Sensors play a big role in industrial applications: measuring, monitoring, and detecting any number of substances or processes. As more factories implement advanced automation and control systems as part of Industry 4.0 and industrial IoT automation and connectivity improvements, sensors are becoming smarter and offering new capabilities.
The global industrial sensor market is expected to reach $35.5 billion by 2027, up from $18.8 billion in 2019, according to Allied Market Research. The biggest factors driving growth are IoT and Industry 4.0, as well as the rise of industrial automation, stemming from the critical parameter information these sensors provide that have a big impact on processes and systems.
There is a variety of sensors used in industrial applications. These include proximity, pressure, motion, vibration, environmental, level, flow, humidity, gas, and temperature sensors. They all perform a vital role in ensuring that processes and systems are running error-free. Here is a sampling of several types of sensors that offer performance improvements and new capabilities for industrial applications.
Balluff Inc. recently launched two photoelectric sensors that provide condition-monitoring sensing. Claiming capabilities not previously seen in the market, the two new sensors offer many programmable features as well as the condition-monitoring and advanced IO-Link features of Balluff’s Smart Automation and Monitoring System (SAMS) portfolio. This portfolio is designed to eliminate downtime by simplifying troubleshooting, changeover, and setup of machines, said the company.
Balluff’s BOS0285/BOS0286 photoelectric sensors (Image: Balluff)
The new additions are the BOS0285 diffuse sensor with triangulation and a laser red light, making it suited for small-part detection thanks to background suppression and the BOS0286 retroflective sensor with an LED, which can reliably detect clear objects. The BOS0285 and BOS0286 sensors offer sensing ranges of 30–250 mm and 8 meters, respectively.
Through the device management software, these sensors provide internal and environmental data in real time, including temperature monitoring, relative humidity, inclination detection, and vibration monitoring.
The sensors offer four operating modes for object detection: standard on/off, speed mode, transparent mode for detecting clear materials like glass, and enhanced detection mode. The sensor’s signal quality is displayed on LEDs on the sensor, and operating hours and time functions are available using IO-Link. A second LED provides diagnostic information.
Both sensors were designed for demanding applications, particularly those found in the food industry and general factory automation applications in which aggressive media and high pressure are used for cleaning. They have Ecolab certification as well as IP67 and IP69K ratings. In addition, these sensors have passed Washdown Plus testing, which simulates over 1,000 washdown cycles.
Another photoelectric sensor series aimed at minimizing maintenance requirements is the E3AS-HL Series of CMOS photoelectric sensors from Omron Automation Americas. The new series adds the functionality of foreground and background suppression to enable the sensors to precisely detect the object, and they are configurable via IO-Link. With IO-Link, the E3AS-HL Series can communicate distance values in millimeters and be taught remotely to set detection thresholds. Output monitoring is also possible.
Omron Automation’s E3AS-HL CMOS photoelectric sensors (Image: Omron Automation Americas)
The sensors provide stable detection even as objects vary thanks to their CMOS image array technology and the option to use either a line beam or a spot beam model, said Omron. The sensors handle small-part detection for most applications and feature a small spot size for 500-mm and 150-mm sensing-distance models. Sensing distances are either 35–500 mm or 35–150 mm.
This is particularly beneficial in challenging manufacturing lines in which traditional sensors often require user adjustments to accommodate an object’s shape or require a change-out when the object’s opacity, color, or pattern changes.
Omron said its unique sensing technology significantly reduces the influence of color patterns, glossiness, and shape to provide reliable detection in changing production requirements.
The E3AS-HL Series features a teaching mechanism that makes setup easy, with an OLED display that provides visible and clear status information. The sensors offer a variety of teaching options, including two-point object teaching, background suppression (BGS) teaching, foreground suppression (FGS) teaching, and a window setting for both FGS and BGS.
The E3AS-HL sensors are constructed of SUS316L stainless steel and are suitable for use in harsh environments with IP67 and IP69K ratings.
TE’s triaxial accelerometer (Image: TE Connectivity)
There is no doubt that downtime for machinery can be costly. This means sensors are required to monitor the health of machinery. TE Connectivity’s 830M1 triaxial accelerometer offers advanced embedded acceleration sensing for machine health monitoring. The piezoelectric sensor can measure acceleration in three axes (X, Y, and Z).
Housed in a hermetic LCC package, the PCB-mountable sensor allows for a single package installation, instead of three, for cost and space savings. An RTD temperature sensor is included in the package in case the application requires both a vibration and temperature sensor signal.
