Zurich Instruments Newsletter - Edition Q3/2009


  • Welcome Editorial: Zurich Instruments is hitting the market
  • 4 questions to the CEO: Sadik Hafizovic
  • New products: Announcements
  • Report on the Transducers 2009 Conference: MEMS in the Wild West!
  • Company Agenda

Welcome Editorial

Zurich Instruments is hitting the market with a new, innovative product. That makes for loads of excitement and thrill.

Welcome to the first ZI quarterly newsletter. My name is Stephan Koch and I will be the regular host. As head of marketing and sales at Zurich Instruments, I have the pleasure to maintain contact with the community, and I have chosen the newsletter to be the preferred vehicle for regular communication. Together with colleagues from the company, and at times with external guests, I am going to provide you with a quarterly update on applications, product launches, software updates, and corporate development.

The newsletter complements the official press releases with additional insights behind the scenes, but all in a less formal tone. Clearly the newsletter contains a promotional message, but it is also a proof of the vitality of a thriving technology company. Subscribed people will receive this newsletter towards the end of each quarter.

I realize that this is not the first newsletter that enters your mailbox, but it is my ambition to become an appreciated one. Feedback on content and usefulness is highly appreciated just as contributions, that can be anonymously published in the following issue.

Going back to the introduction statement on the excitement of launching a product, we have launched our first product line earlier this year. That was and still is an exciting moment, as the market acceptance is the only true proof of concept. With long R&D cycles that require a lot of stamina of the involved stakeholders, the first shipment marks the real start of the life of the product. We have gone through this first stage and we are now looking at the expansion of our operations. We are proud to continuously increase the headcount, and we are also proud of our presence on conferences and media Le Temps, Economie & Finance, De Vigier Price.

Let me shortly outline the content of this issue: first you will find an interview with Sadik. The interview is of interest to all people that have followed the history of Zurich Instruments, and hopefully Sadik answers to a few questions you did not dare to ask. Next we have the marketing contribution with the product launches from Q2/09 and Q3/09. Finally we have a report from the first exposition where Zurich Instruments participated this year: the Transducers conference in Denver, Colorado.

4 questions to the CEO: Sadik Hafizovic

Hello Sadik, what were the 3 main points on which you based your decision to found a company and develop scientific instruments?

In my days as a scientist, I was often hitting the limits of the measurement instrumentation that I was using. Also, the equipment that I found on the market left me unsatisfied. At the same time I knew that many limitations don't need to be and I was absolutely aware on how I could resolve them. A mixture of user-pain and entrepreneurial drive demanded to do things right with the ambition to share the result with as many users as possible. Finally I ran several market surveys, which confirmed the chances of pulling a startup and also convinced the two co-founders Flavio Heer and Beat Hofstetter. Today, 2 years later we are shipping our first devices - a satisfying feeling.

Lock-in instrumentation, are there not many companies in the market doing the same?

The market has been very active about 20 years ago. Many companies were created and competition was fierce, in consequence many companies disappeared in the following years. The best companies however have outlasted until today. Unfortunately the process of market consolidation also slowed down the technological progress. This lead to the situation of today, where we have the chance to be technologically ahead of competitors. While most market players heavily depend on analog technology, we fully embrace the possibilities of state-of-the-art mixed-signal analog/digital technology.
Our customers notice the digital nature of a ZI instrument when they connect the instrument to their PC. A transparent and high-speed USB interface makes data acquisition and control loops as seamless as they have never been. No need for a real-time PC or function generator, our products have that built-in. Our customers know that needing fewer devices in their laboratory setups will effectively simplify their challenges.

How did you chose your management team?

When the three founders Beat Hofstetter, Flavio Heer and myself decided to incorporate Zurich Instruments in 2007, we were a kind of a dream team. With Beat the software wiz, Flavio the analog circuit guru, and myself the digital circuits guy, we were ready to tame any beast of instrumentation. Even though Beat and myself came with a good fistful of startup experience, our first addition to the management team was Stephan Koch, an earned EE with management & marketing experience. With Stephan the team was in place, fully focused to bring our products to the market.

Zurich Instruments is a spin-off from ETH Zurich in Switzerland. How is the company profiting from this link today?

We are closely collaborating with a couple of laboratories of different kinds at ETH Zurich. Today it still is our most important resource when it comes to get user feedback and to test new, often application-specific, innovations. The closeness to the frontiers of science, be it in nanophysics or be it in biotech, is an important asset for Zurich Instruments.

New Products

Zurich Instruments announced the HF2 Series product line in April 2009. The HF2 Series consists of two instruments: the HF2 Impedance Spectroscope and the HF2 Lock-In Amplifier, three options and a configurable current pre-amplifier. Together with the included software package, this new product line marks a paradigm-shift in terms of functionality and usability for laboratory equipment.

