New method enables mass manufacture of compact high-accuracy electronic compasses

Suitable applications include mobile phones, wrist computers and GPS navigation solutions

VTT has developed MEMS magnetometers that can be used in applications such as sensitive electronic compasses integrated in mobile phones or other portable devices.

Integrated in a mobile phone, this compass can be used to aid in locating the nearest ATM, pharmacy or doctor's clinic, for example. In GPS navigator solutions, the compass supports the operation of other devices, for example in cases where the satellite connection fails as a result of buildings or trees. It can also provide directional information when the user is motionless.

For manufacturing magnetometers, VTT has developed a new processing method for silicon wafers. This enables the production of the sensors used for an electronic compass on one silicon chip instead of several chips. This means that the size of the compass can be considerably smaller (thinner) and the manufacturing costs for mass production can be lowered. Thanks to the reduced need for calibration, the compass is also more reliable than the existing electronic compasses. One of the benefits for the customer is that, owing to the reduced power consumption, the battery life of a wrist computer or a mobile phone, for example, is considerably longer when using the compass. Commercial manufacturing of the component is expected to begin in a few years’ time.

The research was funded by Tekes, and the cooperative partners included VTI Technologies Oy, Suunto Oy and Okmetic Oyj.

The research will continue in a new project, focusing on streamlining the manufacturing process and making the sensors more compact.

 


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