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Flexible Potentiometer

Organization:Flexpoint Sensor Systems, Inc., 84020, US
I.P. Brief:Flexpoint Sensor Systems manufactures a patented new flexible sensor that has also proven to be an extremely durable switch. The single layer Bend SensorĀ® product allows for the measurement of mechanical movement, air flow, water flow, or even vibration. In addition, it has been tested to over 30 million cycles without failure. It can be used as a range of motion sensor, or as a very durable, very reliable switch in most harsh environments. As our sensor bends, the resistance of the circuit increases in a linear fashion. As our sensor returns to a flat state, the resistance decreases back to its starting point.
Summary of I.P.:The Bend Sensor provides a low cost solution to sensing and switching applications. It is a single layer design that lends itself well to operating in harsh environments. The Bend Sensor does not have two metal contacts that can become corroded, or contaminated by dirt and dust. As long as the sensor can still bend and deflect, it will still function well. Because of its single layer construction, there is no air gap between multiple layers that needs to be maintained. This means that our sensor is immune from the problems that membrane switches and force sensors have from changing environmental conditions. Our normal processing takes our sensors through a very large temperature range. This has allowed us to mold our sensors into high temperature processes, thereby reducing application costs. It is rare that we have a customer with an application that attains higher temperatures than our normal processing temperature. In summary, our sensors function very well in a wide range of harsh environments. From temperature, to pressure, to contamination, to an extreme amount of actuations. They do all of this at a price that is usually lower than the competing technologies.
Patent:US 5,157,372
Keywords:Sensor, Switch, Potentiometer, Flow, Automotive, Medical, Limit Switch, Industrial Control
Primary Industry:Sensors and Switching
Specific Market:Automotive, Industrial Controls, Humidity Sensing, Medical, Robotics
Market Size:The Automotive industry alone has many sensing applications that the Bend Sensor is being tested in. Each application ranges from tens of thousands to hunderds of thousands of units each year. The volumes for some of the other markets have the potentia
State of the Art:There are different technologies available depending on the application. Some of the competing technologies include: fibre optics, force sensors, potentiometers, and membrane switches.
Competition:There are not any known emerging threats other than the existing competing technologies. The Flexpoint Bend Sensor is the emerging threat.
Figures of Merit:The Bend Sensor technology provides a lower cost sensor, or switch, that operates in very harsh environments. It is extremely durable and can have a life of more than 30 million cycles. The nature of the product allows for customization of the sensor to fit just about any size constraint.
Tech.  Obstacles:The major obstacle is usually to create a repeatable mechanical environment. The Bend Sensor measures the movement of whatever deflects it. Many times, the sensor is only as repeatable as the mechanical apparatus it is attached to.
Market Obstacles:The Bend Sensor requires a micro processor to interpret the movements of the sensor. If you are using the sensor as a switch, the micro will have a threshold value that it monitors. When the resistance goes beyond the threshold, it turns the device on. When it returns back below the threshold value, it turns the device off. If you are using the sensor to measure a range of motion, the micro is constantly monitoring the sensor to see just how far it is deflected. An example would be to determine the amount of movement in a patient\'s elbow or knee to monitor the progress of rehabilitation. In any of these applications the micro processor is needed to interpret the signal. The major commercial challenge comes in applications or markets that do not allow for this circuitry.
Patent Landscape:US 5,789,827 Two Wire Interface to Automobile Horn Relay Circuit; US 6,236,301 Cantilevered Deflection Sensing; US 6,392,527 Impact Detection System; US 6,015,163 System for Measuring Parameters Related to Automobile Seat; US 6,497,430 Mass Profiling System; There are five additional patents applied for.
Publications:Frost & Sullivan - Enforcement of Pedestrian Protections - February 2006; Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation - Design Consideration for a Wearable Monitor to Measure Finger Posture - March 2005; Automotive News - GM Opts for Flexpoint Sensors - September 6, 1999; Design News - Nintendo Sensor Helps Eliminate Airbag Risk - October 4, 1999; Motor - The Smartest Air Bag Yet? - September 1999
Research Team:Dave Beck - Engineering Manager - Physicist - 18 years experience; Tom Danielson - Sales & Marketing - Engineer - 18 years; Marco Bux - Electrical Engineer - 8 years; Brad Christensen - Software Engineer - 11 years; Mark Woodbury - Mechanical Engineer - 24 years

 

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