Sponsored story: Precision in the Extreme

Written by: Zettlex | Published:

Zettlex position sensors offer unrivalled accuracy even in tough environments and tight spaces

Zettlex is a sensors company. The company's motto is 'Precision in the Extreme' – reflecting the company's work in accurate position and velocity sensors for harsh environments.

Zettlex use a unique, patented inductive technique. Whereas traditional inductive sensors, such as resolvers or linear transformers, use bulky wire spools or coils, Zettlex sensors use laminar, printed circuits as their main components. The result is a non-contact, compact, lightweight and accurate technique that lends itself to servo controls, motor encoders, metering and displacement measurement.

Zettlex sensors are used for linear, curvi-linear, circular, annular, 2D and even 3D geometries – measuring up to 6 axes of displacement from one sensor. Because the technique uses printing rather than precision coil winding, the sensors can be readily designed to suit customer applications where mainstream sensors are too big, heavy, fragile or inaccurate.

A key feature of Zettlex's technology is its stability. Even with some of Zettlex's rotary encoders offering up to16 million counts per rev, the technique has absolutely zero hysteresis. This means a Zettlex sensor will read consistently, irrespective of humidity, temperature, vibration, life-time, dirt or liquids.

Zettlex are not exaggerating when they talk about extreme environments. Its sensors have successfully operated in temperatures of 230 Celisus, -55 Celsius, aggressive acids, explosive gases, long term salt water immersion, 1000g shocks and pressures from vacuum to 1000bar.

Whereas magnetic or optical sensors might require Swiss watch precision alignment or installation to achieve their stated performance, Zettlex sensors can be installed by 'any idiot with a screwdriver'. The technique is inherently insensitive to displacements in axes other than the measurement axis. This means that equipment manufacturers need not worry about, or suffer cost penalties from, tightly toleranced housings, mechanical supports or precision bearings. Similarly, Zettlex sensors are unaffected by dirt or moisture so there is no need for seals and gaskets.

Areas of particular relevance are safety critical sensors, intrinsically safe sensors and larger diameter (but flat) motor encoders. Safety critical systems usually require some form of electrical redundancy and this is readily achieved using Zettlex's printed circuit approach. Sensors can be formed on the same laminar components but simply located on different print layers. Similarly, because Zettlex sensors are readily potted or encapsulated, the achievement of a 'no-spark' design is straightforward and inexpensive. The technology's flat, laminar form has been an important factor in the company's success in through shaft motor encoders where axial space is tightly constrained.

After developing lots of bespoke, large bore angle encoders for OEMs, Zettlex launched its IncOder range earlier in 2010. IncOders offer a lower cost but robust alternative to ring style optical encoders and pancake resolvers. IncOder has been a big hit with manufacturers of gimbals, test machinery, machine tools, camera mounts, medical equipment and gunnery systems. A recent design win for a weapons system was a 'slam dunk' against a competing pancake resolver - IncOder offered better accuracy, 90% weight saving, 70% space saving and a 60% cost saving.

Zettlex is particularly proud that its products are on active service helping UK and US forces with their reconnaissance and surveillance actions in harsh conditions on land, sea and air.

Zettlex is an independent, private company based in Cambridge with a European Office in Slovakia. The company is certified to ISO9001 and BS EN 13980 for the manufacture of ATEX rated products. A small range of standard sensors is available from their web-site but 90% of production is either tailored or bespoke designs to OEM specifications. Despite the economic climate, the company is growing quickly based on a long list of design wins in defence, aerospace, industrial, oil & gas sectors.

Zettlex timeline
• 2004 - Zettlex founded
• 2005 - Zettlex on Eureka front cover
• 2007 - Sales exceed £1M
• 2008 - Company expansion & relocation
• 2009 - First aerospace products in service
• 2010 - Zettlex launch IncOder range


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