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.

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

Miniature and Mighty
MT miniature photoelectric sensors for industrial machine applications are available in three sensing modes: polarized reflective, diffuse reflective and in a through-beam model. Each sensor measures 12x33 mm, has sensitivity adjustment, a yellow LED for output indication, a green LED for stability indication and a M8 4-pole connector for installation. ASI; 877/650-5160; www.asi-ez.com

Fiberoptic Sensor
FX-100 Series fiberoptic sensor is 9-mm wide with integrated mounting holes. It incorporates a dual digital display for simple setup, along with automatic pushbutton teaching and external input capabilities. Functions include threshold tracking, timers, LED attenuation and interference prevention. Panasonic Electric Works Corp. of America; 908/464-3550; www.pewa.panasonic.com

Demanding Position Feedback
Gemco 953D Vmax linear displacement transducer provides continuous position feedback under extreme conditions. It is shock-resistant to 1000 Gs, vibration-resistant to 30 Gs and IP68-rated. The transducer offers an active measuring range of up to 30 in., a power supply voltage range 7 - 30 Vdc and visual and output signal diagnostic feedback. Ametek Automation & Process Technologies; 800/635-0289; www.ametekapt

Fast Position Feedback
LN linear encoder provides repeatable position feedback for a range of motion control applications. Traverse rates reach 20 m/sec. With a stainless steel scale, a sealed read head and IP67 environmental rating, the device has a measuring resolution of 0.5-10 µm. Measuring lengths range from 2 in. to 36 ft. BEI-Industrial Encoder; 800/350-2727; www.beiied

Reduce SetUp Time
Two new Series 9000 photoelectric sensors use ASIC technology for additional functionality. 42GSP-9000 has a teach function that eliminates manual adjustment of the sensitivity level. 42GLP contains a manual adjustment potentiometer to adjust the sensor’s sensitivity level. Rockwell Automation; 414/382-2000; www.rockwellautomation.com

Hes’s and Her’s
Hes/Her through-beam sensors measure 8 mm in a IP67-rated stainless steel package. Sensing distance is up to one m. All models have a maximum switching frequency of 10 KHz accommodating high-speed counting or motion-control applications. All models are available in 10-30 Vdc PNP or NPN transistor outputs, in NO or NC configurations. AutomationDirect; 770/889-7876

Low-Temperature Environments
MLV series photoelectric sensors have 350-mm sensing range background-suppression and 3-m sensing range clear-object-detection versions They are rated for temperatures to -40 °for use in food, beverage, printing and converting applications. Sensors include built-in cross-talk protection and dual-position LEDs. Pepperl+Fuchs; 330/486-0001; www.am.pepperl-fuchs.com

Ethernet Networking Solution
Temposonics R-series EtherCat sensor allows machine builders to overcome bandwidth and node limitations found in commercially available networks. It is available for use with one to five position magnets depending on the particular network and can be customized to document position, velocity, acceleration as well as custom-specific smart functionality. MTS Systems Corp.; 919/677-0100; www.mtssensors.com

Long Ranger
BFS 30M color sensors are designed to provide color verification of targets at a recommended detection range of 50 mm. Models include a seven-color channel discrete output model and a 15-color channel hexadecimal output version. The sensors are programmed via a Windows-based program for sensor set-up, file management, and real-time sample analysis and evaluation. Balluff; 800/543-8390; www.balluff.com

Sensing and More
Vibration Switch is a low-cost, self-contained monitoring system that can be mounted to any location on rotating or reciprocating equipment, and provides alarm or shutdown if excessive vibration levels are reached. All sensing and electronic components are included in the standalone switch with an LED alarm display. The device has an integral relay to provide failsafe operation with both normally open and normally closed contacts. Hardy Instrument; 800 821-5831; www.hardyinstruments.com

Handles Agression
Osiprox Inductive Cylindrical Sensors were developed for aggressive food, beverage, and pharmaceutical environments such as extreme temperatures and humidity, and equipment washdowns using chemical agents. With IP67, IP68 and IP69 ratings, these sensors, cables, casing and front face are built with FDA-approved materials. Schneider Electric Sensor Competency Center; 800/435-2121; www.sesensors.com

Focus on the Heat
Marathon MM Series Infrared (IR) thermometer with an optional motorized, remote-controlled variable target focus capability enables users to adjust the focus of measurement targets, either by push-button on the instrument or remotely via an RS232/RS485 connection, where adjustments can be seen real-time through video. Users select from standard fixed-focus sensors or sensors with variable focus option, both with a focus range from 8 in. to 7 ft. Raytek; 800/227-8074; www.raytek.com

For Restricted Areas
MagRes Profibus compact, self-contained absolute multi-turn encoder’s high density housing has two M12 input and output plugs for easy, wiring-free integration into Profibus-DP systems where space is tight. It offers 13-bit resolution in single-turn models and 16-bit resolution in multi-turn versions. It measures 58 mm diameter and 42 mm deep. Baumer Electric; 800/937-9336; www.baumerelectric.com

Stabilize System Designs
Digi-Q digital quartz rate sensor provides stability for applications including platform stabilization, industrial robotics and motion sensing. It features low noise, increased shock survivability and bias stability over temperature. Full-scale range is +/-100 degrees/sec, bias over temperature is less than 10 deg/hr, bias in-run stability is 3 deg/hr and rate noise is 0.05 deg/rate hour. Systron Donner Inertial; 925/979-4512; www.systron.com

Tighten Control Over Color
ColorMax-1000 color sensor outputs color intensity so machine operators and PLCs can fine tune and tighten color control in manufactured goods. The M30 threaded enclosure simplifies adjustment and installation. The sensor stores 15 colors in memory for matching. EMX; 216/518-9888; www.emxinc.com

Network-Enabled Tachometer
SpeedTalker DN is a network-powered DeviceNet tachometer that converts pulse frequencies from a range of sensors into RPM units. It provides measured shaft RPM from up to two-input channels along with the status of up to eight independent under/over speed threshold alarms over DeviceNet. Electro-Sensors; 800/328-6170; www.electro-sensors.com

Infrared Emitter and Matching Sensors
Surface-mount infrared emitters and matching sensors are suited for industrial automation control, optical encoder equipment and bar code readers. OP280 infrared emitters include the 940-nm infrared emitter, 880-nm emitter or 890-nm high-power infrared emitter. OP580 sensors consists of a silicon phototransistor, silicon photodarlington and a silicon phototransistor with an integrated base-emitter resistor. Optek; 972/323-2200; www.optekinc.com

ATEX and CSA Vibration Measurement
Series 640 industrial vibration transmitters now have ATEX and CSA optional approvals. They adapt to existing PLC, DCS, alarm and control systems for continuous vibration monitoring of machinery and equipment. These loop-powered sensors output a 4-20 mA signal, proportional to peak or RMS vibration. IMI Sensors-A PCB Piezotronics Div.; 800/959-4464; www.imi-sensors.com

Sensor Systems & Devices