RFID Employee Tracking in the Manufacturing Environment

The first employee time clock was invented in 1888 by Willard Bundy, a jewelry shop owner in Auburn, New York. While employers were tracking hours and wages before this invention, of course, Bundy’s clock was the first to provide each worker with a unique key, offering a more streamlined and secure employee time-tracking system. Employee tracking using RFID builds on this simple concept to provide the transparency and security that both employers and employees demand today.

Benefits of RFID Employee Tracking

There are myriad benefits of RFID technology across various domains, including:

    • Enhanced security: RFID can manage access to restricted areas, machines, and tools, quickly granting authorized personnel access while preventing unauthorized persons from gaining entry.
    • Attendance and time tracking: Automated attendance reduces manual errors and streamlines payroll processes, a well-established and widely accepted practice among both employers and employees.
    • Asset management: RFID tags embedded in key assets allow for more accurate record-keeping and serve as a primary technology for enabling predictive maintenance. Asset management using RFID also ensures the precise location of tools, effectively preventing loss or theft.

Inspection verification using RFID

Completing routine machine and facility inspections diligently is critical to preventing catastrophic failures. Unfortunately, in the case of routine inspections, employees may submit inspection reports without physically inspecting the equipment. This is often due to the equipment being physically located a long walk away. To ensure inspections are completed every time, RFID tags installed at inspection locations allow the employees to scan physically upon finishing inspections. This allows for:

    • 100% verification that the employee was physically present at the inspection location
    • Accurate and automated data entry for time, date, and employee completing tasks
    • Auditable record of inspections

Best practices for implementing or expanding RFID employee tracking

Integrating RFID tracking brings forth a multitude of best practices for implementation and expansion, including:

    • Clear and transparent communication: RFID tracking offers significant benefits for both employees and employers. With a critical emphasis on employee training, making all the data visible to employees increases trust and adoption.
    • Regulation, compliance, and ethics: Most RFID systems will save minimal personal information; however, if you need to collect and record personal information, be sure to check with local laws and regulations and avoid recording unnecessary personal information.
    • Limited data collection: RFID can record lots of data. Recording only what is necessary and beneficial streamlines your system and prevents employees from becoming distrustful.

RFID technology has many benefits in managing employee access, attendance, asset tracking, and even employee location verification. When increasing employee monitoring there is always a delicate balance between improving operational efficiency and respecting employee privacy rights. By adopting a transparent communication program, complying with local regulations, and prioritizing limited data collection, organizations can harness the benefits of RFID employee tracking responsibly and ethically.

Transforming Big Data Into Practical Insights

While RFID technology has been around for almost 70 years, the last decade has seen widespread acceptance, particularly in automated manufacturing. It is now deployed for various common applications, including automatic data transfer in machining operations, quality control in production, logistics traceability, and inventory control.

RFID has contributed significantly to the evolution of data collection and handling. With this evolution has come vast amounts of data which can be crucial for process improvement, quality assurance, and regulatory compliance. Nevertheless, many organizations grapple with the challenge of transforming this abundance of data into actional insights.

Key industry terms such as Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) were once perceived as distant concepts crafted by marketing teams, seemingly disconnected from the practicalities of the plant floor. However, these buzzwords emerged as a response to manufacturing organizations worldwide recognizing the imperative for enhanced visibility into their operations. While automation hardware and supporting infrastructure have swiftly progressed in response to this demand, there remains a significant need for software that can effectively transform raw data into actionable data. This software must offer interactive feedback through reporting, dashboards, and real-time indicators.

Meeting the demand will bring vendors from various industries and start-ups, with a few established players in automation rising to the occasion. Competition serves as a motivator, but the crucial factor in bridging the software gap on the plant floor lies in partnering with a vendor attuned to the specific needs of that environment. The question then becomes: How do you discern the contenders from the pretenders? The following is a checklist to help.

Does the potential vendor have:

    • A solid understanding that downtime and scrap must be reduced or eliminated?
    • Core expertise in automation tailored for the plant floor?
    • Smart hardware devices such as RFID and condition monitoring sensors?
    • A comprehensive system solution capable of collecting, analyzing, and transporting data from the device to the cloud?
    • A user-friendly interface that allows interaction with mobile devices like tablets and phones?
    • The ability to generate customized reports tailored to your organizations requirements?
    • A stellar industry reputation for quality and reliability?
    • A support chain covering pre-sales, installation, and post-sales support?
    • Demonstrated instances of successful system deployments?
    • A willingness to develop or adapt existing devices to address your specific needs?

