First an admission, we stole the title from a late 1980’s advertising campaign by General Motors Europe. At that time, its arch rival Ford was leading the market for new car sales in the region despite a tired and outdated product range sold largely on brand familiarity and customer loyalty. Conversely GM was innovating in Europe, launching new clean-sheet designs with modern styling, state-of-the-art technology, and setting new standards in safety, performance and features. The “Better. By Design.” tag-line captured in three simple words the new-found confidence in their products, successfully changed perceptions and understanding in the market place, and increased sales.
So how does that relate to a range of printed force sensors on sale over thirty years later?
Around a year ago Tangio launched its TPE-500 series FSR range. It’s true to say we joined the party a little later than some of our competitors so knew it wasn’t good enough to offer a me-too product. Mark Graham, Tangio’s Head of New Products picks up the story, “I’ve been in resistive force sensing for almost a decade and knew very well its limitations. We'd seen few tangible improvements in the core FSR technology in recent years, which precluded its use in several growth markets and applications. Our plan from the outset was to produce a demonstrably better product.
Neil Jarvie, Tangio’s VP of Business Development continues, “the market had become fragmented into existing players seemingly unwilling to invest in improvements to the technology, and start-ups with no manufacturing experience promoting lab-scale materials that only increase risk and cost. Disturbingly, we also discovered many manufacturers products didn't perform anything like their data-sheets. In some cases alarmingly so!”
The development team at Tangio set about dragging the FSR into the 21st century with a clean-sheet approach tackling the key areas; a better FSR ink, state-of-the-art process control, and subtle but intelligent changes to the mechanical structure and materials.
Robin Jeffries, Tangio’s CEO adds, “as we enjoy many collaborative and strategic relationships with key materials and process vendors in the printed electronics space, we called upon them during the development of the TPE-500 series. A notable example is our collaboration with Henkel for the FSR ink, one of the most critical components in the sensor.”
Mark remembers, “when the test data came in from the first prototype builds it was clear we had realised our goals. We were seeing best-in-class performance in multiple critical parameters like humidity & temperature stability, part-to-part repeatability and drift. I also knew we could publish data sheets that our customers could trust!”
Of course, all this comes at a price, right? Actually no, due to exceptionally high manufacturing yield the TPE-500 series is priced to beat competing legacy products. We’d like to think of that as a win/win.
So back to the title of this piece. From time-to-time a company will launch a product that redefines standards in an existing market space. Like our automotive reference at the beginning and Tangio’s TPE-500 series force sensors these products are inherently “Better. By Design”.