Affordable and Hassle-Free Solutions for Obsolete Sensors
Companies that adopted the first microelectromechanical (MEMS) accelerometers and inertial measurement sensors in the 1990s have struggled to find affordable solutions to replace sensors that have been discontinued due to the advent of newer technologies. Although the newer generations of sensors feature exponential performance improvements and are available at a drastically reduced cost, they often are not configured to work with existing software, interfaces, or housing. However, with MEMS devices now being able to compete with many fiber-optic systems, a new market is on the rise for replacing dated sensors that may or may not be commercially available anymore. Inertial Labs offers options to customize sensors so that customers don’t need to invest time to make them fit into existing systems
The History of Inertial Navigation and MEMS Sensors
Initial development with inertial navigation systems began with organizations like M.I.T. Instrumentation Laboratory, Northrup, and Autonetics under sponsorship led by the United States Air Force.
The first accelerometer debuted in the mid 18th century, but it wasn't until almost a century later that the first gyroscope appeared. After those early devices, it took another two centuries for mechanical evolution to lead to the development of MEMS based gyroscopes and accelerometers that we know and use today. In 1993, the first micromachined accelerometer (a MEMS device) hit the market, at a mere five dollars per unit. Today, comparable units are available at a fraction of the cost. Moreover, their performance far surpasses the first generation of these sensors.
In theory, that offers end users a great deal more bang for their buck, but the reality is not quite so simple, particularly when they are trying to retrofit the new sensors into their existing systems.
Replacing Obsolete Sensors Comes at a High Cost
Since the early 1990s, many companies have either disregarded or discontinued MEMS-based sensors. On the one hand, it makes sense to stop manufacturing sensors that are no longer considered efficient or sufficiently high-performance, especially when compared to the fiber-optic systems of the same century.
However, customers have invested considerable time and resources to integrate these older sensors with their systems and replacing them isn’t always easily done. These companies are often left behind, struggling to find affordable options for the often-costly replacement solutions.
How Obsolete Sensors are Costing Companies
Replacing existing sensors is not as easy as purchasing a new sensor and plugging it into the existing hardware. There are many other factors that companies must consider as they seek replacement solutions, and they typically are both costly and time-consuming.
Making Custom Modifications to Hardware Interfaces
Retrofitting a new MEMS sensor into an existing hardware interface may require custom modifications to ensure that the retrofit connects appropriately. Moreover, since the solution typically needs to be repeated across multiple devices, making it fit isn’t a reasonable option. Instead, companies must engineer a durable fix that is easy to duplicate and install so that the new sensors can connect to the existing hardware.