Industrial Sensors: Still Behind the Times (Part 1)

The Marketplace Has an Abundance of Smarter, Faster and More Accurate Sensors. Where Are the Advanced Communications, Networking and Fabrication Technologies? (Part 1 of 3)


Look through the collection of industrial sensors that follows, and count the number of devices with advanced communications, networking or fabrication technology.

Only one device claims to use IEEE P1451.4 smart sensor technology. Two devices offered a HART connection, but HART has been around for 20 years. Only one offered an Ethernet connection. We saw no sensors with MEMS technology, either. All the rest stayed with tried and true sensor interfacing methods, such as 4-20 mA, 0-5 VDC, and so on.

Today's sensors are smaller and faster than ever before, provide extreme accuracy and resolution, and perform better than ever. But their manufacturers seem to be resisting the adoption of any other kind of modern technology.

The following industrial sensors represent a cross section of what is actually available today. They may not have MEMS technology or Ethernet connections, but the sensors that follow do represent advanced sensor technology.

(Note: This is the first of three segments covering the Round-Up on Industrial Sensors. Look for the second installment the third week of March.)


Automation Systems Interconnect


High-Temperature Prox

Available in stainless steel housings, inductive proximity sensors work in temperatures to 446 º F, and with switching distances of 2-50 mm, the sensors are suitable for machinery used in steel mills, rolling mills, metallurgical and glass industry, industrial ovens, press machinery for chipboard, and equipment used in painting plants for the automotive industry. Automation Systems Interconnect; 877/650-5160;

 Omron Electronics

Can't Lose Its Head

The ZX smart laser measurement sensor's amplifier can interface with three visible red through-beam and eight displacement sensor heads, allowing a machine builder to use the same sensor amplifier platform for multiple measurement sensing applications, saving engineering time and money. The sensor has a 500-mm displacement and 2-m through-beam sensing distances. For distance measurement, the sensor head is rated FDA Class 2 and, for width measurement, it is rated FDA Class 1. Omron Electronics; 847/843-7900;

Omega Engineering

Accelerometers Mount on Top

The ACC786A Omegarometer Series general-purpose accelerometer has a hermetically sealed 316L stainless steel case, making it suitable for vibration measurements in harsh industrial environments. It has a top cable exit. Omega Engineering; 203/359-1660;

 Banner Engineering

Adjustable Laser Sensors Do Small

The Q60 Series adjustable-field laser sensors have a mechanically adjustable sensing cutoff point that allows them to detect extremely small objects with relatively low reflectivity, while ignoring background objects immediately behind the set cutoff point. Sensors are available in Class 1 or extended-range Class 2 laser formats. Applications include verifying punched holes, performing parts detection, positioning, dimensioning, and bar code reader triggering. Banner Engineering; 888/373-6767;

 Rockwell Automation

Slot Sensor Sees Small Stuff

The 45LST optical slot sensor is suitable for small part detection on machines and conveyors, label detection on clear substrates, and cap detection on bottles. It detects small parts passing through slots with widths as small as 2 mm. The sensor has a sensitivity adjustment, IP65 aluminum housing and selectable NPN/PNP output with inverse or direct operation. Rockwell Automation; 978/446.3223;


Inductive Proximity Sensors See Far

Triple-sensing range inductive sensors from SICK detect metal objects, small or thin parts, wires, or bright metal at distances between 3-40 mm. This allows the sensors to operate from a larger mounting distance on machines or conveyor systems for better machine protection. The sensors have an enclosure rating of IP67 and are highly immune to impacts, vibrations, higher ambient temperatures, and electromagnetic interference. SICK; 952/829-4728;


Fiberoptic Amps Install Easily

DFT and DFP Series DIN-rail mountable fiberoptic amplifiers for fiberoptic sensors work with cuttable industry standard 2.2 mm fibers. They have a sensing distance of 20-200 mm with no blind zone. The sensors are less than 10-mm wide, making them suitable for stacking together in tight spaces. Pushbuttons, LEDs, and maintenance and bar graphs on the sensor face simplify installation and troubleshooting. AutomationDirect; 770/889-2858;


The SA1E Series is available in 32 models, all IP67/NEMA-6-rated for water-resistance. Models include through-beam, polarized retroreflective, diffuse-reflective, and small-beam reflective styles. Each style has several options, including cables or M8 connectors, NPN or PNP outputs, and light ON or dark ON sensing modes. Accessories include brackets for horizontal or vertical mounting, slits for through-beam type sensors, and reflectors for polarized retroreflective types. IDEC; 800/262-4332;


The 8-mm model in the Pile Driver family of all-metal inductive proximity sensors is flush-mountable, making it suitable for space-restricted applications with hazards such as lubricants, cutting fluids, metal shards and target impacts. It comes with a stainless steel housing, and is available with weld-spatter resistant coating. Pepperl+Fuchs; 330/486-0001;

 Phoenix Contact

M8 and M12 molded connectors have a mechanical safeguard against vibration, gold-plated contacts and IP67 protection, and are available with variable lengths of wire or cables. The M8 and M12 sensor cables come in straight and angled versions, each with male and female contacts in three, four or five positions. The M8 connectors are available in three and four positions. The female connectors are available with or without LEDs. Phoenix Contact; 800/322-3225;

Molded Connectors Suit Sensors

Tiny Prox Fits Anywhere

Water-Resistant Photoelectric Sensors

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