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Vol. 105, Issue 6, June 2009, pp. I-X

 

Bullet

 

Sensors Systems Need Smart Sensors: SENSOR+TEST 2009 at a Glance

 

International Frequency Sensor Association (IFSA), European Office,

CDEI-UPC, C/Llorens Artigas, 4-6, planta 0, Edifici U, Campus Sud,

08028, Barcelona, Spain

Tel.: +34 696067716, fax: +34 93 401 19 89

E-mail: ifsa@sensorsportal.com

 

Print logo  Printable version with tables, figures and photos

 

1. Brief Event Details

 

The 16th International Trade Fair for Sensor, Measuring, and Testing Technology SENSOR+TEST 2009 organized by AMA Association for Sensor Technology has taken place from 26 to 28 May on the fair grounds in Nürnberg. This worldwide biggest event in the sensor industry, complemented by numerous conferences and forums, has been attended by approximately 7,000 visitors and 537 exhibitors on 18,000 m² of floor space, including the major technology and market leaders of most product groups. 147 exhibitors where coming from abroad.

 

For the first time there were three parallel conferences at the same time: 14th International Conference on Sensors, Technologies, Electronics and Applications (SENSOR 2009), 9th International OPTO Conference and 11th International IRS2 Conference.

 

The event again was an interesting and exciting forum for engineers and scientists working in research, development and application of sensors and measuring technology; and exhibitors’ expectations are clearly surpassed.

 

 

2. Event Background: Recession Reaches Sensor Industry

 

Although it achieved a growth rate of approx. 3 % in 2008, towards the end of the year the sensor industry too was experiencing a decline in revenue.  A new member poll by AMA Association for Sensor Technology ascertains that during the fourth quarter 2008 the sensor industry experienced approx. 9 % decline and another approx. 11 % during the first quarter 2009.

 

Already by the publishing date for results from 2008, current developments had rendered obsolete data presented at the AMA Press Conference Day in February 2009. In view of inconsistent expectations published in the business press, and in order to provide reliable data to its members, AMA Association for Sensor Technology therefore resolved to launch its own regular quarterly survey. The survey might be discontinued when the economic situation stabilizes sufficiently again.

 

Covering approx. 15 % of all businesses in the sector in central Europe, the survey can be considered to be representative. Its necessity becomes immediately apparent when one considers the changes registered during the interval from third quarter 2008 to first quarter 2009. During this time, revenues fell by almost 20 %, which threw the sector back to a level comparable to mid 2006. Striking about this is that during this time, the smallest enterprises still achieved growth: more than +6 %. At 5 %, enterprises with 11-50 employees still outperformed the larger companies, which had to absorb an average of 9.5 % and 13 % during the last quarter 2008 and the first quarter 2009, respectively. Thus most of the larger enterprises were forced to revise their business plans.

 

Obviously, this revenue slump also had its effect on production capacity planning. This was quite dramatic, since it was preceded by an exceptionally dynamic year during which the sector raised its workforce by approx. 5,500 additional employees, which included workplace build up and training. In an attempt to salvage this effort, many employers were forced to place their employees on short hours – something which in such breadth the sensor sector had never before experienced. Whereas this instrument was used only sporadically during the final quarter 2008, during the first quarter 2009 it affected about 14% of all employees in the sector and about 30 % of production capability. Even among the smallest sensor companies with less than 11 employees, almost one out of ten employees was affected by reduced working hours. Middle sized companies placed approx. 1/3 of their employees on short hours.

 

During recent weeks the AMA have observed some tentative signs that this dramatic development might be stabilizing. However this turnaround must still be corroborated through this quarter’s upcoming survey.

 

 

3. Exhibition: Good Omens Despite Economic Situation

 

Sensor, measuring, and testing technologies in an automated world are decisive key technologies for economic success in all industries.

 

Today there are about 800 manufacturers of industrial measuring systems in Germany. Together with exclusive importers of sensor products they have a turnover of approximately 24 billion euros per year. Moreover, about 2,300 companies and institutes operate in the area of sensor technology, which generate revenues amounting to 30 billion euros. Based on various definitions and allocations, estimates by commercial market researchers indicate a world market potential of 60 to 90 billion euros. About 35 to 40 % of the sensor systems produced in Germany are direct exports. If indirect exports are added – which depend of course on the export quota of the machines, systems, and products in which they are integrated – the actual export quota of German measuring systems comes to 60 to 70 %.

