Today’s HITEC Sensor Developments brings together three companies and a half century of experience providing custom sensors for aerospace, automotive, medical, energy, industrial and other vital applications.
Our sensors have been instrumental to space exploration, from orbiting the earth to landing on Mars. They measure airframe stresses, sense electric actuator forces, and provide data for health and usage monitoring systems on modern aircraft. They help automotive designers create safer, better-performing vehicles. They’re found in a wide range of medical devices that improve diagnosis and enable better outcomes, including infusion pumps, catheters, surgical robots and laboratory analyzers. And much more.
HITEC Sensor Solutions was established in 1971. The three founders came from BLH Electronics—the recognized leader for strain-gauge based sensors at the time—after having developed many patented products and processes including the Rokide process that protects instrumentation on gas turbine engines and other ultra-high-temperature applications. Our founders wanted to take sensor technology even further. They formed HITEC to provide specialized engineering for precisely sensing force, load, torque, and pressure in the most extreme conditions of temperature, pressure, vibration, and shock.
Among many projects in its first decade, HITEC’s mission and success are best illustrated by its work with NASA on the Viking 1 and 2 landers.
With these spacecraft, humankind made its first successful landing and exploration of the Martian surface, sending back images and data including an experiment to look for evidence of life. HITEC played a key role in the extensive pretesting required to ensure reliable performance under intense forces, pressures, and temperatures. And HITEC sensors are now a permanent artifact on the Martian surface as integral components of several Viking 1 and 2 subsystems and instruments.
Building New Possibilities in New Markets
Meanwhile, Sensor Developments, Inc. was formed in 1976 to provide custom strain gauge-based force and torque measurement solutions for automotive, aerospace, medical, nuclear, textile, agricultural, and other industries. Its Michigan location made Sensor Developments particularly indispensable to auto manufacturers for calibrating equipment, measuring wheel and tire forces, testing engine and frame forces, fine-tuning steering response, and more.
The two companies would build success in their specialized areas of expertise, and eventually join forces more than 35 years later, in 2012. The combination would build a more diverse customer base and a broader design and manufacturing footprint, greatly advancing HITEC Sensor Developments’ leadership for purpose-built custom sensor solutions.
Taking Human Exploration to New Heights
In the late 1970s, HITEC continued its work with NASA by engineering custom sensors for the Space Shuttle’s RS-25 liquid-fuel main engines, mounted in the stern of the reusable orbiter. Ensuring safety for human spaceflight with engines designed for repeated reuse required absolutely reliable and precise sensing under extreme conditions. NASA turned to HITEC as the most innovative and collaborative partner for this vital work, and our contribution to the Space Shuttle project continued through much of the 1980s.
From the later 1980s and into the 1990s, our contribution to space exploration and travel continued with work on the Rockwell X-30, also known as the National Aero-Space Plane. This was to be a single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft capable of carrying a crew of two plus a small payload. As described by President Ronald Reagan, it would be able “to take off from Dulles Airport, accelerate up to 25 times the speed of sound, attaining low Earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours.”
As a next-generation hybrid of jet aircraft and spacecraft, the X-30 would encounter intense atmospheric friction, temperature, and vibration. HITEC was chosen to design the robust, highly specialized sensors needed to perform reliably in these conditions. Although the Rockwell X-30 was eventually canceled for technical and budgetary reasons, it led to advancements that are still being applied in the aerospace industry today.
Making a Difference for Everyday Life
While we were innovating on the grand scale of space exploration, we were also changing the world at a small scale for everyday consumers. The first laptop pointing stick, TrackPoint was patented in 1996 and was made possible by a HITEC invention. We were the first to bond strain gauges to plastic in a way that could survive millions of cycles, while also allowing for affordable, high-volume production. The TrackPoint changed the way engineers think about the economy of motion in the human-machine interface. Pointing sticks quickly became the most common cursor-positioning devices found on laptop computers, and are still preferred today by users who value precise control without wasted space or movement.
Beginning in the 1990s, we also began to vastly increase our service to the medical device industry. Beyond the classic application of occlusion sensors for infusion pumps, we began a series of developments that continue to this day—creating sensors for catheters, MRI and CT injectors, physical therapy equipment, suture devices, endoscopic tools, medical robots, surgical screws and more. Our high-quality custom sensors are used to measure everything from patient weight and positioning to the ultra-fine forces assessed in a laboratory analyzer. We’re proud to be contributing to healthier and happier everyday lives.
Serving Mission-Critical Needs
In the late 1990s and extending into the 2000s, we were instrumental in the development and manufacture of Pratt & Whitney engines for the Joint Strike Fighter program. This single-engine aircraft represents possibly the largest defense program ever conceived in terms of cost and scope—involving engineering partners collaborating at the highest technical levels to produce thousands of highly sophisticated aircraft.
One of our areas of expertise is in instrumentation for gas turbine engines, leading to our selection by Pratt & Whitney to help with all the strain gauging and stress analysis required for their engine. Our involvement is one reason Pratt & Whitney was ultimately awarded the contract to produce Joint Strike Fighter engines.
Reaching New Horizons Together
In 2009, Aero Sense Technologies was founded. This innovative company quickly built a reputation as one of the most highly respected providers of advanced custom sensors for the aerospace industry, while also serving industrial OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. Aero Sense sensors are found on programs including the Airbus A220 and A350, Gulfstream G500 and G600, Boeing CH-47, Embraer E170/190, and several others. They are used in applications such as electric actuation systems, health, and usage monitoring systems (HUMS), advanced cockpit controls, and more.
HITEC and Aero Sense developed a collaborative relationship on several development projects. Aero Sense proved to be an important partner, demonstrating a unique ability to solve problems with custom sensors unmatched for innovation and quality, even in comparison with the largest and best-known competitors. Their contributions to the aerospace industry, in particular, clearly complemented HITEC’s strengths and expanded the company’s reach and influence. In 2018, Aero Sense became part of HITEC Sensor Developments.
Into the Future
Today’s HITEC is advancing the future of aerospace, healthcare, energy, and many other industries, with a half-century of experience developing, manufacturing, and supporting custom sensors for virtually any application. We have ISO 9001 Certified, AS9100 Registered, and A2LA Accredited facilities in multiple locations in the U.S. and overseas to meet the most stringent quality requirements. And we have the know-how to take on the most challenging projects.
But our success is built on more than know-how. It’s about trusted and enduring relationships. As we look back over our long history and forward to each new accomplishment, it’s the trusted, enduring relationships that make it all possible. We know that when we collaborate with our customers as partners, when we understand and meet their exact needs, when we’re always at their service for design, implementation, and support needs—that’s when we win together.
Our story is one of partnership. We invite you to join us for the next chapter.