded Beat blog

I’ve always been fascinated by electronic sensors. The idea of being able to measure and interact with the physical world appeals to the ten-year-old inside me. Not so long ago, if you needed to measure some physical quantity as an input to your system, you bought an analog sensor, hooked up your own signal conditioning circuitry, and fed the result into a dedicated analog-to-digital converter. Over time, engineers demanded, and got, self-contained products which handled those signal conditioning and conversion tasks for them. Continue reading

State of the MEMS Industry at Microtech 2010

Contributed by Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

While I was unable to participate in the first part of Microtech in Anaheim last week, I still feel like I experienced most of the conference/tradeshow/symposium extravaganza that is “Globaltech” in Anaheim this year. The folks at NSTI/CSTI organized an impressive event, though my main complaint is that I felt the venue was not the right size. As I discussed with organizer and NSTI executive director, Matt Loudon, the Anaheim Convention Center was too big, though with over 2,200 attendees, having the event at a hotel would be too small. I guess it’s like Goldilocks in search of a venue “just right” and hopefully next year’s event in Boston (June 13-16, 2011) will be just that. Continue reading

What in the World is Contextual Sensing?

Contributed by Michael Stanley, Freescale Semiconductor

Originally posted on Freescale’s Smart Mobile Devices Embedded Beat blog

You can’t use your phone, drive your car or even nuke a sandwich without relying on one or more electronic sensors to help you complete the task.  Their use has become ubiquitous, and most people are blissfully unaware of just how much they depend on them in their daily lives. Continue reading

MEMS Mantras at Yole MEMS CTO Meeting

Contributed by Paul Werbaneth, VP – Marketing & Applications, Tegal Corporation

From window seat 2D on the flight down from SFO to SNA Sunday evening 20 June 2010 there’s a stunning view of one of my favorite sights along the long and varied California coast.  It’s a tableau composed of sunset, ocean, and the California Channel Islands, visible for me starting from up near Santa Barbara and continuing on, uninterrupted, south to Santa Catalina Island before we bank away and start our approach into the John Wayne – Orange County airport.  Sounds of “Avalon” (the Roxy Music song and the Benny Goodman Quartet jazz piece) compete for my attention in the soundtrack assembled by my resident musicologist, with Benny Goodman ultimately winning the Battle of the Bands, if only because I later find a good jazz station on the radio for the short drive up to Anaheim and my hotel. Continue reading