FUTEK designs a system that can go into space
Intellectual Sensor Solutions
FUTEK Advanced Sensor Technology, Inc. strongly believes Education is the key to success. This is why FUTEK offers an Educational Program giving students and educators Sensor Solution options needed to enhance learning applications. The FUTEK Team provides a wide range of starter guides, how-to articles, application diagrams, tools and virtually anything you need regarding Sensor Technology.
Sensocon e.K.
Reseller / Authorized Rep of Austria / Germany / Switzerland

Load Cell

Torque Sensor

Pressure Sensor

Multi Axis



The Challenge
The project, designing a specialized sensor for NASA, originated at Harvard University where student Shelly L. Anna began its research. It later needed the help of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Dr. Gareth H. McKinley where they faced many difficulties reaching the NASA project requirements. Following an extensive search in the sensor market, Shelly L. Anna of Harvard & Kirk Logsdon of NASA chose FUTEK Advanced Sensor Technology, Inc. (FUTEK) to design and create a sensor device which would be used for measuring the difference of a liquid’s reaction forces on earth vs. its reaction in space, better known as “liquid separation”. The project, later named Sheer History Extension Rheology Experiment (SPHERE), involved numerous back and forth meetings in order to fulfill the needs of NASA and build a sensor which would be successful in achieving their goals. This project required a customized sensor with the ability to measure extreme low force value, specifically defined as a load cell (A transducer which converts force into a measurable electrical output).

This particular Load Cell had to be carefully designed to endure the initial aerospace launch impact as well as the conditions in space which would have influenced the sensor’s performance. In order to achieve optimal results the sensor needed to be an extremely low capacity Load Cell (10 K Dyne) max, which is roughly 11 grams. Within this process, the project evolved and required several stages and models before reaching a final solution.

The Solution
In the first stage, which began in the mid 1990’s, Shelly L. Anna contacted FUTEK with the need of a specially designed sensor. This sensor was part of a project which would be used by NASA in a microgravity research study to be conducted on the International Space Station (ISS). FUTEK’s Engineering and Production Team worked together in order to come up with a custom Load Cell able to meet NASA’s low capacity requirements. The first model constructed was the L2338-Q14339 Load Cell. Several years and stages later, after the sensors survived several rocket lunches and fulfilled the original test requirement the project came back to FUTEK with new requirements. NASA engineers discovered that the sensor required additional specifications, such as remote zero balance and fast dampening rate. These were the main obstacles FUTEK Engineers faced which required them to start the project with a fresh approach. The first task was to design a sensor capable of measuring the viscosity properties of complex polymer fluids. The sensor particularly needed to measure milligram forces a fraction of a gram under extreme condition.

FUTEK first decided to start from scratch and went back to using semiconductor strain gauges with much higher gage factor instead of original foil strain gages. They discovered that this option created higher noise levels and sensitivity to temperature changes giving them erroneous results. Determining this, they then realized they needed a Load Cell which was impervious to noise and temperature variations. After the failure of semi conductor gauges, FUTEK engineers went back to using thin film strain gauge technology. Design improvements were also made to the structure by thinning the Load Cells structure and an Overload Stop was implemented to help protect the Load Cell in case the force applied was beyond the units’ capacity tolerance. With these improvements, the transducer was able to survive the launch into space of 3-4gs. To solve the liquid separation-dampening requirement, a polymer was placed on the flexure. Although the process sounds simple, the team had to go through several trial-and-error processes to reach this solution. A customized-space qualified amplifier that took the low millivolt output and amplified to a 2 VDC full scale while maintaining a low signal to noise ratio and optimal accuracy was a major undertaking. The very low level signal was also needed to be created in order to reach settings at the required output. Various space requirements such as space rated and qualification of correct materials, wire management and routing also had an affect on the sensor’s design and performance.

FUTEK’s Miniature Load Cells and Sub Miniature Load Cell series provide diverse solutions for Aerospace, Medical, Automotive, and Manufacturing industries. These products offer solutions for applications in both Tension and Compression. Even with the miniature design an impressive capacity range of of 10 gram up to 20,000 lbs is available.
FUTEK Advanced Sensor Technology, Inc. (FUTEK) introduces an Internally Amplified Rotary Torque Sensor. The TRS605 Rotary Torque Sensor with non contact shaft to shaft has signal transmission, integral measurement electronics and a high level of interference immunity. The sensor is a non-contact (slip-ring-free) rotary torque sensor and is made from a compact design and size with rotational speeds of up to 7,000 RPM. This particular torque sensor uses inductance for power and output signals. An advantage to this slip-ring-free Torque sensor is less friction during applications enabling a higher RPM.

Working in the Sensor manufacturing business allows us to participate in the most unique applications. This particular application uses FUTEK’s LCM200 In Line Load Cell to monitor tension on a windsurf. The sensor is attached to a belt which is worn around the user’s waist and connected by a cable to the sail. With the force of the wind and tension between the cable and the load cell, the user is able to measure the force of wind on the sail.

In Line load cells may be used for a number of applications but are commonly designed for general research applications and is an ideal sensor for research and testing applications.

Email to a Friend Subscribe to Newsletter Unsubscribe to Newsletter

Update your Account information, click here.
All information provided by customer are confidential and FUTEK will not release any customer information to third parties.
FUTEK respects your right to privacy.
10 Thomas Irvine, CA 92618; Phone: (949) 465-0900; Fax: (949) 465-0905; www.futek.com
©1998-2009 FUTEK Advanced Sensor Technology, Inc. All rights reserved.