October 27, 2015

Mcube makes MEMS smaller than a grain of sand

mCube is a fabless semiconductor company founded in 2009 and based in San Jose, California. mCube is the provider of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) motion sensors for the Internet of Moving Things. From smartphones and tablets to smart clothing and wearables, the Internet of Moving Things (IoMT) is where the movement and context of everyday objects and devices can be measured, monitored and analyzed, generating data and insights. By 2020, analysts predict more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet and a large percentage of those devices will be in motion. mCube’s monolithic, single-chip technology platform enables it to provide motion sensors that are small as a grain of sand.

Most motion sensors available in today’s market are based on multi-chip technology developed in the 1980s. In this approach, the mechanical sensor (MEMS) and the drive electronics (IC) are manufactured in different facilities using different processing techniques. The two chips are tested separately and then wired together during packaging.

The disadvantages of this approach include the size and cost of two chips, the cost and capacity constraints of specialized MEMS fabrication and the performance limitations of interconnecting two separate chips into a single package.

mCube has developed a unique monolithic single-chip MEMS technology allowing for extremely cost-effective, high performance motion sensors. With the mCube approach, the MEMS sensors are fabricated directly on top of the IC electronics in a standard CMOS fabrication facility. Advantages of this monolithic approach include smaller size, higher performance, lower cost, and the ability to integrate multiple sensors onto a single-chip.

While motion sensing has been around for decades, making it ubiquitous across devices and applications has only just begun. We are entering a new era of motion sensing – an era enabled by advances in MEMS technologies that allow a motion sensor on anything that moves. From wearable fitness gadgets and smart watches to mobile devices and gaming consoles, motion sensing is captured by three main elements: Accelerometers, Magnetic Sensors and Gyroscopes.

Super-small inertial sensors, like microelectromechanical system (MEMS) three-axis accelerometers, are finding more-and-more uses in ultra-small Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as wearables and industrial and medical devices such as endoscopes that can navigate the smallest tracks, vessels and cavities of our bodies. The mCube Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) 0.9 cubic millimeter three-axis accelerometer—1.1-by-1.1-by-.74 millimeters—was designed specifically for these applications, by making it 75 percent smaller than the 2-by-2 and 3-by-3 millimeter accelerometers sold by its competitors.

The original mCube three axis accelerometer was 1.6-by-1.6, the current model is 1.1-by-1.1 and its next generation model will be symmetrically sub-millimeter, according to Lee.

Accelerometers, also known as G-sensors, can sense tilt, acceleration, vibration and impact. For example, a mobile device uses its accelerometer to determine which way it is physically positioned in order to rotate the screen. A wearable fitness device can measure distance, number of steps taken and pace of movement

A magnetic sensor, or eCompass, detects the heading based on the Earth’s magnetic field. Many popular consumer devices today incorporate magnetic sensors to enable accurate directional pointing for map orientation and navigation applications. While GPS provides accurate location outdoors, given technology limits, it is generally not available indoors or sporadically available in dense urban areas. Magnetic sensors support dead reckoning, where a user’s position is tracked from the last known position, enabling accurate positioning indoors and in GPS-challenged areas.

A gyroscope measures the rotation rate of a device. Gyroscopes were originally developed for use in military, navigation and aviation applications. The Ggyro functionality is now integrated into several consumer applications such as mobile phones, tablets, gaming devices, indoor navigation, digital cameras, and wearables.

SOURCES - mCube, EEtimes, Wikipedia

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