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Vibration Isolation of MEMS Sensors for Aerospace Applications

Robert Dean, George Flowers, Scotte Hodel, Ken MacAllister, Roland Horvath, and Alex Matras Auburn University 200 Broun Hall Auburn, AL 36849 Phone: (334) 844-1838 Fax: (334) 844-1898 Email: rdean@eng.auburn.edu Rob Glover U.S Army Aviation & Missile Command Structural Analysis & Design Function AMSAM-RD-PS-SA Redstone Arsenal, AL 35898-5270 Phone: (256) 876-5929 Fax: (256) 876-1687 Email: rob.glover@redstone.army.mil

Abstract Aerospace systems, such as missiles, operate in mechanically harsh environments. This is particularly difficult for guidance and control systems that rely on low-cost MEMS inertial sensors, especially MEMS gyroscopes. This environment is often characterized by a wide spectrum of vibrations, possibly of large amplitude, shock loading and high roll rates. High frequency vibrations present in these environments can couple into the sensors and cause erroneous measurements. Shock loading and high roll rates can also generate erroneous data, and can possibly damage the sensors. A multifaceted approach is being employed to solve these problems. It includes frequency selective packaging at the die, component and subsystem level, and signal processing of the data. This paper discusses the harsh operating environment present in some missiles and the methods being developed to allow the use of low-cost MEMS inertial sensors in these vehicles. Key Words: MEMS, Gyroscope, Packaging, and Missile

Introduction While all aerospace environments could be considered as harsh, missiles typically operate in the harshest of environments, excluding spacecraft. A missile in flight typically experiences a wide bandwidth of mechanical vibrations, possibly of large amplitude; shock loading and high roll rates. In order to reduce the cost and size of missiles, it is desirable to utilize MEMS inertial sensors, especially MEMS gyroscopes. Due to the nature of these devices, they are susceptible to the harsh characteristics of missile environments, and have found limited application to date. However, by properly packaging these devices and intelligently utilizing their data, they will find application in these aerospace systems. The Missile Environment The missile flight environment is a particularly harsh operating environment. The nature of this environment generates large forces that can disrupt, and in some cases, even damage inertial sensors. Characteristics of this environment include high roll rates, up to 2000o per second,

and large amplitude steady state vibrations in each axis, up to 50Gs steady state and 800Gs transient, with high frequency, lower amplitude components exceeding 20KHz. The inertial sensors must survive these environments and continue to send valid data to the missile flight computer throughout the flight. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate a typical missile environment that experiences steady state vibration of various frequencies up to approximately 50Gs in each axis. 600 400 200 Gs 0 -200 -400 -600 0 1.0 Time (sec) X-Axis Acceleration

Figure 1: ITV Flight Vibration Time Histories for the X Axis.

1000 800 600 400 200 G 0 s -200 -400 -600 -800 -1000 0

Y-Axis Acceleration

result, the demodulation operation renders the rate output of this device sensitive to external vibrations at the frequency f = | f1 -f2 |. This frequency, typically in the range of 200-300 Hz, is low enough that it lies in the desired bandwidth of an inertial sensor, and so it can be undesirable to merely "damp -out" mechanical vibrations nearby f.

1.0 Time (sec)


Figure 1: ITV Flight Vibration Time Histories for the Y Axis. Characteristics of MEMS Gyroscopes Since MEMS devices are typically manufactured out of crystalline silicon on a wafer, they have many properties in common with other ceramic materials, including high stiffness indices, low damping (in small parts), and are brittle. An accelerometer or a gyroscopic sensor is a combination of springs, masses, motion sensing and actuation cells. In an accelerometer, tethers anchored to the substrate provide the mechanical spring constant that forces the proof mass to return to its original position when at rest or moving at a constant velocity. Accordingly, MEMS devices generally carry with them sensitivities to high frequency disturbances due to resonances in the typical frequency band of 16kHz-20kHz, although resonances as low as 10kHz may also occur. These resonances can sometimes render a mechanical system unusable. Consider, for example, the dual tuning-fork gyroscope implemented by SysTron, shown in Figure 3. The SysTron gyroscope makes use of the Coriolis force [1] in two rotating tuning forks to identify rotation rates. As such, this device has two natural resonance frequencies, one for each fork, at which it is highly sensitive to external vibration. As long as the operating environment does not contain significant energy at these specific frequencies of oscillation (in the 16kHz20kHz range), the tuning forks will operate properly. An additional sensitivity specific to this configuration occurs due to the demodulation portion of the block diagram. Due to achievable manufacturing tolerances, these tuning forks often vibrate at frequencies (say, f1 , f2 ) that are separated by a few hundred Hz. As a

Figure 3: Schematic Diagram of a Double Tuning Fork Configuration and Its Basic Components. Fundamentals of Vibration Isolation Vibration isolation techniques are used to reduce the motion transmitted from a vibratory base to a device or system. The basic components are illustrated in Figure 4. The device, represented by the rigid mass, m, is connected to the base with a linear spring/damper pair. The governing equation for this system is

&& & & mx + c ( x y ) + k ( x y ) = 0

2 && & & x + 2n (x y ) + n ( x y ) = 0


2n =

c and m

2 n =

k m .

For our purposes, transmissibility is defined as ratio of the amplitude of the device motion (x) to that of the base motion (y). We assume that y(t) is sinusoidal of frequency . Some algebraic manipulation gives

TR =

1 + ( 2) 2 (1
2) 2

+ ( 2)

, where =/n .

