Be it distance measurement, driver assistance system, or robot vacuum cleaner: Modern technology virtually cannot be imagined without optical detectors. Also referred to as optical proximity switches, the small components basically include a light transmitter (such as an LED or a laser diode) and an optical receiver (usually a photodiode or a light-sensitive resistor). The receiver evaluates the corresponding information depending on the strength of the intensity, color, or travel time emitted from the transmitter to the receiver.
In distance measurement, for instance, this works using travel time measurement: The light source sends a short impulse. Afterward, the time it takes the light beam to travel from the light source to the receiver and back via reflection is measured. Measurements using phasing and triangulation with lasers or LEDs are possible alternative types of measurement. Other systems such as capacitive sensor systems (response to the vibration frequency) or inductive sensor systems (response to metallic items) have an important technical limitation: They only respond to objects made of specific types of material.
Many devices, however, call for a lot of flexibility and variability. This usually requires customer-specific solutions. The focus in these cases is typically on size and design, a long range, measurement speed, legal requirements, or also the tolerance of the detector towards environmental influences such as changes in ambient temperature. First Sensor develops and manufactures precise solutions from a single source and with long-term supply continuity. Our product portfolio includes detectors, modules and customer-specific solutions in every design. First Sensor products are an integral part of the customers’ applications.
First Sensor’s closed process chain includes everything from design to manufacture and integrates all the essential key components: From component development and production in cleanrooms of the semiconductor plant to packaging of integrated circuits and optoelectronic hybrid integration to complete system development. As complete solutions, our products guarantee maximum reliability and durability for the development at the customer’s.
Since 2008, we have been developers and manufacturers of sensor and measurement technology with our own state-of-the-art sensor plant with 1,200 m² ISO 5 class cleanroom area, our own prototype assembly, as well as packaging capabilities. Complete testing capabilities and failure analysis tools are part of the plant as well.
All the products First Sensor manufactures in its vertically integrated silicon semiconductor process are “made in Germany”. From single chips to arrays and components, small, compact design, high sensitivity, fast rise time, good signal-to-noise behavior, and low dark current are emphasized.
It does not matter whether the component must be very small, extremely accurate, or both – First Sensor has the right solution. Our products are also suitable for use in harsh environments, dynamic ranges, and spontaneous changes in the optoelectrical parameters. They are used in all areas where optical detectors are key to efficiency and innovative procedures.
Optical sensors are divided into different types of technologies. Each has its advantages and disadvantages – know-how and application experience are key for selecting the perfect detector. We will find the right solution for all applications.
Strengths: PIN photodiodes offer a good dynamic range even in harsh ambient conditions. They are cost-effective and temperature-independent.
Weaknesses: The diodes only have a low bandwidth, offer poor signal-to-noise behavior, and slow signal detection. Internal gain of the signal is not possible.
Strengths: Thanks to the internal signal gain, silicon photomultipliers (SiPM) and single-photon avalanche diodes (SPAD) are able to detect even ultra-low amounts of light.
Weaknesses: SiPM and SPAD have lower sensitivity as compared to avalanche photodiodes (APDs). They have a poor signal-to-noise behavior, are temperature-sensitive, saturation occurs rapidly.
Strengths: Sensors with semiconductors made of indium gallium arsenide offer a high range and an excellent dynamic range even in harsh ambient conditions.
Weaknesses: InGaAs are temperature sensitive thus requiring external cooling. The expensive raw material makes them an expensive solution that is not designed for mass production.
Strengths: Avalanche photodiodes (APDs) feature internal signal gain, resulting in at least 80 % of the light being absorbed and thus detected. They offer fast optical signal detection and processing, good signal-to-noise behavior, low saturation, and are inexpensive.
Weaknesses: APDs are temperature-sensitive. Their distance detection is lower than that of alternative methods.
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