 

The products for the SENSOR+TEST measuring fair described below show that continued advances in the sensor industry again bring forth a great variety of innovations this year.

 

“Despite the tough economic situation, the SENSOR+TEST is holding its own this year and in comparison to last year can almost reach the same number of exhibitors,” says Holger Bödeker, CEO of the AMA Service GmbH, the organizers of the event. “Sensor, measurement, and testing technology is a cross-section industry and thus impacted by the economic slump, especially in the automotive and engineering sectors. The robust trade-fair figures nevertheless confirm the concept that we have developed for the SENSOR+TEST as the worldwide leading event in the industry.” Besides the traditional trade fair activities, the SENSOR+TEST offers a plethora of additional information opportunities for both, visitors and exhibitors.

 

As usually, it was really pleasure to see our IFSA members among exhibitors: Meggitt Electronics- Endevco, Honeywell, JENOPTIK Laser, Optik, Systeme, MAZeT, Melexis, Memsis, PCB Piezotronics, SenGenuity, Xsens Technologies, etc.

 

It was also my great personal pleasure to take an opportunity and to present certificates of 10 Top Sensors Products 2008, selected by Sensors & Transducers’ editors [1] directly to the following exhibitors: SenGenuity (Vectron International's Division), FISO Technologies, Inc., ZMDI AG, and FUTEK Advanced Sensor Technology, Inc.

 

As usually I will be focused in my current event review on sensors and transducers with frequency (period), duty-cycle and pulse width modulated (PWM) output as most perspective for the use in smart sensors systems as well as to data acquisition systems for such sensors. Detailed descriptions of all mentioned in this review sensors products and links to manufacturers web sites are available in appropriate sensors sections at Sensors Web Portal (http://www.sensorsportal.com). In additional, other new sensor products, exhibited at SENSOR+TEST 2009 are described in Sensors & Transducers Magazine (e-Digest), No.6, June 2009 [2] available online.

 

Melexis demonstrated MLX75304XD/XE light to frequency converters of Sensor EyeCTM family in two type of packages (8- and 10-pins) and two temperature ranges: from -20 0C to … +85 0C and -40 0C …+125 0C [3]. It is an easy-to-use light sensor that converts light intensity into an output frequency (1 Hz …1 MHz). The MLX75304 features highly linear response over a huge dynamical light input range of more than 100 dB. The sensor is designed for high-volume applications like ambient light detection, LCD screen backlight dimming and LED light control, automotive applications and responds in a range of 500 nm to 1000 nm.

 

The Sensecube company from South Korea has the CO2 sensor module for OEM application [4] in their catalog. The module has ± 4 % FS + 3 % reading accuracy, 0~ 2000 ppm, ~ 5000 ppm, ~ 10000 ppm measuring range options, 30 ms response time and PWM (period 1004 ms) output.

 

During the opening of the SENSOR + TEST Exhibition, POSIC launched a series of incremental encoder kits. The single-channel encoder IS1101 with frequency output (0-40 kHz), is insensitive to magnetic interference fields and suitable to scan gears, discs, strips and detect edges of metallic objects [5].

 

ADZ Nagano Sensortechnik (Germany) exhibited a pressure transmitter SML-MO-2 with the pressure range 0...4000 bar, 0.5 % accuracy, frequency output (200 Hz to 2.2 kHz); PWM output (500 Hz, 5 kHz) [6].

 

EOS Optronics GmbH (Germany) demonstrated a Picosecond-Timing System (Figure 5) based on time-to-digital converter TDC-GPX from Acam. This timing system has been developed to use as a flexible timing processing platform for time interval and event timing applications. The module is typically used in laser ranging applications where ps resolution and multi-hit stop capability is required. However, other applications can also be addressed with this board where time-to-digital conversion will be used (e.g. time interval measurements with statistics). The board has USB, RS232 and JTAG interfaces [7].

 

A USB incremental system meM-INC has been exhibited by BMC Messsysteme GmbH (Figure 6). It has counting and frequency measurement functions (max. 64 kHz) and can connects up to 3 incremental encoders (max. 32 kHz) [7].

 

A new measuring instrument FQ4 for QMB and SAW sensors up to 500 MHz with simultaneous, continuous measurement of all channels has been demonstrated by JLM Innovation (Germany).  External oscillators allow to tailor FQ4 to a broad range of different QMB and SAW sensors. The instrument has a COM port. There are also some optional network interfaces. The same company also exhibited the JLMQ QMB USB Interface 10/30 MHz with high resolution and 4 measurements per second [7].

