UC Tech Company Acquired by Global TDK Corporation

Chirp Microsystems, a startup founded by UC Davis and UC Berkeley researchers has been acquired by TDK Corporation. Photo Courtesy of Chirp Microsystems.

By Bonnie Dickson

DAVIS, Calif.; March 14, 2018 – Chirp Microsystems, a technology company that develops high-performance, 3D-sensing technologies based on research at the University of California, has been acquired by Tokyo-based global electronics company, TDK Corporation.

Over the last five years, Chirp has developed a line of extremely low power, ultrasonic smart sensors that enable products to accurately detect absolute positions in the real world. Late last year, Chirp launched the world’s smallest, lowest-power time-of-flight sensors, CH-101 and CH-201. The sensors are considered microelectromechanical systems, which are built from components between 1 and 100 micrometers in size – smaller than the head of a pin.

Unlike many existing sensing technologies, Chirp’s sensors are smaller in size and consume less power. The tiny smart sensors show promising potential for use in a wide range of portable consumer electronics and systems that measure and track motion, such as smartphones, wearables and augmented reality and virtual reality devices. The sensors will also likely find broader applications in automobiles and industrial machinery.

Chirp’s technology was originally developed by UC Davis mechanical and aerospace engineering professor David Horsley and his colleagues at the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center at UC Berkeley. Horsley is the co-founder of the company.

“Chirp’s acquisition is a success story for the real-world benefits of UC-developed technology,” Horsley said. “Part of the UC Davis mission is to develop and commercialize technology that can have a real impact on the California economy. I’m really happy that the TDK acquisition will allow Chirp to continue to grow and employ even more people – including many new UC graduates.”

Horsley earned his doctorate in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley in 1998. He went on to work for DiCon Fiberoptics and Hewlett Packard Labs before joining UC Davis in 2003. He won the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in 2009, the same year he received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

About TDK Corporation
TDK Corporation is a leading electronics company based in Tokyo, Japan. It was established in 1935 to commercialize ferrite, a key material in electronic and magnetic products. TDK’s portfolio includes passive components, such as ceramic, aluminum electrolytic and film capacitors, ferrites and inductors, high-frequency products, and piezo and protection components, as well as sensors and sensor systems and power supplies. These products are marketed under the product brands TDK, EPCOS, InvenSense, Micronas, Tronics and TDK-Lambda. TDK’s further main product groups include magnetic application products, energy devices, and flash memory application devices. TDK focuses on demanding markets in the areas of information and communication technology and automotive, industrial and consumer electronics. The company has a network of design and manufacturing locations and sales offices in Asia, Europe, and in North and South America. In fiscal 2017, TDK posted total sales of USD 10.5 billion and employed about 100,000 people worldwide.

About Chirp Microsystems
Chirp Microsystems mission is to bring ultrasonic sensing to everyday products. Founded in 2013 based on pioneering research performed at the University of California, Chirp’s piezoelectric MEMS ultrasonic transducers offer long range and low power sensing capabilities in a micro-scale package, enabling products to accurately perceive absolute position in the three-dimensional world in which we live. Combined with Chirp’s embedded software library, these sensors advance user experiences with VR/AR, mobile, wearables, robotics, drones and occupancy detection.

More: Startup Founded by Researchers From UC Davis and UC Berkeley Acquired by TDK Corporation

More: David Horsley Collaborates on Innovative Motion-Sensing Technology 

Professor David Horsley works with students in the MEMS Laboratory at UC Davis.