New Product Announcement: HF2 Lock-In Amplifier

The HF2 Lock-in Amplifier (HF2LI, high-frequency, 2 inputs) is a digital lock-in amplifier covering the frequency range between 0.7 µHz and 50 MHz. This range represents a considerable increase when compared to previously available instruments and permits scientists to enlarge the scope of their research. The HF2LI features 2 independent lock-in units so that it replaces two devices in many measurement setups. The 128-bit digital signal processing delivers superior precision thus improving both the noise performance and the dynamic reserve. With the USB 2.0 interface high data rate to a connected computer is ensured and extensive data post-processing is enabled.

The HF2 Lock-in Amplifier is also the first of its kind supporting multi-frequency operation and real-time control. These features come as extension kits to the base instrument and remarkably extend the capabilities of the instrument. The HF2LI Multi-frequency Kit allows to simultaneously analyze the signal of interest at up to 6 arbitrary frequencies. Furthermore each of the demodulators can be assigned to any of the physical inputs. The HF2LI Real-time Kit enables the user to implement and run software directly on the embedded processor inside of the HF2LI. This transforms the instrument into a versatile programmable measurement device, ideally suited for real-time closed loop control.

The third option for the HF2 Lock-in Amplifier is the Ultra-high Stability oscillator. The use of an ovenized crystal oscillator reduces the phase noise, thus boosting the result of critical measurements. At last, the HF2 Series is completed with a versatile current amplifier, suited to measure applications with high capacitive loads.

With these unprecedented capabilities, the HF2LI brings lock-in amplification to a new level and enables new applications in a frequency range that was previously tied to analog instrumentation. This instrument reflects the values of Zurich Instruments, which are premium functionality, superior precision, and Swiss quality.

New Product Announcement: HF2 Impedance Spectroscope

The Zurich Instruments HF2 Impedance Spectroscope (HF2IS, high-frequency, 2 inputs) is an impedance spectroscope for the frequency range from 0.7 µHz to 50 MHz. With up to 8 demodulators, the HF2IS allows to simultaneously analyze at 8 arbitrary frequencies. With 2 physical input channels it replaces 2 conventional devices improving the efficiency of laboratory setups. With the internal 128-bit signal processing, the HF2IS delivers measurements with superior accuracy. These unprecedented capabilities mark a remarkable advance in impedance spectroscopy instrumentation. Applications previously tied to analog instrumentation, now profit from the benefits of digital processing like high-performance filtering and fast readouts with microsecond latency.

Extension kits to the base instrument remarkably extend the capabilities of the instrument. The HF2IS Multi-frequency Kit increases the number of simultaneous frequencies from 4 to 8. The HF2IS Real-time Kit enables the user to implement and run software directly on the embedded processor inside of the HF2IS. This transforms the instrument into a versatile programmable measurement device, ideally suited for real-time signal post-processing and decision making.

Based on the same hardware platform, the HF2IS differs from the HF2LI in terms of signal processing, user interface and the number of frequencies available in parallel.

Report on the Transducers 2009 Conference

Imagine the MEMS world would gather in the wild American West!

An unusual mob of scientists populated the Denver downtown in June this year. The speaker at the rodeo social event was not sure on how to read "Transducers", and the view on the multi-cultural crowd completed his confusion. The culmination that shall certainly remain unforgotten by the western band playing that evening is the crowd of scientist from all over the world dancing on the tables. The conference venue, the downtown Denver Sheraton, effortlessly handled the Transducers. The same for the Lutheran Women's Missionary Society, which subsequently convened in the same hotel and rebalanced the gender and age ratio with about 1000 elderly women.

The Transducers is a biennial conference on solid-state sensors, actuators and micro-systems. With around 1000 participants it marks an important event in the field. Zurich Instruments participated in the show as commercial exhibitor, by introducing its new HF2IS Impedance Spectroscope and HF2LI Lock-In Amplifier. The interest in the Zurich Instruments booth was high, despite we were the only company exposing test & measurement devices.

Visitors at the Zurich Instruments booth could observe a demo where an HF2LI was performing as a PLL: an exposed mass-sensitive oscillator was driven at its resonance frequency making for a micro balance. Some of the readers have observed how a few alcohol molecules were sufficient to put the resonator out of tune and how the HF2LI was tracking the resonance frequency. An attractive demo that is self-explanatory and useful to outline the capability of our instrument.

We hope that all the visitors at the Zurich Instruments booth have appreciated the conference as well, and have safely returned home. Thank you once more for your interest.

Comapany Agenda


Zurich Instruments has scheduled the participation at the following scientific events:

  • MicroTAS 2009 Congress, November 1-5, 2009, Jeju Island, Korea: visitors will be able to hands-on try the HF2 Series, and to see an attractive demonstration of the capability of the lock-in amplifier performing oscillation control
  • Frühjahrstagung der deutschen Physikalischen Gesellschaft, March 21-26, 2010, SKM / KM, Regensburg, Germany

For feedback, comments and subscription service

Stephan Koch
Marketing and Sales / Newsletter Editor

Zurich Instruments AG
Technoparkstrasse 1, 8005 Zurich, Switzerland


phone +41 44 515 0415

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