A plot of TR for various levels of the damping ratio, , is shown in Figure 5. Device motion x(t) m

c Base motion y(t)

implement a mechanical low-pass filter as part of the die-level packaging. This can be accomplished by micromachining a mechanical filter in silicon, of another material, and mounting the die to it, inside the IC package. Silicon mechanical filter chips can be realized in silicon by deep reactive ion etching (DRIE) spring-mass systems into silicon wafers. Extremely tall filter structures are needed in order to be strong enough to reliably hold other die. Therefore DRIE is used to etch all the way through 500m thick silicon wafers to fabricate the filters. A prototype filter structure is presented in Figure 6 and its frequency response is presented in Figure 7.


Figure 4: Basic Elements for a Vibration Isolation System.

7 z=0 z=0.1 z=0.5 z=1.0

0 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2

Figure 5: Transmissibility for Various Damping Levels. The goal of vibration isolation for MEMS gyroscopes is to limit the effects of external vibration at particular frequencies. Ideally, one would like to have a critically damped isolated system so that the overall response looks like that of a filtered behavior with a cutoff frequency of n. This natural frequency is tailored so that external disturbances at frequencies above that level are filtered out of the device response and do not effect its behavior. In order to accomplish this objective, the current research considers the application of vibration isolation at both the die level and at the component level. Some basic ideas in this regard are discussed below. Die level packaging One way to isolate MEMS inertial sensors from vibrations outside the control bandwidth is to Figure 6: A Prototype Silicon Mechanical Filter Structure. The mechanical filter chip in Figure 6 is a proof of principle prototype. The inertial sensor die placement site is located in the center of the filter on the square pad. A silicon die with surface plated nickel was used in place of a real die, with a magnetic proximity probe to measure the frequency response during testing. Although the serpentine structure is unsuitable for gyroscope packaging, due to twisting of the center die attach site during excitation, it does illustrate the concept of a vibration isolation filter chip. The device has a resonant frequency of approximately 100Hz and an underdamped response. The higher order resonant frequencies are due to a sizable percentage of the system mass being in the spring structures. No effort was made to increase damping on these devices. Currently, the filter chips are being redesigned to realize useful devices. This includes redesigning the mass-spring system to concentrate much more of the system mass outside of the springs. Additionally, the new design will not twist when

25 20 15 10 Magnitude (db) 5 0 -5 -10 -15 -20 1 10

The component or components being isolated would be located in the center of the structure, with electrical traces running on top of the eight springs. Test Membranes Article

10 Frequency (Hertz)

Figure 7: The Frequency Response of the Prototype Silicon Mechanical Filter. excited, will have a higher resonant frequency and will be smaller. Techniques to increase damping are being developed, including adding a thin membrane to the backside of the filter to better take advantage of air-damping. Metal traces on the tops of the springs will connect the gyroscope die, mounted in the center, probably as a flipchip, to the package surrounding the filter chip and the sensor die. Component Level packaging The next level of consideration is the mounting of individual packaged components in such a manner as to isolate them from external vibration. This can be done in a number of ways. One method under investigation is the use of rubbery adhesives and other soft materials to provide a soft-spring support with sufficient damping. One example is shown in Figure 8. A test article, representing a MEMS gyroscope package, is suspended between two membranes in tension. The objective is to provide uniform isolation in all three basic directions while minimizing undesired modes of vibration. A sample Bode diagram is presented in Figure 9. The system was tailored to have a cut-off frequency of about 500 Hz. Additionally, in a similar manner to die level packaging, mechanical low-pass filter structures can be realized in printed circuit board laminate. This technique can be used to isolate single packaged components or multiple components. A mechanical low-pass filter structure fabricated in laminate is presented in Figure 10 [2]. It was fabricated by precision laser cutting, and has a resonant frequency of approximately 6000Hz.

Figure 8: Membrane Supported Test Article.


Amplitude (db)




0 10


Frequency (Hz)

Figure 9: Bode Magnitude Diagram for Membrane Supported Test Article. Signal Processing Signal processing is another area being explored to improve the performance of MEMS inertial sensors in missile applications. Since the performance of MEMS sensors is dependent on a number of environmental variables, such as temperature and air pressure, these effects can be modeled and used to properly interpret the data generated by the devices. Likewise, adaptive filtering techniques can be applied to the data to improve signal to noise ratio, where a portion of the noise is due to the effects of mechanical vibrations coupling into the sensors. Also, by adding redundant sensors that experience mechanical vibrations differently, signal processing techniques can be employed that

discriminate between missile angular rates and vibration induced noise. Adaptive signal processing is also useful for identifying if a sensor has been subjected to environmental stresses that may have saturated or damaged the sensor, and then instruct the navigation processor to disregard of decrease the value of its data.

[2] Robert Dean, Alex Matras, Lori Thomas, Holly Garrison, Nicole Schutz, Ken MacAllister and Steven Tully, A Laminate Based MEMS Accelerometer, 3rd Advanced Technology Workshop on Packaging of MEMS and Related Micro Integrated Nano Systems, IMAPS, Nov. 8-10, 2001.

Figure 10: Laser Cut Laminate Mechanical Filter Test Structure. Conclusions MEMS inertial sensors hold the possibility of reducing the cost and size of missile avionics, and improving performance. But to reach this goal, new techniques must be developed for packaging these devices so that they properly function in these harsh environments. For these techniques to be viable, they must be reliable, cost effective and manufacturable. This problem is being addressed on several fronts, including die level packaging, component and subsystem packaging, and signal processing. Acknowledgements This research effort was sponsored by the U.S Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) and the Army Manufacturing Technology Programs Printed Circuit Board Manufacturing Technology Center (PMTEC). References [1] Gregory T. A. Kovacs, Micromachined Transducers Sourcebook, McGraw-Hill Publishers, New York, Chapter 3, p.243.