Insights from industry

Sensor Solutions with Sensirion


In this interview, AZoSensors speaks to Vincent Hess and Vitaliy Vovk, Product Managers at Sensirion about sensor solutions.

Can you provide me with an overview of Sensirion?

Sensirion is the leading manufacturer of high-quality sensors and sensor solutions for the measurement of humidity and temperature, of gas flows and liquid flows. Founded in 1998 as a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, the company is headquartered in Stäfa near Zurich, Switzerland, and currently employs around 400 people in countries such as the USA, South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Germany. The headquarter in Switzerland is responsible for development, production and sales.

Millions of Sensirion's sensor components and solutions are used in industries all over the world, including the automotive industry, medical technology, building technology, industrial processes, and in consumer goods.

Sites all around the world and a seamless distribution network mean we can be local to any customer anywhere in the world in order to provide the best possible support at every stage of the project. We have a range of awards that prove we are prepared to go the extra mile for our customers. Most recently, we have received the Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year® 2010" Award, which is presented to companies that have contributed to improving the competitiveness of the Swiss economy by means of personal commitment and the willingness to take risks.

How does the unique CMOSens Technology compare to the range of sensors by Sensirion?

Sensirion's sensors are based on the innovative CMOSens® technology, which combines the sensor and the read-out ASIC functionality on a single semiconductor chip. This means large unit numbers can be produced at high quality and low cost.

CMOS is starting to become mainstream as a chip design for its capability in incorporating many functional aspects on one chip making it less expensive to manufacture. Based on the CMOS technology by Sensirion, how does this benefit the consumer?

Combining the sensor with the signal processing circuitry ensures that the weak analog sensor signals can be amplified and digitized with high precision directly where they are generated, thereby making them resistant to interference. This provides the basis for the extremely high measurement accuracy of CMOSens® sensors. With the elimination of fault-pronesolder joints, users also benefit from outstanding long-term stability, as has been proven by extensive field tests. Furthermore, CMOSens® technology is based on proven and reliable standard processes used in semiconductor fabrication, which also contribute to the high reliability and reproducibility of Sensirion sensor solutions.

With any product lifecycle, there is always an element of adapting and becoming better at a particular function. Can you think of factors that have resulted in Sensirion modifying its humidity, liquid flow, mass flow and differential pressure sensor products to have a design advantage over their traditional alternatives?

At Electronica 2012 we present the world's smallest humidity and temperature sensor, setting new standards for size, power consumption, production volume and price. The tiny SHTC1 humidity and temperature sensor is specifically designed for mobile devices where size is a critical factor. Sensirion has rigorously followed the maxim "smaller is better" and developed the world's smallest sensor in its class, measuring a mere 2 x 2 x 0.8 mm. The new SHTC1 humidity and temperature sensor combines extreme miniaturization with top performance, and with Sensirion's implementation support it is doubtless a decisive step ahead of the competition.

What has been Sensirion’s best achievement to date with regard to its products and application field?

There is not only one achievement to mention. Sensirion stands for innovative products, customer-oriented solutions and optimal support. We want to understand our customers, so we can provide them with the best solution.

The main market area for Sensirion appears to be in appliance, building technology, consumer electronics, medical and automotive – all considered as large and competitive markets. Which market area do you feel is the most challenging for Sensirion and why?

Each of them is challenging and has its own characteristics. Automotive for example has extremely high quality standards. Consumer electronics on the other hand asks for high volumes, fast reaction times and maximum flexibility when it comes to customer support. The challenge is to understand the specific applications in these different markets and provide the right solutions to the customers.

Considering the sensors that form part of your building technology sector, are your differential pressure sensors also designed to withstand system pressure and are these sensors easily calibrated?

Our HVAC differential pressure sensors are fully calibrated and temperature compensated so that the customer can read out the differential pressure without any additional calibration steps on his side. The sensors are designed to work at atmospheric pressure or close to it (overpressure 1 bar, burst pressure >5 bar).

Still on the subject of sensor applications, can you describe how Sensirion have achieved long-term sensitivity and stability in medical applications?

Long-term sensitivity and stability is achieved due to Sensirion’s CMOSens® technology which relies on the MEMS microchips without any parts prone to aging effects (e.g. membranes or other mechanical parts).

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