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Tactile Sensors
June 2006
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Proprietary tactile sensors from Pressure Profile Systems, Inc. (PPS) are now being offered as OEM products. Previously, the company’s sensors were available only in complete systems with analog-to-digital conversion hardware and display software tailored to test engineers. Like the company’s earlier products, the DigiTacts™ sensors are based on capacitance rather than resistance. The sensors differ from earlier versions by providing direct digital outputs (3.3 V or 5 V) rather than raw analog voltage levels. Small and flat (less than 1/2-mm thick), the devices provide pressure readings from 0 kPa to 140 kPa
(0 psi to 20 psi) in 0.7 kPa (0.1 psi) increments. The tactile sensors use capacitive-based pressure sensors to quantify applied forces. The single-point tactile sensors are said to make it ideal for embedded applications. Pressure pads are available in three sizes and with and without connectors. Applications include robotics, such as robotic hands, and human-machine interaction devices, where the reading of the pressure of the contact—not just that the contact was made—can add another dimension of information or control.
The company also offers an evaluation kit, which is said to be an easy-to-use kit for evaluating DigiTacts’ performance and a means for design engineers to accelerate the learning curve regarding capacitive sensors with digital output. The kit includes a sensor, an interface board with a USB connection plus an LCD readout, and PC software, in addition to technical support. The kit can be powered by an onboard battery or power taken from the USB. A switch determines the operating mode. The kit can be used in two primary ways: As a demonstration unit, the kit can leverage the LCD simple character display with optional battery power as a mobile demonstration unit. The kit can also be used for data collection, visualization and storage. The included Windows application can read output from DigiTacts’ sensor and display the information in ASCII format, along with enabling simple dialoging. Additionally, users can initiate calibration of the sensor and modify scale/tare parameters. The sensors have I2C serial interfaces, and are available with either solder pads or a standard connector for 1-mm ribbon cable. Engineers may choose sensors formatted as 10 mm by 10 mm or 25 mm by 25 mm squares or as a 10-mm diameter circular pad.
The company says the sensors have numerous medical, industrial and commercial applications, and making the sensors available as OEM components will allow designers to potentially build systems not yet envisioned. www.pressureprofile.com


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