New 6-axis electronic compass for portable appliances
– Integrating an accelerometer from Analog Devices, Inc.
and reducing size by over 25% from previous 6-axis product –

January 19, 2012
Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corp.

Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM), the Asahi Kasei Group’s core operating company for electronic components, has developed its latest 6-axis electronic compass for portable appliances, the AK8978. Sample shipments are under way, with mass production scheduled to begin in February 2012.

Having launched the AK8970 in 2003 as the world’s first 3-axis electronic compass for portable appliances, AKM began mass production of its first 6-axis electronic compass, the AK8976, in 2008. AKM’s electronic compasses have been widely adopted ever since, particularly in mobile phones, smartphones, and tablet devices, gaining a strong reputation and dominant market share worldwide.

In addition to 3-axis and 6-axis electronic compasses, AKM offers a broad lineup of advanced sensor products based on its unique magnetic sensor technology, together with software to enable the effective utilization of their sensor signals. By advancing such developments, AKM will continue to make a vital contribution to greater functionality in rapidly evolving smartphones and other electronic devices which are enjoying brisk demand.

Features of the AK8978

The function of compasses embedded in smartphones and other portable devices is generally enabled by two components—a 3-axis electronic compass and a 3-axis accelerometer that compensates for inclination angle—which allow precise azimuth information to be obtained. With these two components integrated in one package, the 6-axis AK8978 is an optimal combo sensor for the compass function.

1) Adoption of the 3-axis accelerometer of Analog Devices, Inc.

Analog Devices has a proven track record as a pioneer of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), and their 3-axis accelerometer (equivalent to ADXL346) which uses the latest electrostatic MEMS technology is integrated into the AK8978. With its well-known stable and reliable performance, the accelerometer not only precisely compensates for the inclination of the electronic compass, but can also be used as a high-function and high-performance 3-axis accelerometer.

The AK8978 also integrates a 3-axis electronic compass equivalent to our best-selling AK8975, which uses AKM’s unique Si monolithic Hall sensor technology and has outstanding features which are essential to the electronic compass—a wide magnetic measurement range and excellent cross-axis sensitivity between axes.

2) Provision of one-stop solutions

Compared to the case when a 3-axis electronic compass and a 3-axis accelerometer are procured separately, the AK8978 not only reduces the number of required components by half, but also enables one-stop technical support, further enhancing the efficiency of the process for customers to incorporate electronic compasses in their products.

3) Miniaturization

The size of the AK8978 is reduced by 25% compared to AKM’s previous 6-axis electronic compass product, and the height of the packaging is now only 1.0 mm—both of which enable a thinner and smaller product size for smartphones and other portable electronic devices.

4) Software compatibility and technical support for product incorporation

Software which includes AKM’s patented algorithm for the automatic calibration for magnetic offset is compatible with the AK8978. With extensive experience in technical support for incorporation into final products, AKM provides customers with smart solutions for their electronic compass needs.

Main applications

The AK8978 is optimal not only for smartphone applications, but also for other applications for which the compass function is increasingly adopted. These include GPS-enabled digital cameras which record the camera direction in addition to the longitude and latitude when taking a photo, and game controllers which allow users to play by gesturing and pointing.

Basic specifications of the AK8978

Packaging: 26-pin LGA package, 3.0 mm × 5.0 mm × 1.0 mm
Measurement range: ±1200 µT (for magnetism)
±2 g, ±4 g, ±8 g, ±16 g (for acceleration)
Measurement resolution: 0.3 µT (for magnetism)
4 mg (for acceleration)
Interface: I2C & SPI

About Analog Devices, Inc.

President and CEO: Jerald G. Fishman
Headquarters: Massachusetts, USA
Business line: Design and manufacture of high-performance integrated circuits used in analog and digital signal processing

Acknowledged industry-wide as the world leader in data conversion and signal conditioning technology, Analog Devices serves over 60,000 customers, representing virtually all types of electronic equipment.


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