Joint press release on the “USEP” project completion

Partners: Globalfoundries Dresden, Fraunhofer ENAS, IIS/EAS, IPMS and IZM-ASSID

High technology for medium-sized companies: Lower costs for more creativity

A new type of sensor platform ‘Made in Saxony’ enables even smaller companies to develop IoT systems cost-effectively

Dresden, April 14, 2021. Together with Globalfoundries Dresden, a group of Fraunhofer institutes in Saxony has developed a sensor platform that can be used to create individually configurable IoT and edge computing solutions. For the first time, small and medium-sized suppliers now have the opportunity to produce particularly powerful, energy-efficient and highly integrated systems at low cost. In contrast to independent development, the time required and development costs are significantly reduced.

How can we develop a highly integrated, multi-channel sensor solution for mechanical engineering? Or a networked sensor system for building automation? The need-based, miniaturized development of smart systems adapted to individual specifications is a complex and expensive project for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): They cannot use off-the-shelf electronic modules, but have to design innovative system solutions for selected customers themselves and usually in small quantities.

»Customers are increasingly expecting highly integrated electronic prototypes or small series for the Internet of Things (IoT) and Edge Computing. However, without the appropriate system architectures and production methods, it is difficult for medium-sized companies to achieve a return on investment in development,” says Dr. Peter Schneider, Head of the Development Adaptive Systems EAS branch of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Dresden.

Support for the innovation driver medium-sized companies

Under the leadership of the EAS branch, a consortium of Saxon Fraunhofer institutes and industry has therefore developed the “Universal Sensor Platform USeP.” It enables SMEs in particular to use a wide variety of modular and configurable platform elements and to put them together according to the modular principle with maximum flexibility. »The 3D sensor platform gives developers a largely free hand in terms of both software and hardware in order to produce future-oriented, individual products. While this used to cost six or seven-digit amounts in euros, SMEs can now save up to 90 percent in time and money,” explains Schneider. Thanks to the good and intensive cooperation between the development partners involved, the successful completion of the trend-setting project became possible within only three years. USeP has already mastered a first practical test. Within a cooperation between Globalfoundries Dresden and five other companies from the hardware and software sector, it was the core of a Edge AI pilot solution . With their help, the companies were able to develop a first product version (minimum viable product) for predictive maintenance of ultrapure water valves in chip production within just three months.

Building blocks for the development of high technology

»The sensor platform based on the GLOBALFOUNDRIES 22FDX ® developed in Dresdentechnology enables an energy-efficient and high-performance SoC (System on Chip) design that meets demanding edge computing requirements with embedded MRAM,” says Dr. Axel Preuße from Globalfoundries Dresden. The chip has numerous wireless and wired communication interfaces and uses a powerful 32-bit RISC-V processor with a total of 9 cores as the central processing and control unit. Not least because of its openness and flexibility, this open-source processor architecture is trend-setting and offers the ideal basis for secure and trustworthy electronics. The unique system architecture of the platform is also characterized by that the latest assembly and packaging technologies are combined with the latest semiconductor design methods and security components. Thanks to its flexible building blocks and the associated software environment, it enables uncomplicated integration of different sensors.

The research project supported by the Free State of Saxony and the European Union as part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has now been completed and an independent company has emerged: The start-up Sensry in Dresden not only offers its customers the option of highly integrated sensor electronics -customize modules with the help of the universal sensor platform, but can also convey the competencies of the USeP development partners to interested SMEs. They thus have a supply chain at their disposal with which they can efficiently implement their ideas and visions: Concept development, system design, processors, sensors and data transmission as well as simulation and testing of your planned system are comprehensively and sustainably supported.

In addition to the semiconductor manufacturer Globalfoundries Dresden, the Saxon Fraunhofer Institutes for Photonic Microsystems IPMS and Electronic Nano Systems ENAS as well as the institute branches All Silicon System Integration ASSID of Fraunhofer IZM and Development Adaptive Systems EAS of Fraunhofer IIS were involved in the development of the universal sensor platform USeP. The research partners were supported by colleagues from Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin, Fraunhofer IIS in Erlangen and Fraunhofer AISEC in Garching near Munich.