A Wider Field of View

The technology basket that represents today's mix of "sensors" includes much more than the standard sensors to which we're accustomed. Wireless networking, intelligent systems, MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), MST (microsystem technologies), nanotechnology, biosensors, and others are firmly in the mix.

By Frank J. Bartos May 1, 2003



Sensor technologies

Intelligent systems

Micro and nano-technologies

The technology basket that represents today’s mix of “sensors” includes much more than the standard sensors to which we’re accustomed. Wireless networking, intelligent systems, MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), MST (microsystem technologies), nanotechnology, biosensors, and others are firmly in the mix. Within this expanding field of “sensor” technology, one trend is clear—ultra-miniaturization is in full swing across the broad spectrum of sensors.

The full breadth of underlying technologies will be on display at Sensors Expo, spring 2003 show, June 2-5, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, a Chicago suburb. At press time, 128 companies are slated to participate in the show, displaying products, solutions, and services to a growing set of customers.

Special events and a strong conference program complement Sensors Expo 2003. Featured speaker at the “Spirit of Innovation” luncheon (Wednesday, June 4 at noon) will be Dean Kamen, chairman and ceo, Segway LLC. Inventor, physicist, and entrepreneur, Mr. Kamen is perhaps best known for his role as the developer of the futuristic personal transportation device, dubbed the Segway Human Transporter.

“Emerging Technologies Pavilion & Theater” is an event designed to provide show visitors with the latest technology developments through real-world applications and innovative product demos (Tuesday through Thursday). Q&A sessions also are planned to foster visitor interaction with the developers and provide solutions to specific problems.

The conference program includes:

Sensor Technology & Design —looks at the gamut of sensor types and extends to the fabrication, packaging, modeling, simulation, and commercialization of sensors.

Intelligent Systems —covers numerous sensor-related issues that range from connectivity, data (acquisition, analysis, security), and embedded systems to machine monitoring, motion control, and web-enabled and wireless communication.

Putting Sensors to Work —examines the omnipresence of sensors from automotive to semiconductor applications and most everything in between.

Emerging Technologies —focuses on biosensors, nanotechnology, wireless networking, manufacturing issues, and standards, providing complementary and overlapping coverage of the Sensor Technology & Design and Intelligent Systems programs.

Business of Sensors Symposium —forms a core element of the conference. This two-day symposium (June 2 and 3) focuses on business and industry trends, including operations management, knowledge management, finance, and use of sensors to develop business intelligence.

Eight symposium sessions are scheduled, including two networking breakfasts moderated by senior-level operations and technical managers. The event is designed for senior staff, entrepreneurs and engineers moving into management, and executive operations-support professionals, according to Sensors Expo organizers.

Among sessions in Putting Sensors to Work, “Commercialization of Nanotechnology, MEMS, MST, and Micromachines—A Global Perspective,” is noteworthy. Roger Grace, president of Roger Grace Associates (San Francisco, CA), will chair this all-day session of wide ranging papers plus panel discussions (June 4, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.). Paper presentations will range from devices to infrastructure technologies. “Infrastructure refers to examining what kinds of equipment are being developed to support MEMS devices and how to create high throughput in these systems,” Mr. Grace told Control Engineering . An “Overview on Barriers to Commercialization” is the topic of Mr. Grace’s paper. Panel discussions will address manufacturing issues, especially the role of standards in MEMS industries. “Lessons learned by MEMS and micro- and nano-technologies from the semiconductor industry will also be covered,” he adds.

Exhibition-hall highlights

Among the myriad products and solutions at Sensors Expo, here are some highlights:

Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector (Austin, TX) will demonstrate the capabilities of its low-g accelerometer family that measures small changes in force, for example, linear acceleration, deceleration, vibration, shock/impact, and titling movements. A “guitar demo”—displaying a string being played and a string being pitched for tuning—will be used to show how the accelerometer works to detect motor vibration, motor failures, seismic effects, and out-of-balance conditions. How the accelerometer detects tilt angles, graphically displaying angle values on a computer screen, will be the focus of an inclinometer demo.Among uses for low-g accelerometers are automotive and robotic applications plus the monitoring of machinery health.

National Instruments (NI, Austin, TX) extends its simultaneous sampling, multifunction I/O family with the fastest NI 6120 multifunction data acquisition (DAQ) devices for PXI and PCI. These NI 6120 devices offer 16-bit analog input at 800 kS/s on each of four channels for both transient and frequency-domain measurements. For data integrity, NI PXI-6120 and NI PCI-6120 come with 64 million samples of onboard memory. Featured are two 16-bit analog output channels, eight digital I/O lines, and two counter/timers.NI 6120 I/O devices come with NI-DAQ 6.9 driver software, which is a programming interface for use with numerous programming environments and languages. NI 16-bit DAQ devices for PXI, PCI, FireWire, and PCMCIA deliver 16 times better resolution and significantly better accuracy at a marginal price difference when compared to 12-bit DAQ products, says National Instruments.

Phoenix Contact (Harrisburg, PA) will show the special design of its Variosub RJ-45/IP67 watertight industrial Ethernet connector that protects the RJ-45 contact insert and allows the connector to work in harsh industrial installations. Variosub provides IP67 protection against dirt and moisture. Its impact/temperature-resistant polyamide housing resists chemicals, oils, and greases, as well as vibration.Variosub RJ-45 suits fast Ethernet transmissions at 100 Mbps in accordance with the so-called Cat 5+ standard. To simplify set up and maintenance, no tools are needed to lock the plug housing to the mounting frame. Variosub connector is compatible with standard RJ-45, allowing use of standard office-world cables and test equipment without cumbersome adapters.

Yokogawa Corp. of America (Newnan, GA) will highlight its MX100 DAQMaster modular, distributed PC-based data acquisition system designed for process monitoring and distributed I/O devices, even under electrically and environmentally harsh conditions. MX100 DAQMaster supports up to 1,200 channels of distributed, universal channels from one PC. Isolated, true differential inputs are offered through every universal input module, which is said to differentiate MX100 from similar systems. Through proprietary A/D converters, solid-state relays, and isolation transformers designed by Yokogawa, MX100 is rated for 3,700 V ac of withstand isolation, as well as module-to-module and channel-to-channel isolation of 600 V. As a result, MX100 provides measurement solutions to very challenging applications, such as fuel-cell stack testing and thermocouple measurements on bare ac power lines.

Two adjunct shows will run concurrently with Sensors Expo 2003. The “International Robots and Vision Show & Conference” and “Industrial Fasteners & Forming International Exhibition and Conference” offer to further expand the horizon of automation professionals and satisfy their “must know” information needs.

For more information, or to view a detailed conference program schedule, or to register for Sensors Expo Chicago, visit www.sensorsexpo.com