Pressure People Ponder and Predict, Part Two

Sensors Insights by Mat Dirjish

Recapping part one, the major players in the pressure-sensor market laid out what they believe are the most challenging applications for their wares:

  • Consumer
  • Automated manufacturing
  • Process engineering
  • Energy-efficiency controls
  • Sensor materials
  • Ultra-high and ultra-low pressure
  • Sensor accuracy
  • Aircraft data, military, and aerospace
  • Medical devices
  • Automotive
  • Intrinsically safe
  • True-wireless sensing
  • Embedded sensors
  • Media

In this issue, the makers point out which applications are currently the most active as well as predicting their longevity.

What's Hot Right Now?

In the consumer markets, analysts consistently tend to focus on mobile products, i.e., smartphones, tablets, etc., and automobiles as the biggest drivers of financial growth. Sensors of all types, but particularly pressure components, are applicable to every market from the testing stages to deployment in the end products. At this point in time, what do the players see as the three biggest markets for pressure sensors?

Acuity's Jim Knutti believes " today's growth markets are likely not the ones we will see emerging five to 10 years from now; history will likely repeat itself. In the consumer space, I would expect to see new applications of pressure sensors in special purpose system level products sensor content enabling, but not the dominant cost. Some likely consumer areas are in personal assistants, energy efficient appliances and health monitoring." Leaning a bit with the analysts, however, American Sensor Technologies' Marketing Manager Greg Montrose sees the "automotive, industrial, and oil/gas sectors controlling a large market for pressure sensors."

Eric Anderson at Honeywell also sides with the analysts. He points to handheld devices, industrial pressure transducers, and down-hole oil and gas applications. But picking up the other end, his colleague at Honeywell, Sr. Global Product Marketing Manager Ketan Mehta points to the medical and HVAC sectors.

According to President & CEO of Integrated Sensing Systems Nader Najafi, the three biggest markets for pressure sensors at this point time are "health care measurements on mobile phones, implantable wireless sensors, and disposable pressure sensors for processing applications." Overall, the focus here is predominantly medical; an area many may consider fertile territory based on national and international health statistics.

GE Senior Product Manager Dale Gee wastes no time stating, "In terms of volume, mobile, MAP, and oil pressure applications." That's more votes for the automotive and consumer arenas. Phase IV Engineering's Chief Operating Officer Scott Dalgleish also points to oil and gas, singling out fracking as the prime app and, going hand-in-hand with that, the automobile market. Scott also adds, "Upgrading existing industrial equipment for condition-based maintenance monitoring."

The folks at Sensor Platforms Inc. cite medical, automotive, and industrial as currently being the biggest markets for pressure sensors.

Kyle Horsman, Product Specialist at TURCK, Inc. gets the final word here. "As the global demand is at an all-time high, oil and gas applications stand at the forefront in my eyes. Mobile equipment industries are constantly finding new ways to incorporate pressure measurement into their designs and factory automation continues to use an incredible amount of pressure sensors."


The pressure-sensor makers are pretty clear as to what are the current hot markets for pressure sensors. According to the respondents, these are the top three:

  • Oil and gas
  • Automobile
  • Medical

This does not negate the power of consumer and portable-products applications, which are consistent in their ups, and the occasional downs. We can be sure that as the designers get more creative, pressure sensors will find themselves in some very unique positions. And that's stated very conservatively.

The Long And Winding Load

Okay, it stands to reason that if you ask what's hot, the next logical question to ask is for how long? In other words, how much longer can we expect these markets to provide pressure-sensor makers viable opportunities for innovation?

"I expect new segments to keep emerging indefinitely that will require the sensors suppliers to extend capabilities in performance, cost, compatibility and special functions", says Jim Knutti. "Pressure sensing is not a single device product; the opportunities are to expand in areas that benefit from special capabilities."

Greg Montrose is also optimistic, stating "There is always opportunity for innovation with pressure sensors and these markets will not slow down with opportunities. If you break down the components of a pressure-sensor-process connection, pressure range, output signal, electrical connection, approval, material, and accuracy, a number of variables and combinations will still be in demand by someone. New fuels, processes, and efficiency requirements all play crucial roles for pressure sensor innovation."

Honeywell's Eric Anderson agrees, he says "Indefinitely, there is always room for improvement, whether that is in size, cost, performance, reliability, etc., it is a billion dollar market and growing, someone is going to invest to capture it." While colleague Ketan Mehta affirms, "For a long time; there will be a need for technology development to support new legislative, regulatory, engineering requirements, safety, etc. There will be a need to ensure the right price point is achieved, as well."

Asked the question, how much longer will these markets provide opportunities for profitable innovation, Nader Najafi and Sensor Platforms agree on "at least 10 years", while Scott Dalgleish states definitely "20 years."

Dale Gee draws a somewhat different landscape on the canvas. He indicates that "MAP and oil pressure are pretty mature, so not there's much left to innovate on." Interestingly, he claims "Mobile is new and will drive costs and size requirements down to the point where MEMS may no longer be a viable technology in two to three years."

In terms of MEMS, it will be interesting to see, as per Dale's observation, if MEMS technology can go the distance cost wise. Technology wise, I believe it has enough offer to offset some of the costs, which should go down over time. It may just take a while, we just don't know how long.

On this topic, TURCK's Kyle Horsman again sums things up nicely. "There will always be a need for pressure measurement in a wide variety of industries. With the development of new products and processes, there also needs to be innovation with the tools used within those systems. Pending anything catastrophic, I expect to continue seeing new developments being made for pressure sensing."

The Best Is Yet To Come

There are a few things to ponder here. In the final part of the survey coming up next time, we ask the players to look into the future and pinpoint the greatest opportunities for growth in the pressure-sensor game. Predictions are always fun, because they can be unnerving at times. We shall see. ~MD

Mat Dirjish is Executive Editor of Sensors magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].

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