Spike Prosys Ltd (trading as Process Systems) is a small company specialising
in the design, manufacture and marketing of electronic equipment for
measuring water quality. The company has been trading for over 6 years,
has 7 employees and had sales in 1999 of approximately 313 K Euro. Process
Systems product range includes its hand-held and wall mounted
equipment for measuring pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity
of liquids, and related accessories.
The market for water purity measurement is global and this is even
more so for very pure water. The company therefore has a niche position,
developing products for specific applications. These operate with various
sensors that measure the conductivity of the water. These sensors currently
require individual calibration to achieve the desired accuracy of measuring
ultra pure water. The current technology applied in these equipment
rely on discrete components and microcontroller devices.
The objective of this Application Experiment (AE) is to replace the
existing resitivity sensors used with these products by developing a
Micro-Systems Technology (MST) based conductivity sensor which will
give better accuracy, reliability and flexibility than current sensors
and at a lower cost. The rationale for the product improvement is that
the delivery of these improved characteristics would deliver the ability
- Incorporate the lower cost sensors in the smaller, bench top water
machinery that cannot currently use sensors because of their cost.
- Increase the number of probes in larger water purification machines
from one to
one at each purification stage (up to 4 per system).
The improved performance of the sensor will lead to increased company
The duration of the application experiment was 12 months. The prototype
development costs were 66 K Euro. The prototype development successfully
delivered a working prototype sensor, but the anticipated production
mask development stage was delayed to the industrialisation phase.
The payback period for these costs will be 2 years. The Return on
Investment over a 4 year period is calculated as 375 %. Over a projected
product lifetime of the MST sensor design of over 10 years, the ROI
value will exceed 1,000%. The total cost of industrialisation is estimated
to be 60 K Euro.
The company has derived additional benefits in the areas of microsystem
specification definition, cost estimating, assessment methods and in
managing a project where the skills do not all reside within the company.