Implementing an industrial automation system leads to increased throughput, lower costs for producers and customers, and improved quality. As a result, production lines worldwide are harnessing the power of industrial automation to improve their systems. In order for this process to work, however, many complex components must work together. In this blog, we will discuss the various sensors used in industrial automation.
Sensors play an extensive role in helping other automation components function intelligently. By measuring properties like temperature, distance, and position, sensors interact with other components in a binary manner. For example, if the temperature of a machine reaches dangerous levels, the switch can send a signal to terminate its function. Sensors are, in general, classified by the variable that they measure. This classification system allows customers to easily find a sensor that best suits their application. As such, some of the most common sensor types are explained below.
Temperature sensors are devices that indirectly measure temperature and alter the operation of an associated system if the thermal parameters are outside the accepted range. These sensors commonly rely on devices called thermistors, which are devices that have a variable resistance value based on temperature. Temperature sensors are used extensively in industrial automation to detect extremes in the temperature of gasses, liquids, and solids.
Proximity sensors are used to avoid collisions between two nearby objects or machines. They use a technology called capacitive sensing, a non-contact sensor that can measure anything nearby that is more conductive than air. Proximity sensors are extremely accurate, usually allowing for tolerances down to a few millimeters.
Pressure sensors measure the force over a given area in a gas or liquid. Typically, a diaphragm pressure gauge is employed as an input device for pressure sensors. These gauges contain a resistor that can change resistance value depending on the stretch applied. Many production lines have pressure sensors installed as part of their industrial automation system to measure hydraulic and pneumatic machines.
Photoelectric sensors can measure several parameters on objects passing their field of detection, such as proximity, color, cleanliness, and location. As such, these high-speed devices can be used to count items of a particular color as they pass by, signal a robotic arm to pick a package out of a conveyor belt, and more.
Motion sensors are another type of positional sensor that can sense the movement or sudden stoppage of objects or people as they pass by. These devices are useful in detecting stalls in moving machinery such as conveyor belts and preventing high speeds that could potentially damage the system.
Humidity sensors detect the amount of moisture present in the air and alter associated systems based on that value. Commonly used with a temperature sensor, these devices provide accurate and real-time information about the thermal environment that a device is operating in.
Commonly implemented as part of a broader industrial metrology system, flaw sensors can detect microscopic defects in a material. Since these devices can identify defects in metals, composites, ceramics, plastics, and more, flaw sensors are used in a wide variety of applications.
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