Electronic control systems are rapidly spreading into a moltitude of different application areas.
Either antipollution, safety laws and customer requests are the driving forces of their tremendous growth in the automotive market.
The need of more reliability and lower cost per funtion is pushing the designers towards a massive integration on silicon, a proper choice of packaging techniques and a complete redesign of system architecture whose structure will require sensors with a certain amount of electronics “on board” either to elaborate the information they detect and to exchange it with several systems connected inside the network. Therefore the sensors will be more and more complex and they reliability more and more important, also considering that their locations are the worst of the whole electronic system.
Lots of efforts are under way to design and produce “smart sensors” taking advantage of silicon, thin films and thick film integration. Even if silicon single chipsensors promise to be the most elegant and logical solution on the other side very interesting devices have been obtained by using the thick film technology which is apparently less affected by the silicon and thin film intrinsic limitations and more flexible when the complexity increases.
In this paper some examples are shown and a comparison between the “old fashion” and the new thick film sensors integrated on a single substrate will be discussed. The results already obtained show that thick film based sensors can have a very bright and long future.