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A new way of manufacturing a more accurate and smaller-sized electronic compass for mass production by VTT

Applications include consumer mobile phones, wrist computers and GPS navigation solutions

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a new way of manufacturing a more accurate and smaller-sized electronic compass, which also consumes less power and is suitable for mass production. Possible applications include mobile phones, wrist computers and GPS navigator solutions.

VTT has developed micromechanic magnetometers that can be used in applications such as more sensitive electronic compasses integrated in mobile phones or other mobile devices. Integrated in a mobile phone, this compass can be used to locate, for example, the nearest ATM, pharmacy or doctor's clinic. In GPS navigator solutions, the compass supports the operation of other devices, for example in cases where the satellite connection fails as the result of buildings or trees. It can also provide directional information when the user is motionless.

For manufacturing magnetometers, VTT has developed a new processing method for silicon wafers. This enables the production of the sensors used for an electronic compass on one silicon chip instead of several chips. This means that the size of the compass can be smaller and the manufacturing costs for mass production can be lowered. Thanks to the reduced need for calibration, the compass is also more reliable than the existing electronic compasses. One of the benefits for the customer is that, owing to the reduced power consumption, the battery life of a wrist computer or a mobile phone, for example, is considerably longer when using the compass.

Commercial manufacturing of the component is expected to begin in Finland in a few year's time.

The research was funded by Tekes, and the cooperative partners included VTI Technologies Oy, Suunto Oy and Okmetic Oyj.

The research will continue with the new RESTLES project, focusing on streamlining the manufacturing process and making the sensors more compact.

Sirpa Posti | alfa
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