by Randy Frank, Contributing Editor
Current industry requirements are providing new direction for industrial sensors.
Unlike consumer or even automotive applications for sensors, industrial clients have different driving forces that shape what they must accomplish or improve. Traditionally, these forces have not changed significantly at the highest level for decades. But Industry 4.0, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a major driving force for sensors and networks.
Industry 4.0 promises to deliver more and better actionable knowledge that should improve the performance of all types of industrial devices, equipment and systems in a range of areas:
Product health. Today, a simple go or no-go, yes or no response from a sensor provides insufficient data. Users want to know not only that the information comes from a reliable sensor, but also the health status of the sensor and whether or not it is near the end of its useful life.
“In the past couple of years, this has intensified quite a bit,” said Mark Langridge, director, sales and marketing for Packaging, Food, Beverage and Consumer Goods of SICK. “Whether they use a product from SICK or from one of our competitors, the expectation of it working in the application is just a given.”
Machine performance. Langridge cites three specific areas currently being addressed: analyzing/predicting machine bearing life, scanner input and bar code information. One aspect that puts greater emphasis on these and other inputs is IO-Link.
Providing sensor information to a programmable logic controller (PLC), power management software and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, IO-Link is the first standard IO technology worldwide (IEC 61131-9) for communicating with sensors and actuators. With IO-Link, the industry can get more information from even the simplest products. While IO-Link has existed for several years, it just surpassed 1 million links in 2012.
”With Industry 4.0 and the smart factory, (IO-Link) is just an enabler of all that information down to a level that you could never get to before,” he said.
Web-based systems. “Many inquiries for web-based systems are coming in the wake of Industry 4.0,” said Jens Kautzor, CEO of Hoffman + Krippner, a manufacturer of standard as well as custom LVDT, load cells, displacement, force and ultrasonic sensors and other products.
Smaller sensors. Daniel DeFalco, marketing manager at All Sensors, a manufacturer of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) piezoresistive pressure sensors notes another sensor change resulting from the IoT and Industry 4.0.
“One of the requests we have received over the years with the Internet of Things becoming more popular is a smaller package size,” he said.
It seems there is never enough space, especially when more technology is being crammed into an enclosure. Kautzor agrees with the need for smaller size and adds two more customer requests.
“In recent years we have seen increased requirements in regard to size, quality and availability,” he said.
There are other forces in play that put a higher emphasis on items one and four in Table 1.
“In general, our industrial customers are trying to improve the consistency and quality of the products they ship out the door and lower their cost of production,” said Aaron Biggar, a senior applications engineer at Banner Engineering.
Globalization — Dale Deering, program director for 1D Vision Product Development at Teledyne DALSA, identified four different change areas, one unique to the imaging industry and one tied to Industry 4.0.
“Globalization continues to shift volume production from traditional regions into Indo-China, South America and other emerging markets, resulting in price pressure and the need for further innovation,” he said.
Efficiency and ease of use — “Industrial customers continue to seek improvements in efficiency, cost and imaging innovation,” said Deering. “IoT is perhaps growing faster in the consumer market than the industrial market, but interconnectivity is certainly important.”
Ease of use is increasingly important to industrial sensor users. “As the imaging industry matures, work that has traditionally been done by skilled OEM labor moves down market,” Deering continued. “End users now expect to implement smart cameras and imaging systems with limited engineer skill.”
In the flow — Even industrial flow sensing applications are undergoing change. For many years, industrial customers ranging from gas meter makers, automation, medical and more have used diaphragm, Coriolis, capillary tubes and other mechanical gauge meters for measuring air and gas flow. Recently, these users have started to adopt solid-state based solutions and they are affected by Industry 4.0.
“The size of the solution, the battery power, ruggedness and other issues including remote sensing and monitoring are driving many market segments to solid-state flow sensors,” said Chris Winkler, senior marketing manager for MEMSIC, a manufacturer of MEMS sensors.
Suppliers respond to industrial requirements
“The one thing that we have tapped into is a low supply voltage sensor,” said All Sensors’ DeFalco. “Since some of the remote sensing is battery operated, the consumption of power has become an issue.”
All Sensors recently introduced the DLVR, a low-voltage pressure sensor family that can operate in a hand-held sensing environment. It uses a 3.3- or 5-V supply voltage, interfaces with I2C or SPI bus and has better than 0.5% accuracy (typical) over temperature.
For MEMS-based sensor suppliers, size, ease of interface and low-voltage operation are all important. MEMSIC’s MFC2030 Bi-Directional Flow Sensor is another example.
“Our device easily interfaces to microprocessors and can be powered from battery or conventional 2.7 to 5.5 V supply,” said MEMSIC’s Winkler.
For flow sensors, dynamic range is another key factor. The MFC2030 offers improved performance and dynamic range on the order of 100:1.
To provide more information about contamination and the environment of the scanner itself, SICK introduced the S3000 scanner. This is just one of SICK’s responses to Industry 4.0 requirements.
Bar code readers offer another example of added information. The CLV630 bar code scanner has integrated function keys for starting auto-setup or evaluating reading quality including the ink on the ink-jet printer head and other diagnostic features.
“This provides more information about the condition of the detection or the reading,” said SICK’s Langridge.
Whether it is lowering the cost of existing items that the customer buys or incorporating new technologies to improve productivity and quality, anything that can be done to save money and time is significant to industrial customers, according to Banner Engineering’s Biggar.
“Increasingly, we are focused on areas where our traditional customers commonly have pain,” he said.
Machine vibration is often a symptom of a number of serious potential problems. To address them in a timely manner, engineers at Banner developed the wireless vibration and temperature sensor to help maintenance engineers identify these problems and correct them before they lead to machine failure or other serious problems.
For Teledyne DALSA, new product requirements for imaging include ease of use, interconnectivity, more robustness to handle less well-controlled environments, and many new features to make them more flexible and easier to use. New designs are also smaller and more power efficient. This has led to increased use of CMOS imaging.
“CCDs have, for the most part, been replaced by CMOS imagers in new products,” according to Teledyne DALSA’s Deering.
By partnering with Altmann, Inelta and PIL, Hoffmann + Krippner added high-precision potentiometers, LVDT and load cells and ultrasonic sensors to its sensor offerings. This simplifies customers sensor design-in activity in many areas. The KMM65 standard force cell is one example of a new portfolio product.
While many of the driving forces seem familiar, many changes could occur in the industrial market as it increasingly embraces even greater connectivity of the IoT and Industry 4.0—but not at the same time.
Hoffmann + Krippner
Project of the Future: Industry 4.0