 

IMC GmbH (Germany) exhibited intelligent, compact measurement systems of C-Series. It has 4 counter input for capture of RPM’s, displacement, etc. C-Series devices may also include a sensor power supply and TEDS capability [7].

 

It is also necessary to remind Smartec company, that continue manufacturing of its popular temperature sensors with duty-cycle output SMT160-30 [8] and IC of Universal Transducers Interface (UTI) with period modulated output.

 

Nevertheless there are both: appropriate frequency output sensors and measuring and DAQ systems for such sensors, many customers do not know till now how to deal with a frequency signal especially in a wide frequency range. Really, such problem was existing for a long time but it is completely solved at the end of 2004, when the IC of Universal Frequency-to-Digital Converter (UFDC-1) has been introduced to the market. This precision, multifunctional IC works with any frequency, period, duty-cycle, time interval, phase-shift, PWM signals as easily as an ADC works with any analog (voltage or current) signals [9, 10].

 

The 10,000-euro SENSOR Innovation Award sponsored by the AMA Association for Sensor Technology for the 9th time was presented this year to a team from the Institute for Microsystems of the Technical University Hamburg-Harburg for their development of a miniaturized mass spectrometer under the direction of Prof. Jörg Müller. The presentation was held on the first day of the fair during the opening ceremony. The number of submissions for the award, 63 in all, is a new record,” says Prof. Dr. Andreas Schütze from the Saarbrücken University, chairman of the jury.

 

 

4. Conferences under a Common Umbrella

 

This year the conference events, held parallel to the SENSOR+TEST, have been placed under a common umbrella for the first time: the SENSOR+TEST Conference 2009. The comprehensive conference programme comprises the SENSOR 2009, OPTO 2009, and IRS2 2009 conferences as well as other first-rate events. The opening presentation will be held by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gerhard M. Sessler on the subject of “Novel Silicon Sensors in Acoustics”.

 

During the three days of the SENSOR+TEST fair, a total of more than 200 presentations and posters of authors from 22 countries: Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Netherlands, Palestine, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and USA did reflect the current developments and research results in sensor and measuring technology.

 

The substantial increase in participants at the parallel SENSOR+TEST Conference contributed considerably to the success of the event. Many presentations at this year were made by industry representatives.

 

 The conferences review will be focused on new research results in different frequency output sensors and smart sensors areas as well as industrial development projects in the same fields.

 

Smart Systems are great of interest of the Strategic Research Agenda defined by the European Technology Platform on Smart Systems Integration (EPoSS). Mr. Lars Heinze in his presentation shows that implementation of such qualities as adaptation, self-diagnosis, etc. would enable the evolution of classical Microsystems towards Smart Systems [11].

 

Such approach coincidences closely with the IFSA’s conception proposed two years ago [12]. MEMS based frequency output sensors and programmable frequency-to-digital converters play a particular role in such smart systems and give a unique opportunity to use any standard frequency (period) output sensors in intelligent systems.

 

The importance of such coming direction for Europe has been also emphasized by Mr. T. Sommer from European Commission in his presentation “From Microsystems towards Smart Miniaturized Systems: the European Approach”. Let see what were presented suitable for smart sensors systems design at the conferences.

 

Interesting results have been presented in the paper entitled “Low-Cost Smart Self-Adaptive Humidity Sensors with Parametric Adaptation” [13] based on results of European Project MEXT-CT-2005-023991 Smart Sensors Systems Design (SMARTSES) in the frame of Marie Curie Chairs Excellence (EXC) programme [14]. The designed low-cost humidity and temperature sensors system is based on minimal possible hardware and has intelligent functions as self-adaptation and self-identification. It can contain any quasi-digital humidity sensors with frequency, period, duty-cycle and PWM or capacitance output, quasi-digital temperature or resistive output sensors. The device is based on a novel method for frequency measurements and signal conditioning concept optimal for smart sensor systems design. The parametric adaptation lets change metrological performance based on measuring conditions.

 

A high precision torque measurement system is based on frequency output torque transducer T40 and appropriate TIM40 signal processing unit is described in [15]. Both enabled the step to be taken from the transducer to the complete measurement system. It has the following outstanding attributes: maximum accuracy, higher measurement frequency range with simultaneously high resolution, digital measurement signal conditioning and self-diagnosis. Two TEDS (Transducer Electronic Data Sheet) including different templates are available to users who want to use other amplifier systems in addition to the fieldbus interfaces, for example because of the dynamics of torque measurement or RS422 signals requiring direct analysis. Integrated TEDS devices supply the measuring amplifier with all the important characteristic transducer data. The TEDS amplifier converts the characteristic transducer data and automatically makes the correct parameter settings. At this time the system is in the product launch phase.

