Sensing has changed a lot since the early days of industrial automation.
“Back 250 years ago, your sensors were actually people. They were your manufacturing engineers that would walk around and listen to the machines and hear what’s going on,” says John Tuley, from IoT Business Development -Sensor Solutions at TE Connectivity.
In Industry 4.0, wireless connectivity allows sensors to easily be deployed in places that would have been much more difficult or prohibitive in the past. Motors, pumps, conveyor systems and much more are all candidates for wireless diagnostic sensors.
“Instead of having to run power and signal [wiring], for relatively low-cost points, you could start sensorizing assets you couldn’t do in the past,” says Tuley. “That gives the factory so much more information to be able to use and promote up time.”
With smart phone monitoring of critical activities through wireless sensors, a maintenance manager can be far away from the machine and still know what is happening or about to happen if the proper actions are not taken. They can know many situations beforehand and send the appropriate people to the right locations. This can be extremely important in these ongoing pandemic days, where the people challenge is real in many factories.
“If you have ten people in a plant that normally has 20 maintenance guys, you want to make sure that you send those guys to the right place,” explains Tuley.
As far as sensor parameters that enable Industry 4.0, lower power consumption to maximize battery life, lower cost for affordability and smaller size so the sensor can fit into more applications are among the typical customer requirements. One of the solutions to improve the sensor’s viability is combo sensors. Instead of a single sensor, two or more are integrated into the package.
“An example is a fluid property sensor that does five different measurements on fluids for hydraulic systems for the ICT market,” says Tuley.
Specifically, the OPS3 Oil Property Sensor (OPS) senses 5 different aspects of fluids: dynamic viscosity, density, dielectric constant, resistance (Rp) and temperature of oils.
The discussion with TE Connectivity’s John Tuley concludes in the next part of this series.