A sense of the sensor market

Although the evolution of sensors hasn’t been easy or fast, a roundup of new products and devices to the market shows the emergence of new technologies is driving the growth of MEMS-based devices.

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By Patti Pool, Contributing Editor, New Products

Patti PoolSensors always have been an integral part of any industrial control system. Lately, sensors have benefited from the ability to integrate electronics in increasing complexity into the sensor. Knowledge-based sensors systems represent the highest level of sensing technology.

According to Frost & Sullivan, “The emergence of new sensor technologies based on discrete radio frequency systems and integrated architecture that combines remote sensing, communications and computing are driving the growth of micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS)-based sensors markets. Development of wireless communication applications such as global positioning satellite systems, Bluetooth technology and seismic monitoring are leading to the fast adoption of such sensors in many end-user markets.”

But, wait a minute. This evolution in sensor technology has not been easy or fast. Haven’t we heard this before? The development of MEMS technology would creep into the industrial sensor market and improve things, right?

The first MEMS/MST product to be fully commercialized was the pressure sensor and that took 36 years. Accelerometers took 24 years and displays took 25 years. “There have been many barriers to commercialization of MEMS/MST and on of the most significant of these is infrastructure, says Roger Grace of Roger Graces Associates, which focuses much of its analysis on sensors and MEMS. “In the early days, most MEMS processing equipment, packaging and test were ‘hand-me-downs’ from the semiconductor industry.”

Today things have dramatically improved with a number of companies providing custom MEMS/MST-specific equipment solutions, replicating the semiconductor industry.

In addition, MEMS/MST specific automation design tools are being made available by a number of suppliers, including Conventor and MEMscap. Similar to the case of the increasingly more popular fables semiconductor model, most newly created MEMS companies are fabless since there is a selection of more than 80 worldwide sources of MEMS/MST silicon and packaging foundries in business today.

Standards, design for manufacturability, cost and education are still barriers facing MEMS. We only can hope those issues will be resolved in less than 26 years.

Product Roundup:

Safeguard Short Distances
S300 safety laser scanner for applications where the hazardous area to be monitored is less than two meters reduces downtime and eliminates damage, injuries and accidents in a variety of applications. Low power consumption makes the scanner suitable for on-coming fork detection on AGVs, or safeguarding workers in the path of manned fork lifts and transfer cars. It has a 270-degree scanning angle. Sick; 952/941-9287; www.sickusa.com

Safe Braking
LazerSafe LZS-003-HS safeguarding system developed for hydraulic press brakes makes complex bends with a minimum of settings while maintaining press speeds. Two flat bands of 40-mm-wide laser light continuously monitor the zone below the punch. It can detect obstructions as small as 4 mm while being tolerant to vibration. Honeywell Wintriss Controls Group; 800/586-8324; www.wintriss.com

Wide-Range Analog Ultrasonic Sensor
RPS-409A ultrasonic sensors cover ranges 4 in. to 18 ft. There are no setup adjustments or calibrations; the unit has a linear output of volts per inch. The analog card chosen will determine the resolution of the system. The unit is encased in PVC and is rated to IP-68 or NEMA-6P. Migatron; 815/338-5800; www.migatron.com

Simplifies Part Tracking 
Checker 101E accepts encoder signals, eliminating the need for a PLC when tracking and rejecting parts on variable-speed production lines. Unlike the shift register of a PLC, which requires programming, the Checker 101E shift register is automatic, enabling it to accurately track up to 4,000 parts between the inspection and rejection point. Cognex; 508/650-3000; www.cognex.com

Detect What You Want
SA1E miniature photoelectric sensor detects only what you want to see on a conveyor belt and ignores the rest. It has an adjustable 20-200 mm range, enabling the sensor to detect targets while ignoring background beyond a defined cut-off range. Objects can be detected regardless of color and/or reflectivity. The sensors are UL, cUL-listed, CE-marked and IP67-rated. IDEC; 800/262-4332; www.idec.com/usa

Class A Accurate RTD
SA1-RTD surface-mount RTD with Class A accuracy is based on a 2x2 x0.8-mm thin-film platinum RTD and supplied in PFA-insulated three or four-wire configurations for critical temperature monitoring applications. It has a self-adhesive backing or can be permanently mounted using Omegabond cements. Available in 1, 2 or 3 m or custom lengths, the RTD applications include monitoring chip, heat sink and environmental temperatures in electronics devices; piping or ducting temperatures; and motor and transformer core heat. Omega Engineering; 203/359-1660; www.omega.com

Ready-to-Install Temperature
Complete temperature assemblies mount directly to tanks, pipes, motors, compressors, reactors or anywhere where a surface temperature is needed. They use a Worm flexible sensor with a PC-programmable or Smart HART temperature transmitter. Stainless steel mounting accessories are included. Moore Industries-Intl; 818/894-7111; www.miinet.com

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