Two grams! That's how much the MEMS-based gyro that Sagem (Safran) developed weighs – which is considerably less than a laser gyro's 500 grams. This 2015 Safran Innovation Award-winning application shows the exciting potential that these micro-sensors can bring to the aviation and defense sectors.
These electromagnetic systems can measure and analyze a wide variety of parameters (acceleration, pressure, magnetic fields, a gas' content or flow, etc.), and have with a variety of advantages: they take up less space, need less energy and cost less than traditional sensors. MEMS are made from silicon, and record infinitesimal movements accurately and repetitively. "It's a really groundbreaking technology," , explains Jean-Vincent Legrand, the head of R&T at Sagem's Avionics division. "Their extreme miniaturization means that MEMS can blend into many systems we manufacture around the Group, for instance including drones, engines, brakes, landing gear and nacelles, and they supply valuable information about the wear of those systems. They could ride the booming expansion we're seeing in the market for monitoring civil and military aeronautics today! »
A business line is born
In January 2013, Sagem cemented its leadership in this area by acquiring Swiss company Colibrys, which specializes in MEMS mass production. "Now, we have secured reliable production capabilities for the long term," , says Joël Berkoukchi, the head of Sagem's Avionics division. He adds, "But this acquisition will really create value by enabling synergies between our two companies: between Colibrys' expertise in industrial processes and Sagem's know-how in physical measurements. Our success will hinge, in part, on the quality of this holistic approach and on developing and establishing an international skills center." »
Harnessing innovation for the Group
Besides marketing them to other customers, Safran also wishes tohasten the use of these silicon-based micro-sensors throughout the Group's companies. "MEMS will give us a valuable edge on future bids in the fiercely competitive international commercial aeronautics market, for applications to enhance navigation as well as flight controls," , Joël Berkoukchi expects.
One project already underway is aimed at fine-tuning pressure sensors for Snecma engines. Another involves pressure sensors for Messier-Bugatti-Dowty's wheels and brakes. Other Group subsidiaries are also interested, including nacelle manufacturer Aircelle. These prospects reflect growing interest in MEMS throughout the aeronautics industry.
* Micro Electro Mechanical Systems