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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Industrial Innovation in Silicon Valley

Vimali Swamy
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Vimali Swamy
The news media nowadays is filled with stories of the demise of the manufacturing industry and the industrial sector in the U.S. So, when I recently heard of a startup company called Loadstar Sensors building sensors for industrial, medical device, and automotive and aerospace applications, I expected them to be located in China or India. But I was surprised to find that they are located right here in the heart of Silicon Valley in Mountain View, CA!

In addition, you hear about venture investments into Web 2.0 startups and other sexy software, nanotech, clean tech or IT startups with unusual names. But it was outlandish to hear about $7 million investment into a company named Loadstar Sensors that builds sensors. Very unusual! So I was curious to find out what they are up to!

Loadstar Sensors has developed expertise in building smart sensors that combine sensing, processing, and communications into a single, compact, and easy to use package based on its patented capacitive sensing technique. Historically, most sensors tend to be analog sensors with low level outputs in the millivolt or milliamp range. What this means is that one needs to be a deep electronics guru to be able to utilize these low level signals and utilize the sensors in various applications. By providing high level digital USB signal – any one can plug in a sensor in to a PC – like a digital camera – and start measuring!

Need for delicate high precision sensors
As a first application of its technology, Loadstar is building sensors for force, load, and weight sensing. For example, imagine a robot trying to pick up an egg with its grippers. If it picks it up too hard it will crush it; if it doesn’t pick it up hard enough it will drop it! It needs a force sensor to help it pick up an object with the right amount of force.

Another application is an intelligent inventory control system that monitors the weight of items in a bin and the rate of consumption in a manufacturing line and automatically reorders the item through the ERP system when levels fall below certain limits.

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