Qinetiq production plan fosters sensor teamwork

Qinetiq is to work with Tronic’s Microsystems to develop and produce new micro electro-mechanical systems, or MEMs, for automotive and military applications.

The companies have signed an agreement that will allow them to design, develop and manufacture MEMs for their customers.

Qinetiq has a background in designing silicon-based sensors and optical components for the MoD, according to Mike Day, business manager for MEMs at the company. Through this research the company has developed two basic technologies, both inertial MEMs devices, which can be configured to produce sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes.

‘Our customers will be primarily military-based, but there will also be some automotive companies and a number who work in process control,’ Day said. ‘Vibration monitoring, to see how a piece of kit is operating, is one useful area in terms of safety; the device could give you an early warning of a malfunction.’

Qinetiq is already in discussions with potential customers about the use of its devices, although Day declined to provide further details.

‘The inertial components could be used in automotive applications, but they are likely to be in non-traditional areas, so not airbags, for example,’ he said.

MEMs devices developed by Qinetiq will be produced at Tronic’s Microsystems’ new specialist manufacturing plant at Crolles in south-east France.

‘We are trying to create a coherent supply chain,’ said Day. ‘We have expertise in prototyping, design and development of MEMs devices, but we don’t specialise in volume production, so to do this economically we have to look elsewhere.

‘We have got a very large MEMs facility here in the UK, which we have deliberately kept flexible. We didn’t want to put manufacturing facilities here, so we looked for a partner,’ said Day.

Having signed the agreement, the companies are beginning to transfer technology between their respective teams, to allow devices already in the pipeline to be developed. They expect to begin jointly developing new devices within the next 12 months.