The figure depicts a unit that contains a rotary-position or a rotary-speed sensor, plus electronic circuitry necessary for its operation, all enclosed in a single housing with a shaft for coupling to an external rotary machine.

Transducers and Readout Electronic Circuits are parts of a sensor assembly contained in a single housing.

This rotation-sensor unit is complete: when its shaft is mechanically connected to that of the rotary machine and it is supplied with electric power, it generates an output signal directly indicative of the rotary position or speed, without need for additional processing by other circuitry. The incorporation of all of the necessary excitatory and readout circuitry into the housing (in contradistinction to using externally located excitatory and/or readout circuitry) in a compact arrangement is the major difference between this unit and prior rotation-sensor units.

The sensor assembly inside the housing includes excitatory and readout integrated circuits mounted on a circular printed-circuit board. In a typical case in which the angle or speed transducer(s) utilize electromagnetic induction, the assembly also includes another circular printed-circuit board on which the transducer windings are mounted. A sheet of high-magnetic-permeability metal (“mu metal”) is placed between the winding board and the electronic-circuit board to prevent spurious coupling of excitatory signals from the transducer windings to the readout circuits.

The housing and most of the other mechanical hardware can be common to a variety of different sensor designs. Hence, the unit can be configured to generate any of variety of outputs by changing the interior sensor assembly. For example, the sensor assembly could contain an analog tachometer circuit that generates an output proportional (in both magnitude and sign or in magnitude only) to the speed of rotation.

This work was done by Dean C. Alhorn, David E. Howard, and Dennis A. Smith of Marshall Space Flight Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Electronics/ Computers category.

This invention has been patented by NASA (U.S. Patent No. 6,313,624). Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to

Sammy Nabors
MSFC Commercialization Assistance Lead
at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Refer to MFS-31238.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the April, 2006 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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