 

Authors from Kavlico Corp. have described in their presentation an integrated capacitive MEMS structure with on-chip conditioning circuitry (sCAP) for ultra-low power sensing products [16]. It has the following advantages: 1) The MEMS sensor can be manufactured inexpensively with common CMOS processes; 2) The capacitive sense element can be excited and detected with significantly less power than resistive type devices; 3) The size of the capacitive sensing element can be made small because the signal to noise ratio of the sense element is large and by placing the conditioning circuitry on-chip, the parasitic “stray” capacitances of the circuit are managed; and 4) the conditioning circuitry creates a digital output signal that can be directly measured by a standard counter input of a microcontroller. The key element of a capacitive MEMS sensor is a PWM converter that converts capacitance to electrical pulse durations [16].

 

An importance of frequency measurements in a wide frequency ranges from 0.01 Hz up to 160 MHz in appropriate sensing applications has been discussed in [17].

 

A described time-based capacitive to digital converter with fast data acquisition and high resolution has been described in [18]. The converter has period-modulated signal on its output and 14-bit resolution at measurement time of 100 ms. The interface has been designed for implementation in 0.7 mm CMOS technology. Simulation results show that for 5 pF sensor capacitance with a parasitic capacitance of 50 pF the mentioned performance achieved while power consumption is less than 5 mW.

 

An interfacing integrated circuit presented in [19] also has period modulated output. The circuit has been implemented in a standard 0.35 mm CMOS-A process. It has been optimized for low level voltage output sensors as thermocouples and thermopiles. By applying the autocalibration technique, a nonlinearity of below 0.06 % has been achieved. The measuring time is 0.5 ms.

 

As usually, some sensors systems based on quartz crystal microbalance have been presented in conference for appropriate applications.

 

Some authors in other presented papers have tried to solve a complex sensor interfacing and signal conditioning problems by a traditional way in analog signal domain using analog-to-digital converters, filters, etc. instead of use of more “robust” frequency-time signal domain with the usage of voltage-to-frequency and programmable frequency-to-digital converters. As results, some hardware consumption solutions and/or very big chip area have been presented. Taking into account a current economic situation when sensor industry demonstrates some revenue decreasing, it is not likely that such solutions will be accepted by manufacturers and customers especially for smart systems.

 

 

5. Afterworlds

 

The SENSOR+TEST has again proved the resisting power of the sensor, measuring, and testing industry. The success of the trade fair shows that this economic sector has not been as adversely affected by the current situation as was feared. “With a total of 537 exhibitors on 18,000 m² of floor space, the SENSOR+TEST can indeed be considered a complete success,” says Holger Bödeker, Managing Director of the AMA Service GmbH, the organizers. In view of the economic situation, the 7,000 visitors are a positive result in themselves. The majority of the exhibitors were also pleased about this unexpected result. “We’re more than happy so far,” Manfred Walter, product line director at JUMO GmbH & Co., says. “On the first day of the fair we were able to increase the number of contacts compared to last year’s figures.”

 

In times such as these, when companies uphold a strict travel policy, often only employees with concrete projects are allowed to go to trade fairs. Thus exhibitors confirmed that the high quality of the visitors has increased even more, resulting in discussions at the stands that related to very concrete projects.

 

During the three-day fair, the visitors were offered a comprehensive spectrum of information on topics dealing with sensor, measuring, and testing technology. Besides the many innovations and new products at the stands, the Action Programme again proved to be a major visitor attraction. Interesting presentations were given at the exhibitor forums and two podium discussions were held as well. The Action Area, this year integrated in Hall 11 for the first time, was constantly filled with visitors.

 

“We were very pleasantly surprised by the number of contacts we made on the first day of the SENSOR+TEST,” says Rainer Gille, CEO of the Verhoeven Feinmechanik GmbH. The company, showing for the first time at the fair, exhibited at the community stand “Young Innovative Enterprises.” The Job Tea-Time and the job exchange tailored to the sensor, measuring, and testing market have established themselves as a permanent part of the SENSOR+TEST.

