MinebeaMitsumi MEMS Room

MEMS Applications in the Home Appliance Industry

Today’s home appliances are becoming ever smarter, even capable of remote operation from outside the home. From robot vacuum cleaners to microwave ovens that can download recipes, MEMS devices are being used in everything from the development of new products to the creation of added value for existing products.

Types and Roles of MEMS Sensors in Various Home Appliances

There are many types of home appliances, and MEMS is used in a wide range of products, from white goods to TVs and audio equipment, and from cutting-edge robot vacuum cleaners to game consoles.

Many types of MEMS sensors are also being utilized, including pressure sensors, IR sensors, gyro sensors, and more.

MEMS Sensors Making Housework More Convenient

Many electronics equipped with MEMS sensors include everyday household appliances. For example, pressure sensors are installed in washing machines and coffee makers to read water level fluctuations and operate the machines. Flow sensors are utilized to detect clogging in range hoods and other appliances, and are used to clean filters.

Robot vacuum cleaners are also equipped with numerous MEMS sensors. Early robot vacuum cleaners often ran into obstacles, but the latest products can accurately detect bumps and obstacles and clean every nook and cranny. IR sensors are being used for this obstacle detection.

MEMS Sensors for Creating Comfortable Living Spaces

Multiple MEMS sensors are used in a wide range of home appliances that make our lives more comfortable. For example, air conditioners are equipped with IR sensors that detect human movement and temperature distribution, and with sensors that detect temperature and humidity. The information obtained from these sensors is used to contribute to creating a comfortable living space.

Odor sensors used in air purifiers, for example, detect various odors in a room and notify the user of the status by lighting a lamp or other means. MEMS technology is also used in these odor sensors.

MEMS Devices Enriching Our Lives

Many MEMS devices are also used in home video game consoles. Some game console controllers use MEMS accelerometers to read the arm movements of the person holding the controller for moving characters and objects on the screen. Also, MEMS microphones and MEMS speakers are used in devices that allow voice chatting with hand held devices and wearables.

Several MEMS devices are also used in VR goggles, which are gradually becoming more popular. For example, gyro sensors detect the orientation of the person wearing the goggles and move the viewable area, and MEMS speakers are used in headphone-integrated devices. Gaming devices are packed with cutting-edge technology.

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MinebeaMitsumi’s MEMS Devices Utilized in the Home Appliance Industry

MinebeaMitsumi offers a wide variety of MEMS devices that can be utilized in home appliances, including IR sensors that measure temperature, pressure sensors that detect abnormalities, and flow and breeze sensors that measure air volume and air velocity. Taking advantage of the characteristics of MEMS, which are compact and easy to mass-produce, MinebeaMitsumi is contributing to greater advances in various home appliances.

IR Sensors for Keeping an Eye on Temperature

Image of a sensor that keeps an eye on the inside of a microwave oven

Temperature sensors such as IR sensors are used in microwave ovens. The IR sensor uses infrared rays to measure the temperature inside the chamber and the surface temperature of the food, and makes adjustments to minimize uneven heating of the food. To prevent uneven heating, it is important to combine multiple IR sensors, and the characteristics of MEMS IR sensors are used to contribute to less uneven heating.

Image of using an IR sensor to check ice production by an ice maker

MinebeaMitsumi’s IR sensors have an industry-leading* low noise performance, enabling them to closely monitor the temperature inside the cabinet and enable high-accuracy warming.
They are also used in refrigerators to maintain a constant temperature inside the cabinet, to flash freeze foodstuffs, and to monitor ice production in automatic ice makers. MinebeaMitsumi’s IR sensors are expected to be widely used in these applications.

According to MinebeaMitsumi research, as of January 2023.

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Pressure Sensors for Watching for Abnormalities

MEMS pressure sensors are used in home appliances to measure the amount of water and gas.
For instance, they are used in washing machines and bathtubs to detect changes in the pressure of gases in the pipes as the water level increases or decreases, thereby helping to determine the amount of water and detect default and abnormal values.

MinebeaMitsumi’s MEMS pressure sensors can measure in the range from −50 kPa to 50 kPa. Since they can measure more accurately than conventional pressure sensors, they are suitable for applications where high accuracy is required.

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Flow Sensors and Breeze Sensors for Detecting Air Velocity and Saving Energy

Flow sensors are used in air conditioners to adjust air volume by opening and closing dampers according to the measured air volume.

MinebeaMitsumi’s flow sensors convert changes in the heat distribution of the heater on the MEMS chip into gas flow rate or flow speed and output the data. Our product lineup includes a flow sensor type that measures air volume by differential pressure, a type that measures air volume by connecting directly to a tube, and a type that measures air velocity by installing inside piping, allowing you to choose the appropriate type for your application. By using different types of sensors for different purposes, we can provide a comfortable living environment and contribute to energy conservation through efficient energy use.

Use of a Flow Sensor (Tube Connection)
  • A: Branch flow
  • B: Main flow path
  • C: MEMS chip (cross-sectional view)
  • D: Differential pressure
  • E: Orifice
  • : Air flow direction

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