From the early days of “electrical measurement of non-electrical parameters” up to the mid-seventies, the quality of measuring systems depended to a great extent on the manufacturer’s skill in combining precision engineering with electrical signal detection. Products were designed in such a way that, for example, components in a measuring-and-control chain, for instance, consisted of independent black boxes. The expertise to cleverly utilize and optimize the physical effects for sensor measurement was essential. Moreover, successful development of a product depended on the ability to effectively combine different technologies – from mechanics to electronics – and to link the individual components into the measuring-and-control chain. The German precision-engineering industry had this know-how and applied it to sensor technology. There was also sufficient potential for niche applications by small businesses, since practically all industries for electronic measurement were to be found in Germany. Thus, the structure of the sensor-technology industry in Germany – as opposed to that in the USA or Japan, was characterized by precision engineering with typically very small and innovative enterprises, which to respond very flexibly to customer demands.
From the Mid-Seventies
Semiconductors were starting to be used as sensors and large technology companies were becoming more and more influential as the OEM suppliers of sensor elements. At the same time, advances were made in system integration by the very same precision mechanics SMEs, so that the structure of the German sensor industry hardly changed. The cooperation of international technology companies with numerous manufactures of sensor products had a very beneficial affect which in the early eighties initiated a boom in German sensor development. During this period, many new enterprises were founded, which directly targeted these new fields and developed new markets for their innovative products. Thus, German sensor technology owes its success and strong worldwide market position largely due to this special structure, its customer proximity, and its application-specific orientation.