 

The SENSOR+TEST will be held from 18 to 20 May next year again in Nuremberg. The highlight of the conference programme in 2010 will be on “Sensors and Measuring Systems” under the auspices of the Informations­technischen Gesellschaft im VDE (ITG) and the VDI/VDE-Gesellschaft Mess- und Automatisierungstechnik (GMA). This and other attractive events to be offered guarantee a most interesting programme for next year.

 

Sensors systems need smart sensors, and smart sensors systems need smart manufacturers and smart customers. Are you one of them ? See you at SENSOR+TEST 2010 !

 

 

References and Web Links

 

[1]. 10 Top Sensors Products of 2008, available online at:

      http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/DIGEST/10_Top_Products_2008.htm

[2]. Sensors & Transducers Magazine (e-Digest), No.6, June 2009, available online at:

      http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/DIGEST/Digest_June_2009.htm

[3]. List of Optical Sensors Manufacturers at Sensors Web Portal (http://www.sensorsportal.com):

      http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/SENSORS/OptoSens_Manufacturers.htm

[4]. List of Gas Sensors Manufacturers at Sensors Web Portal (http://www.sensorsportal.com):

      http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/SENSORS/GasSens_Manuf.htm

[5]. List of Rotation Speed Sensors Manufacturers at Sensors Web Portal (http://www.sensorsportal.com):

      http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/SENSORS/RotationSens_Manuf.htm

[6]. List of Pressure Sensors Manufacturers at Sensors Web Portal (http://www.sensorsportal.com):

      http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/SENSORS/PresSens_Manuf.htm

[7]. List of DAQ Systems Manufacturers at Sensors Web Portal (http://www.sensorsportal.com):

      http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/SENSORS/DAQ_Systems_Manufacturers.htm

[8]. List of Temperature Sensors Manufacturers at Sensors Web Portal (http://www.sensorsportal.com):

      http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/SENSORS/TempSens_Manufacturers.htm

[9]. Universal Frequency-to-Digital Converters UFDC-1 and UFDC-1M-16:

      http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/E-SHOP/PRODUCTS_4/UFDC_1.htm

[10].Evaluation Board EVAL-UFDC-1/UFDC-1M-16, http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/E-SHOP/PRODUCTS_4/Evaluation_board.htm

[11].Heinze Lars, Sensors for Smart Systems - Requirements to Sensor Systems, in Proceedings of SENSOR+TEST 2009 Conference,

       Nuremberg, Germany, 26-28 May 2009, Vol. I, pp.321-322.

[12].Yurish Sergey, MEMS Based System-on-Chip and System in Package: New Perspectives, Sensors & Transducers, Vol.78, Issue 4,

       April 2007, pp.I-IV available online at: http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/DIGEST/E_11.htm

[13].Yurish Sergey, Low-Cost Smart Self-Adaptive Humidity Sensors with Parametric Adaptation, in Proceedings of SENSOR+TEST 2009

       Conference, Nuremberg, Germany, 26-28 May 2009, Vol. II, pp.117-122.

[14].Smart Sensors Systems Design, Project MEXT-CT-2005-023991 SMARTSES, available online at:

       http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/Sensors_Systems_Project.htm

[15].Kuhn Sven; Schicker Rainer, High Precision Torque Measurement Systems in Engine Test Benches, in Proceedings of

      SENSOR+TEST 2009 Conference, Nuremberg, Germany, 26-28 May 2009, Vol. I, pp.77-82.

[16].Clifford Mark, Ultra-Low Power Pressure Sensing: a Capacitive Based MEMS Approach, in Proceedings of SENSOR+TEST 2009

      Conference, Nuremberg, Germany, 26-28 May 2009, Vol. I, pp.187-192.

[17].Andle J., Durdag K., Chap M., Haskell R., Threaded Fluid Condition Sensor for Real-Time, On-Line and In-Line Oil Conditioning

      Monitoring, , in Proceedings of SENSOR+TEST 2009 Conference, Nuremberg, Germany, 26-28 May 2009, Vol. II, pp.229-234.

[18].Ali Heidary, Gerard G. C. M. Meijer, A Time-Based Capacitive to Digital Converter with Fast Data Acquisition and High Resolution,

      in Proceedings of SENSOR+TEST 2009 Conference, Nuremberg, Germany, 26-28 May 2009, Vol. I, pp.297-300.

[19].Jia Qi, Li Xiujun, Gerad C.M. Meijer, An Accurate Readout Circuit for Sensors Based on Thermopiles/Thermocouples, in IRS2

       Proceedings of SENSOR+TEST 2009 Conference, Nuremberg, Germany, 26-28 May 2009, pp.295-300.

 

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