Omron Keihanna Sensor and Control, Japan
Omron's recently constructed Keihanna Technology Innovation Center in Kansai Science City will become the focus for the company's global R&D strategy. The Center, which began operations in May 2003, is Omron's largest R&D facility and will focus on sensing and control.
Omron has combined R&D functions from each of its four central labs (currently located in Nagaoka, Tsukuba, Kyoto and Kusatsu cities) into the Technology Innovation Center in Kansai (a region in western Japan encompassing parts of Osaka, Kyoto and Nara). It will produce samples of devices like MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) and related optical devices so customers can determine whether to go into large scale production.
KEIHANNA TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION CENTER
The building is set in 72,000m². It has three floors above ground and one floor below, a total floor space of 30,000m² and a 2,400m² clean room.
Energy generation/energy saving measures include 50kVA solar power generation and co-generation systems (520kVA x 3), with energy reductions through task and ambient lighting. The air conditioning system uses rainwater and the building recycles combustible garbage.
TEN PLATFORM TECHNOLOGIES FOR SENSING AND CONTROL
Research will follow Omron's ten 'platform technologies' for sensing and control, including Micro Machining Technology, Micro Optics technology and Optical Electronics technology.
Micro Machining uses semiconductor devices and processes to create 3D sensors on silicon. Micro Optics technology integrates micro-optical particles like Micro Lens Arrays (MLAs), Projector MLAs and cellular phone MLAs. Optical Electronics technology uses light-wave properties to create LED modules, high-speed optical communications devices, etc.
Omron's platforms also include human vision-like sensing technology (vehicle identification sensors, character recognition, etc.) and vision-based human understanding technology (facial recognition, facial image searches). Verbal interaction technology concentrates on voice-driven human and machine interaction. Omron includes an open platform technology for devices embedded with advanced IT like real-time Java.
CO-OPERATIVE SENSING SOLUTIONS
Omron divides sensor development into three categories: measurement, analysis and prediction. Measurements are taken from targeted factory automation parameters (position, displacement, level, width, height, surface area, volume, color, etc.). Information is analyzed and phenomena are predicted using algorithms that embody process knowledge gained from the factory floor.
Sensing and control is not limited strictly to data input, but aims to integrate the techniques with high-value information output for subsequent human or system processing. The company uses 3D MEMS structures to implement the sensing/control.
MEMS FOR SENSING AND CONTROL
Unlike ICs, MEMS are 3D semiconductor structures that can provide new forms of sensing and control for a wide range of applications including mobile/broadband systems.
Omron has developed miniaturized electrostatic pressure and acceleration sensors for detecting gas and fluid pressure in air conditioners and electronic sphygmomanometers. These sensors detect the minute change in electrostatic capacity between a moving electrode and a fixed electrode as it changes under pressure. Conventional sensors could not be physically miniaturized without sacrificing sensitivity. Omron uses a specially developed donut diaphragm to attain the high output linearity necessary for accurate detection, one-tenth (2.5mm²) the size of conventional sensors.
Micromachining technology can similarly miniaturize relays, switches and other control devices. Omron's actuator (EAGLE) and high-frequency structure have produced Micro-Machined Relays with insertion loss of -0.5dB, isolation of -45dB at 2GHz and virtually no deterioration of performance in switching tests of one million cycles. R&D is further reducing sizes and increasing transmission speeds.
Micro Lens Arrays can control virtually every property of light including flux, polarization and wavelength. They can miniaturize products while giving functions designed for specific applications. Omron is developing MLAs for the LCDs that will be the 'paper' displays of the IT age, along with products for biotechnology, communication and energy.
Projector MLA LCD projectors are now being used in presentations and home theater systems. Omron's MLA uses an aspherical micro-lens array to focus light precisely on the pixel gate (aperture). This significantly improves brightness and improves image quality.
Omron also produces Backlight MLAs (B-MLAs). The shift with cellular phones from voice to text and image capabilities has boosted the demand for low-power backlit displays. Omron is using products like cylindrical micro-lens arrays to develop efficient backlit cellular phones and portable data terminal displays.
The company is developing inline inspection sensors for precision semiconductor processes that require detection on the micron level.
CO-OPERATION ON SENSING AND MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY
Also focusing on implementing sensing technology, Omron has recently opened a Sensing Solution Site. The site provides manufacturers with information on sensing technology and applications as well as manufacturing technology. It aims to encourage co-operation while helping manufacturers integrate Omron's manufacturing technology with their own.
The Sensing Solution Site addresses issues like sensing technology, cell manufacturing for high-mix low-volume production, product quality monitoring techniques, lead-free adoption and the implications of shifting manufacture to China.