Pressure transducers are sensors that convert pressure variations in a fluid into an electrical signal. Signals delivered by pressure transducers can be continuous, and therefore feed constant readouts to control systems. This means that smart control systems where falling pressure levels triggers alarms can be installed, which can be customizable and cause a system shutdown in the most serious cases. Because pressure transducers can operate with liquid interfaces and at high temperatures and pressures, they find use in marine applications like propulsion units, gearboxes, and oil systems. Three technologies are central in how useful modern transducers are: chemical vapor deposition (CVD), sputtered thin-film, and application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) electronic packaging.
Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is a manufacturing technique for producing pressure transducers. CVD takes place in a batch process and involves the deposition of polysilicon on a stainless-steel surface, and then chemically milling strain gauge patterns. Once the milling is done, the water is cut into individual sensor beams that are then mounted onto a stainless-steel summing diaphragm and pressure port through laser welding. The wafers are then linked to electronics to perform signal amplification and conditioning. CVD allows manufacturers to make robust and accurate pressure sensors that are both cheap and effective.
Measuring pressure is done by having a thin sealed sensing diaphragm in contact with the media being measured. When the diaphragm is moved, the strain gauge is flexed (either by compression or tension) producing an electrical signal proportional to the displacement. The sensor’s output is transmitted through on-board electronics, with the whole system compactly contained within steel housing. Sputtered thin-film technology is behind those on-board electronics; a solid material is bombarded with energized particles, leading to the sputtering of atoms. These sputtered atoms are then deposited onto a sensing substrate in a controlled electronic pattern. This produces a strong and accurate sensor capable of operating in direct contact with most fluids, including oils and gases.
Application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) are circuits customized for a specific use, rather than general purpose. This allows the performance and function of individual transducers to be fine-tuned to various applications. Benefitting from the advances in complexity and power that has revolutionized computing in general, ASICs are cheaper and more effective than ever before, directly benefiting pressure transducers as well.
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