Inductive proximity sensors have been around for decades and have proven to be a groundbreaking invention for the world of automation. This type of technology detects the presence or absence of ferrous objects using electromagnetic fields. Manufacturers typically select which inductive sensor to use in their application based on their form factor and switching distance. Although, another important factor to consider is how the sensor will be mounted. Improper mounting conditions can cause the sensor to false trigger, decreasing its reliability and efficiency. Since inductive proximity sensors target metal objects, surrounding the sensor with a metal mounting will cause unintended consequences for the user. Understanding these implications will help you select the correct inductive sensor for you specific application. There are several mounting options available for this type of sensor, including flush mount, non-flush mount, and semi-flush mount. We will dive into each type in more detail below.
Flush mounting, also known as embeddable mounting, is exactly what the name describes. The sensor is flush with the mounting surface. The advantage of mounting the sensor in this way is that it provides protection to the face of the sensor. The opportunities are endless for how sensors can be damaged but with the flush mounting style, these factors are reduced. The way a flush mounted sensor is designed causes the magnetic field to only generate out of the face of the sensor (see below). This allows the sensor to work properly by avoiding triggering from the mount as opposed to the target. The disadvantage of this is that it creates shorter switching distances than other mounting types.
A non-flush inductive proximity sensor is relatively easy to spot because it extends out from the mounting bracket and also uses a cap that surrounds the sensor face. Non-flush sensors offer the longest sensing distance range because the electromagnetic field extends from the sides of the sensor face as opposed to the edges or strictly the front of the face. There are some consequences to consider when selecting this style. The sensor head is exposed to the external environment. These sensors are more susceptible to being hit or damaged, which in turn, can cause failures within the process and cost the company money for replacements. It is important to understand these potential problem factors so they can be avoided in the design phase if you require the longer switching distance.
The semi-flush, also known as quasi-flush, is similar to that of the flush mounting style but requires a metal-free zone around the sensor face to achieve the optimal sensing range. Thus, this sensor is protected and offers a larger sensing field than a flush mounted sensor. The disadvantage is that if metal is touching the edge of the sensor face, this will dramatically decrease the sensing range.
Each style offers advantages and disadvantages. Each style uses a specific technology and design to allow it to adapt to different applications. Understanding these pros and cons will allow you to make a more informed decision for which to use in the application at hand.
Many companies have already discovered the benefits of implementing RFID into their systems. Traceability within the manufacturing process provides a competitive advantage of both efficiency and profitability. RFID tags are a major component of this technology. But it’s important to select the correct type for your specific application. These tags are classified into categories based on how they obtain power and how they use that power. The three categories are as follows:
- Passive tags
- Semi-passive tags
- Active tags
Understanding the difference between these can help narrow down your decision when looking into implementing RFID systems to your process.
Passive tags do not have their own power source. The tag receives power only when the RFID reader is in range. These tags are limited since the power supplied is minimal. The biggest advantages of passive tags are that they are small and inexpensive. They can be useful in specific applications where space is limited. Also, if the environment in which the tag is being placed is harsh, the passive tag may be a good option because it can be cheaply replaced if damaged. Since these tags do not generate power, their read distance of just a few inches to about two feet is much shorter than others. Passive tags are also limited to the amount of data storage they possess. Depending on the application this can be an advantage or disadvantage.
Semi-Passive tags, as the name implies, are similar to passive tags in that they do not have an active transmitter. They still require an RFID interrogator to be in range for the device to work, although the semi-passive tags have their own battery to power the IC. If you are looking for longer read ranges than the passive tag, this could be an option. Since the read range of the passive sensor is solely based on how far away the interrogator can power the device and not the signals coming in, adding a battery unit to the semi-passive tags increases this distance. These distances can range up to 100 feet. Another advantage is the amount of data they can store. These added features do come with added costs. The onboard power supply also makes these tags larger and heavier. The electronics inside the tag are susceptible to harsh environments like high or low temperatures, resulting in shorter lifespans.
Active tags have both a battery and transmitter built within their housings. The typical read range is again increased to around 300 to 750 feet depending on the battery power and the antenna. This allows the tags to store more data with their increased memory capacity. Active tags display the most configurability in comparison to passive and semi-passive tags. They can be set up to conserve battery power when the interrogator is out of range and respond only when the reader is within range. They can also be set up as a beacon, which is when the tag does not wait until it receives a signal from the interrogator. Instead, the active tag can be configured to send the information in set time intervals. Since active tags contain an active transmitter, they can contribute to radio noise. They are also more expensive and usually larger in size and weight due to the increased electronics within its housing.
It’s important when selecting a tag for your RFID system to consider the application needs and the advantages and disadvantages of these different options.