Accelerometers are gaining ground in many military and aerospace applications thanks to reductions in price and size, greater operating ranges, higher resonant frequencies, lower amplitude ranges, MEMS technology, and integral electronics, but several challenges remain.
By: Patrick L. Walter, posted on Sensors Magazine online
A review of trends in accelerometer design intended to support the military and aerospace industry reveals a number of interesting developments in cost, size, frequency response, range, reliability, and integral electronics. Decreases in cost have resulted in increased use of accelerometers for control and monitoring. Size reductions continue to minimize mass loading of structures, while some increase in range is enhancing the pyroshock testing of aerospace components. Higher resonant frequencies are helping improve accelerometer survivability in pyroshock environments. Lower amplitude range and frequency response capabilities are enhancing the modal testing of large aerospace structures. MEMS sensor technology and the incorporation of electronics into the accelerometer housing are enhancing reliability. Smart accelerometers offer additional promise to the military and aerospace industry.
Challenges, however, remain. The truly high-volume application, analogous to the airbag accelerometer in automobiles, has not yet arrived. Hostile operating temperatures bar integral electronic accelerometers from many applications. Other extreme environments such as radiation, RFI, and EMFs can also create problems. Form factors and space allocations are additional constraints, particularly in military applications. It is nonetheless apparent that manufacturing processes will continue to enhance accelerometer design and surmount many of these challenges.
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