The reliability, scalability, sensitivity, and cost-effective solutions offered by micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology has provided viable sensor solutions for industrial automation. The trend toward MEMS-enabled miniaturization and micromechatronics bolsters the development of components, devices, systems, and subsystems for industrial applications.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (ti.frost.com), Impact Analysis of MEMS Based Sensors and Actuators on Industrial Automation, finds that MEMS-based sensors and actuators have experienced a slow yet steady growth in the industrial automation sector. As the industrial arena moves toward intelligent, distributed as well as wireless monitoring and control, MEMS technology will likely play an increasingly vital role in this sector.
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The small size and simple structure of MEMS devices make them easily adaptable in places not suitable to heavily structured devices. Moreover, the low energy consumption and high precision of these devices are vital to wireless monitoring and multi-sensor networking in industrial automation applications.
Wireless sensing enables sensors to measure a parameter despite harsh circumstances and therefore it represents a substantial benefit to industrial automation. Additionally, wireless sensors allow for more efficient configuration or re-configuration of large-scale sensor networks to establish comprehensive monitoring of key parameters with respect to vital plant processes or machinery.
“Actuators such as radio frequency (RF) MEMS for wireless sensing applications are making inroads, but still are in a relatively embryonic stage as the investment required is high and the revenues are less in this sector,” notes Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Avinash Bhaskar.
“On the other hand, pressure sensors fabricated using MEMS technology represents one of the largest applications in industrial automation,” adds Research Analyst Menaka S.
Industrial applications such as process control, automotive testing, hydraulic, and pneumatic monitoring/control, utilize silicon micromachined pressure sensors. Compact silicon micromachined gauges and sensors with integrated electronics also assist with pressure (vacuum) measurements in semiconductor tools/equipment such as loadlock transducers.
With regard to costs, industrial automation is less price-sensitive than higher-volume markets for more commodity-type sensors.
“Since MEMS device fabrication requires a large initial investment, efforts are focused on application segments where there is large volume demand,” observes Bhaskar. “As a result, consumer electronics, medical, and automotive segments are currently driving the MEMS industry.”
However, the industrial automation market can offer MEMS developers and providers opportunities to provide higher value MEMS-based sensors and actuating devices that could command a higher price compared to MEMS devices used in more price-sensitive, higher-volume applications.
“MEMS developers and providers can focus on collaborating with users in the industrial arena to provide them with a high-value solution for key industrial applications such as intelligent networked health monitoring of machines, which involves monitoring multiple sensed parameters or distributed process control,” says Menaka. “MEMS sensors for parameters such as pressure, flow, acceleration/vibration/tilt and angular velocity, have started playing a vital role in the industrial automation technology arena.”
Impact Analysis of MEMS Based Sensors and Actuators on Industrial Automation is part of the Technical Insights Growth Partnership Service, which also includes research services in the following: North Asian sensors, economic analysis for the Malaysian automation and electronics industry, political and policy analysis for the Malaysian automation and electronics industry, and social and infrastructure analysis for the Malaysian automation and electronics industry. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends, evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Interviews with the press are available.
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