editor's blog
Subscribe Now

A Non-MEMS Magnetometer

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about MEMS in these pages, but not all sensors are MEMS. At Semicon West, I got to talk to Becky Oh of PNI Sensors. They make geomagnetic sensors with noise characteristics around 30 times better than Hall-effect sensors, as she tells it. But they’re not MEMS sensors.

They use a material whose permeability changes with the magnetic field. They wrap this material in a coil and then put the resulting variable inductor in an RLC tank and use the oscillation frequency as an indicator of the magnetic field.

Of course, like all sensors, they need software. They include low-level code that corrects for local magnetic anomalies, although, on its own, the sensor needs some movement to calibrate itself. Combined with a gyro and accelerometer, they can distinguish between an external field change and actual movement of the sensor.

Given the discussions we’ve had on sensors being different from each other, making universal fusion harder, her perspective was that the data returned by sensors are generally quite similar: it’s the APIs that tend to vary. And, of course, software uses APIs, not data directly, so those calls end up masking the similarities between sensors.

Given the size of their sensors (not huge, but not MEMS), they’re not looking to sell into phones. They have background in military, navigation, and virtual reality applications; they’re looking to grow further into games and TV controllers. These are somewhat more forgiving than some of their earlier markets in that they are, more or less, pointing applications, and absolute heading isn’t critical for those apps in the way it is for navigation apps.

They’re building a new fab in Santa Rosa, CA. It seems to be part of a trend to bring manufacturing back to the US – as long as the manufacturing line itself doesn’t require hiring any real people. The key to these fabs is automation: everything is done by computer. There is a need for a hundred or so well-trained people that can work (and repair) the equipment, which is less than would have been used in the past or overseas, but more than would be in the US if they remained overseas.

Even though they aren’t MEMS, they’re joining the MEMS Industry Group, since there’s a lot of commonality with the ecosystem and other players there. And it appears that the Group will let them in…

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
May 19, 2022
The current challenge in custom/mixed-signal design is to have a fast and silicon-accurate methodology. In this blog series, we are exploring the Custom IC Design Flow and Methodology stages. This... ...
May 19, 2022
Learn about the AI chip design breakthroughs and case studies discussed at SNUG Silicon Valley 2022, including autonomous PPA optimization using DSO.ai. The post Key Highlights from SNUG 2022: AI Is Fast Forwarding Chip Design appeared first on From Silicon To Software....
May 12, 2022
By Shelly Stalnaker Every year, the editors of Elektronik in Germany compile a list of the most interesting and innovative… ...
Apr 29, 2022
What do you do if someone starts waving furiously at you, seemingly delighted to see you, but you fear they are being overenthusiastic?...

featured video

EdgeQ Creates Big Connections with a Small Chip

Sponsored by Cadence Design Systems

Find out how EdgeQ delivered the world’s first 5G base station on a chip using Cadence’s logic simulation, digital implementation, timing and power signoff, synthesis, and physical verification signoff tools.

Click here for more information

featured paper

Intel Agilex FPGAs Deliver Game-Changing Flexibility & Agility for the Data-Centric World

Sponsored by Intel

The new Intel® Agilex™ FPGA is more than the latest programmable logic offering—it brings together revolutionary innovation in multiple areas of Intel technology leadership to create new opportunities to derive value and meaning from this transformation from edge to data center. Want to know more? Start with this white paper.

Click to read more

featured chalk talk

Medical Grade Temperature Sensing with the World's Smallest Surface Mount FIR Temperature IC

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and Melexis

Temperature sensing has come a very long way in recent years. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Doug Gates from Melexis about the latest innovation in medical grade temperature sensing. They take a closer look at the different kinds of applications that can use this kind of sensing technology, the role that emissivity and field view play in temperature sensing, and what sets the Melexis’ MLX90632 apart from other temperature sending solutions on the market today. 

Click here for more information about Melexis MLX90632 Infrared Temperature Sensors