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The growing world of industrial sensors

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These days, sensors are everywhere - in our smartphones, tablet touchscreens, in home automation applications; and as a vital part of Industry 4.0 which is designed to make manufacturing smarter.

Sensors have also long been used in industrial automation and control machinery to measure a wide range of parameters including temperature, motion, positioning, acceleration, weight, humidity, chemical composition, gases or pressure or liquid flow in industries as diverse as food manufacturing, car making, mining, packaging, aerospace, electronics, agriculture and facilities management.

In general industrial terms, sensors are used to measure, calculate or record a number of outputs including:

Environment: Sensors are used to measure a wide range of natural and industrial environments including temperature, motion, positioning, acceleration, weight, humidity, chemical composition, gases, pressure or liquid flow. Typical utilisations include ultrasonic liquid-level transmitters for continuous level measurement and alarm switching at water treatment plants; or pressure, temperature and level sensors in the monitoring of hydraulic fluids and coolants in machine tool applications; or inductive proximity switches in automotive assembly lines.

Position: One of the most important functions in manufacturing is position sensing and a vast range of linear and rotary position encoders is available to fulfil this task. While some offer absolute encoding, retaining memory of the last position of the system following power down, the vast majority of applications can be served by incremental encoders. Encoder outputs need to be chosen carefully according to the electrical environment, application and external signal conditioning apparatus.

Proximity: Non-contact proximity sensing is another key area of automation and is used in a variety of applications ranging from hoisting in the factory environment to mobile lifting, automatic livestock feeding systems and automation in the food and beverage industry. One type of proximity sensor is the inductive proximity sensor, which uses magnetic induction to detect ferromagnetic metallic materials. Suitable for use in dirty, wet areas and high traffic areas, it is commonly used in traffic lights, car washes and many common industrial automation and manufacturing processes as it is immune to dust.

Light: Photoelectric sensors detect the distance, absence, or presence of an object by using an infrared light transmitter and a photoelectric receiver. One of the fastest growing areas for light sensors is in the use of visual information as a system input, particularly machine-vision technology. When position and presence detection is required on a much smaller scale, fibre-optic and RGB colour sensors are becoming increasingly popular. Besides their small size and ability to detect small object and movements, they are also resistant to electrical noise and can function at higher temperatures.

Level: Level sensors are another important and commonly used type of sensor for automation and control. They are designed to detect the flow level of substances such as liquids, slurries and powders.

These are just a few examples of the many different sensor types available and the continuing development of sensor technology is vital to the flexibility and sophistication of both simple and complex control and automation systems in a multitude of industrial process and manufacturing industries.

RS Components stocks a comprehensive range of sensors and transducers to satisfy any application from factory to process automation. Our global range of 500,000 products includes electronics, automation and control, tools and consumables from world leading brands such as Schneider Electric, Pepperl+Fuchs, Omron and SICK.

Discover more at au.rs-online.com/web/c/automation-control-gear/sensors-transducers.

To download RS Components’ “THE GROWING WORLD OF INDUSTRIAL SENSORS” whitepaper, please click here.

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