The incorporation of capacitive tactile sensing technology into medical, robotics, automotive, and a host of other applications is paving the way for the development of many innovative products. But there are inevitably still a few bumps in the road to producing a commercializable product that features sophisticated tactile pressure sensors.
There’s a significant difference between developing a product that works in a lab and making one that is commercially viable. Achieving the latter, for instance, typically requires a deep understanding of the final product followed by an iterative process to refine and optimize the tactile pressure sensor design.
With that in mind, companies need to manage expectations when it comes to the design cycle of a custom capacitive tactile sensor. And, accordingly, they also need to factor in the time and money associated with such an iterative process to avoid problems or suprises down the line.
The first—and perhaps most critical—step in the design cycle for a custom tactile pressure sensor is to define the problem and describe the finished product’s use environment as explicitly as possible. There are many customizable parameters with respect to tactile pressure sensor performance: pressure, size, scan rate, duration of use, temperature, and materials. So, it is imperative that the optimal material and sensor technology are selected in order to produce the desired results.
Specificity from the get-go is the key to avoiding costly and time-consuming delays later in the process. For example, simply stating that you need to measure pressure on a bike seat leaves a lot open to interpretation. A product designer might want to incorporate tactile pressure sensors to refine or make changes to the seat while a bio-mechanist might seek to understand how the dynamics of pressure affect the riding environment while in motion. A bike shop, on the other hand, may want to custom-fit a seat to a rider. All of these applications use tactile sensors to measure pressure on a bicycle seat, but have markedly different requirements to achieve the stated objectives.
To ensure that the custom pressure sensor meets the needs of the application, PPS typically produces one or two prototypes. The prototype stage serves to flesh out nuances, specific scenarios, and outlier cases. Once the prototype design has been proven, we typically move into a pilot production phase to demonstrate scalability and cost-effectiveness. Finally, we move the product into full-scale production.