The 830M1 sensor is said to offer an excellent measurement bandwidth, with a wide frequency response up to 15 kHz. It is available in dynamic ranges from ±25 g to ±2,000 g and is suitable for both low- and high-speed rotating machinery. In addition to machine health monitoring, other applications include predictive maintenance installations, embedded vibration monitoring, impact and shock monitoring, and bearing installations.
Touting an innovative two-in-one design, First Sensor’s high-precision LHD ULTRA microflow differential pressure sensors combine two sensing elements with different pressure ranges in a single housing. The pressure sensors, based on the thermal measurement of microflows, offer a maximum pressure range of up to 5,000 Pa.
This is the first time the company has combined two calorimetric microflow channels and two sensor elements on a single chip. One sensing element ensures precise measurement of low differential pressures with high resolution, while the other is optimized for pressure in the upper measuring range. This allows users to conduct high-precision measurements in the lower or upper ranges of their pressure applications.
The flow-based pressure sensors offer a total of three pressure ranges: 1,250 Pa, 2,500 Pa, and 5,000 Pa. All models are available in unidirectional and bidirectional versions.
The series also features a 16-bit analog-to-digital converter for the upper and lower pressure ranges. A 24-bit on-board controller delivers precise measurement results across the entire dynamic measuring range.
Other features include extremely high flow impedance in combination with low flow leakage, which results in high resistance to dust and moisture. Even in applications with long hose connections, the sensor response and accuracy remain unchanged, said the company.
The series claims excellent long-term and offset stability thanks to patented real-time offset compensation and linearizing technology. The overall accuracy is typically 1.5% of the measured value over the entire range from 1% to 100% of the full-scale value. The offset reproducibility is ±0.02 Pa per year.
The LHD ULTRA sensors are well-suited for flow-measurement applications in which a high degree of accuracy is needed at low differential pressure measurements, said the company. The sensors come with an on-board barometer for optional real-time common-mode pressure compensation. This enables the selection of either mass or volumetric flow measurement without the need for an external ambient pressure reference device. An optional small-form–factor FFT connector and ribbon cable are available.
In addition to the barometric sensor, each LHD ULTRA model is equipped with a linearized, digital I²C or SPI output and an integrated on-chip temperature sensor. This series can be used in a range of applications from medical technology to HVAC and volume-flow–control applications in industrial settings to high-precision filter monitoring.
NevadaNano’s R-290 refrigerant gas sensor (Image: NevadaNano)
A provider of gas-detection sensor technology, NevadaNano Systems introduced the R-290 refrigerant gas sensor to detect leaks in a range of applications. Using the company’s Molecular Property Spectrometer (MPS) technology, the R-290 gas sensor detects propane leaks in applications such as HVAC&R, refrigerator systems, clothes dryers, and vending machines.
R-290 propane is emerging as a leading alternative to hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP), said the company. R-290 has a GWP of 3, versus more than 3,900 for an R410 refrigerant.
If leaks occur in R-290 units, which are fully sealed and self-contained, and are exposed to an ignition source, they can cause fires, thus requiring detection of even the smallest leaks, said NevadaNano.
The MPS propane sensors accurately report 0% to 100% LEL and require no field maintenance over their expected lifetime of 10 to 15 years. The sensors integrate real-time measurements and built-in environmental compensation for temperature, pressure, and humidity. In addition, they are inherently immune to drift, decay, or poison from contaminant, said the company.
Flow sensors are generally used to measure the quantity and flow rate of a liquid or gas. Posifa Technologies offers its high-accuracy PLF2000 series of liquid flow sensors for water metering as a replacement for mechanical turbine flow sensors. Measuring flow rates up to 700 mL/min (PLF2105) and 10 L/min (PLF2135), the devices offer extremely fast response times of 5 ms typical and operate over a 5°C to 75°C temperature range.
Posifa’s PLF2000 liquid flow sensors (Image: Posifa Technologies)
The PLF2000 series devices are factory-calibrated for water to a minimum 5% and typical 3% accuracy for volume calculation. The sensors comply with NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water System Components — Health Effects and can be used safely in water and beverage appliances. The series also features dual digital I2C and voltage output for greater flexibility.
The new sensors feature Posifa’s third-generation MEMS thermal flow die, which uses a pair of thermopiles to detect changes in temperature gradient caused by mass flow. This delivers an excellent signal-to-noise ratio and repeatability of 0.5% F.S., said Posifa, and the solid-state thermal isolation structure on the sensor die eliminates the need for a surface cavity or fragile membrane used in competing technologies. These features allow the sensors to be placed directly in the liquid flow path with minimal packaging for higher sensitivity.
In addition, the sensor die does not obstruct the flow path, said the company, which allows for minimal flow resistance and makes it possible to circulate liquid via gravity, a boiler, or a low-power pump.