Bosch has reached a significant manufacturing milestone. Since the start of production in 1995, the company has manufactured well in excess of three billion MEMS sensors. It took Bosch 13 years to manufacture the first billion, another three years to reach two billion, and only a further 18 months to cross the three-billion mark. In 2012, some 600 million sensors emerged from its wafer fab in Reutlingen, Germany – or 2.4 million each working day.
Bosch supplies sensors for a wide range of applications in the consumer electronics and automotive industries. These sensors measure pressure, acceleration, rotary motion, mass flow, and the earth’s magnetic field. Bosch has been at the forefront of MEMS technology since it first emerged, and today it generates more sales in the extremely dynamic MEMS sensor market than any other supplier.
“It’s no longer possible to imagine automotive or consumer electronics without MEMS sensors. In the future, they will act as the eyes and ears for systems and objects connected via the internet of things and services,” says Klaus Meder, president of the Bosch Automotive Electronics division.
The first application for MEMS sensors was in automotive electronics and Bosch has been producing these precision sensors for use in vehicles since 1995. A yaw-rate sensor that records the rotary movements of the car around its vertical axis is at the heart of ESP, for example, and today each modern vehicle is home to up to 50 MEMS sensors. In an automotive context, the key considerations for MEMS are their reliability and robustness, as the sensors have a direct impact on the safety of road users. Size and energy consumption are much less important factors.
But the picture is quite different when it comes to smartphones or games consoles, which is why Bosch shrunk its sensors over the years to just one fiftieth of their former size. The latest generation of these sensors unites a host of functions in a casing measuring just a few square millimeters. Meanwhile the sensors’ energy consumption has been reduced by a factor of 100. Of all the suppliers in the market, Bosch claims to be the only one producing sensor types for so many different applications. The company holds or has applied for a total of well over 1,000 patents.
Bosch Sensortec GmbH in Reutlingen was founded in 2005. This Bosch subsidiary recently brought the world’s first 9-axis sensor to market. The BMX055 is capable of measuring acceleration, yaw rate, and the earth’s magnetic field in all three spatial directions at the same time, which makes it suitable for a whole range of potential applications. The sensor can be put to work wherever there is a need to pinpoint a mobile device’s spatial location and position – or its orientation relative to the earth’s magnetic field – and can be integrated into even the smallest devices.