Magnetic sensor maker slashes costs

  • 04-Jun-2009 05:17 EDT
Embedded protection technologies can bring significant cost savings, as was the case with this Austriamicrosystems' angular magnetic encoder.

Component makers are chipping in on the drive to cut costs. Sensor maker Austriamicrosystems has unveiled a magnetic rotary encoder IC that includes electrical and magnetic protection that can trim costs by as much as 60 cents.

The AS5163 is designed for a range of angle-sensing applications, offering more precision than electromechanical parts. It also replaces low dropout regulators and a handful of passive components now used to safeguard solid state sensors that operate on 3.3- and 5-V power sources.

“We’ve integrated all the protection so the IC can be connected directly to 12- or 14-V power sources,” said Bernhard Czar, Automotive Marketing Director for Austriamicrosystems. “Those protection components sum up to 30 to 50 cents and take up a few square mm of board space, so there’s a lot of benefit in eliminating them.”

Czar also noted that the new line is insensitive to stray magnetic fields. That is an increasingly important factor as electric motors, which generate stray magnetic fields and are handling more functions throughout the vehicle.

The immunity that stems from the company’s differential measurement scheme can bring further savings. “We don’t need shielding that many others need, so you can save another 5 to 10 cents,” Czar said.

The combined savings of up to 60 cents is a large percentage of the encoder’s cost. In automotive volumes, parts will sell for roughly $1.60.

Contactless magnetic encoders are being used in a range of applications such as brake and throttle-pedal position measurement and gear shift monitoring. The AS5163 has a temperature range of -40°C to +150°C (-40°F to +302°F) so it can be used in some powertrain applications. It incorporates both +27 V overvoltage protection and -18 V reverse polarity protection at its output. Intelligent short-circuit monitoring is also provided.

The cost reduction could help Austriamicrosystems gain market share in a market that has been hit by the auto industry’s downturn. Last year, the microelectromechanical systems segment of the sensor market declined by 8.5%, with revenue of $1.6 billion, according to iSuppli Corp.

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