Joint venture into silicon sensors

British Aerospace and Sumitomo Precision Products (SPP) have formed a 50-50 joint venture to exploit silicon motion sensing technology such as gyroscopes with no moving parts. The joint-venture company, to be called Silicon Sensing Systems, will develop, manufacture, market and offer sales support for a range of motion sensors. Its main products will be accelerometers […]

British Aerospace and Sumitomo Precision Products (SPP) have formed a 50-50 joint venture to exploit silicon motion sensing technology such as gyroscopes with no moving parts.

The joint-venture company, to be called Silicon Sensing Systems, will develop, manufacture, market and offer sales support for a range of motion sensors.

Its main products will be accelerometers and gyroscopes. SPP and British Aerospace Systems and Equipment (Base) in Plymouth will continue to be responsible for gyro development, and sales and support throughout the rest of the world. A Japanese subsidiary will make, market and support product sales in Asia.

An SPP pilot production plant in Japan is already making and selling 3,000 silicon gyros a month for applications including radio-controlled helicopters and a marine-based heading system. The facility’s capacity is expected to be raised to 400,000 units annually from next year.

Further factories are under discussion.

Base launched the world’s first micromachined silicon gyro in 1997. Aimed at the automotive industry, it found applications in car navigation systems, vehicle dynamics, collision avoidance, roll-over airbag control and crash recorders.

The first big order for Silicon Vibrating Structure Gyros came earlier this year from LucasVarity, which plans to use the devices in its new braking system for light vehicles in the largest ever contract for yaw rate sensors – up to 1.5 million units. The gyroscopes are also being evaluated for medical, industrial robotic and 3D computing applications.

Robin Southwell, group managing director of BAe, said: `The development of silicon motion sensor technology will have a huge impact in areas as diverse as transport, medicine, industrial automation and stabilisation.’