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
Apr 13, 2021
We explain the NHTSA's latest automotive cybersecurity best practices, including guidelines to protect automotive ECUs and connected vehicle technologies. The post NHTSA Shares Best Practices for Improving Autmotive Cybersecurity appeared first on From Silicon To Software....
Apr 13, 2021
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video tells you the entire story. Cadence's subsystem SoC silicon for PCI Express (PCIe) 5.0 demo video shows you how we put together the latest... [[ Click on the title to access the full blog on the Cadence Community site. ]]...
Apr 12, 2021
The Semiconductor Ecosystem- It is the definition of '€œHigh Tech'€, but it isn'€™t just about… The post Calibre and the Semiconductor Ecosystem appeared first on Design with Calibre....
Apr 8, 2021
We all know the widespread havoc that Covid-19 wreaked in 2020. While the electronics industry in general, and connectors in particular, took an initial hit, the industry rebounded in the second half of 2020 and is rolling into 2021. Travel came to an almost stand-still in 20...

featured video

Meeting Cloud Data Bandwidth Requirements with HPC IP

Sponsored by Synopsys

As people continue to work remotely, demands on cloud data centers have never been higher. Chip designers for high-performance computing (HPC) SoCs are looking to new and innovative IP to meet their bandwidth, capacity, and security needs.

Click here for more information

featured paper

Understanding Functional Safety FIT Base Failure Rate Estimates per IEC 62380 and SN 29500

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

Functional safety standards such as IEC 61508 and ISO 26262 require semiconductor device manufacturers to address both systematic and random hardware failures. Base failure rates (BFR) quantify the intrinsic reliability of the semiconductor component while operating under normal environmental conditions. Download our white paper which focuses on two widely accepted techniques to estimate the BFR for semiconductor components; estimates per IEC Technical Report 62380 and SN 29500 respectively.

Click here to download the whitepaper

Featured Chalk Talk

Rail Data Connectivity

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and TE Connectivity

The rail industry is undergoing a technological revolution right now, and Ethernet connectivity is at the heart of it. But, finding the right interconnect solutions for high-reliability applications such as rail isn’t easy. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Egbert Stellinga from TE Connectivity about TE’s portfolio of interconnect solutions for rail and other reliability-critical applications.

Click here for more information about TE Connectivity EN50155 Managed Ethernet Switches