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What Is a MEMS Gyroscope?

MEMS gyroscopes are often used in remote control toys.
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  • Written By: Mal Baxter
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2014
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A micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS gyroscope, is an inertial sensing integrated circuit that measures the angle and rate of rotation in an object or system. Programmable for targeted applications, this technology relies on three dimensional axes of sensing, which are X (pitch), Y (roll), and Z (yaw). The devices can accurately track complex motions without being influenced by factors such as gravitation or magnetic fields. Once occupying transports and vehicles, this technology now turns up in a host of consumer technologies.

Micro-electromechanical systems are technologies that rely on micro-fabricated integrated circuits. These devices use active perception and control functions to serve two purposes: as microsensors and actuators. A MEMS gyroscope is sensitive enough to detect even slight degrees of rotation, eliminating the linear movement factors measured by accelerometers. This serves to orient technology to an absolute position in physical space.

Inertial sensing refers to measurements of many types of movement, including acceleration, shock, and tilt. Numerous devices are developed to approach these issues in their own special ways and are often bundled together to provide sensing and processing with sensitive effectiveness. They populate high-gravity and low-gravity applications across industries.

Several types of MEMS gyroscope exist. These include the tuning fork, vibrating ring, piezoelectric plate, and wine glass gyroscopes. The tuning fork model relies upon a resonant displacement from a plane of oscillations, which sends a signal corresponding to orientation. Vibrating ring types use rotation of a wheel to send signals to a transducer.

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The piezoelectric model measures reactions between vibration and the Coriolis force; this is the relationship of inertia with Earth's rotation. A wine glass resonator measures resonance of points on a hemisphere to detect rotation. The functionality of MEMS gyroscope components serves numerous technologies and industries.

Often bundled with integrated circuits and accelerometers, these devices provide digital and analog outputs. Applications can range from large-scale military projects to desktop appliances. These gyros are found in guided munitions, and orienting ships and satellites. In consumer products, they are used for remote controls, toys, personal navigation, and image stabilization in digital cameras. They also have use in medical environments.

Along with the MEMS gyroscope, MEMS devices can include accelerometers, actuators, and compasses. Other gyroscope types consist of the spinning variety, often mounted on gimbals, and optical types that read the interactions of laser wavelengths. Found balancing anything from personal transportation devices to model helicopters to video games, these devices all operate on the similar underlying fundamental principle that vibrating objects tend to retain their plane of vibration despite the movement of a support.

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