If you can tick all of these, its a safe bet you are in good hands. Otherwise, you’re taking a chance.

Remote Power Through Inductive Coupling

Inductive couplers are reshaping industrial connectivity by enabling wireless power and data transmission across air gaps. In this blog, I explore the mechanics behind inductive couplers, from magnetic fields facilitating power transfer to bidirectional data communication. I’ll look at applications like end-of-arm tooling, rotary indexing tables, and rapid die change systems to discover how inductive couplers enhance flexibility, durability, and reliability in manufacturing. Additionally, I’ll review the benefits of this technology, poised to revolutionize wireless connectivity in industrial settings.

Inductive couplers: what they are and how they work

Inductive couplers transmit power and data wirelessly without physical connection over an air gap. They are used in various industrial applications such as end-of-arm tooling, rotary indexing tables as well and rapid die change.

Inductive couplers consist of two components: a base (transmitter) and a remote (receiver). The base is connected to a power source and a controller. The remote is attached to a load, such as a hub powering sensors or actuators. Power and data are transferred when the base and remote are in range and aligned on a common axis.

The base generates a magnetic field by passing a current through a coil. The magnetic field induces a voltage in the coil of the remote, which powers the load. The power transfer is based on the principle of electromagnetic induction, which states that a changing magnetic field creates an electric potential difference across a conductor.

The data transfer is also based on electromagnetic induction but with a different frequency and modulation scheme. The base and the remote can communicate bidirectionally by modulating the amplitude, frequency, or phase of their currents. The data signals are superimposed on the power signals and can be decoded by the controller.

Applications that can benefit from inductive coupling

Inductive coupling finds valuable applications in various scenarios, such as:

End-of-arm tooling: Inductive couplers can power and control robotic arms, grippers, or tools, without limiting their mobility or functionality. They can also enable wireless charging of autonomous robots or drones. This technology’s contribution also extends to:

    • Increased flexibility in robot movements. Since there are no physical connections, the robot can move freely without worrying about cable management or connector wear.
    • Improved durability in harsh industrial environments, as inductive couplers are typically sealed and resistant to dust, dirt, and moisture.
    • Fast tool change on robots. Since there’s no need to manually disconnect and reconnect cables, tool changes can be done quickly and efficiently.
    • More reliability than pin-based connector systems, especially for low power sensors. They can create a more stable connection, reducing the risk of signal loss or interruption.

Rotary indexing tables: Machine tool positioning devices used to move parts in programmed, increments so they can be machined or assembled. During operation, the table rotates around a central axis, stops at a predetermined location, remains in that position while an operation is performed, and then rotates to the next position. Powering sensors on a rotary indexing table can be achieved through various methods, but the most efficient way is using inductive coupling which allows for the transfer of power and data without physical contact. it is particularly useful in applications where the rotary indexing table must be able to move in complex ways.

Rapid die change: The quick die change system includes a combination of a die transfer arm, die clamp, die lifter, operation box, and power pump. Through the combination of automated equipment, the product changeover time, production start-up time, or adjustment time of the mold can be minimized. Users can quickly change the mold and clamp the mold, reduce mold change time, produce a variety of small quantities, and reduce inventory and output.

Inductive coupling can be advantageous for die change in industrial automation. Stampers can integrate inductively coupled connector systems to enable rapid die change. This technology can be used for joining die segments, easing the changeout of transfer arms, and communication during transfer functions.

Disadvantages of pin style connectors. Soldered connections can be sensitive to both corrosion and vibration. The filler metal used for the soldering connection will degrade over time and can cause connection failures.

Slip rings are often used in automated assembly lines and packaging machinery, where continuous rotation is required for the system to efficiently operate. They are also used in the food and beverage industry, wind turbines, factory automation, robotics, radars, medical imaging equipment, monitoring equipment, and many others.

Despite their versatility, slip rings come with a complex construction, which includes components such as rings and brushes. These components require regular inspection, cleaning, and maintenance to ensure optimal performance. Failure to maintain slip rings and brushes properly can result in poor electrical contact, increased resistance, and reduced motor efficiency.

The presence of slip rings and brushes introduces additional points of potential wear and tear, requiring inspection, cleaning, and replacement when necessary. This increased maintenance requirement can result in higher downtime and maintenance costs compared to other motor types.

What are the benefits of using inductive couplers?

Inductive couplers offer several advantages that make them a preferred choice in various applications. One key benefit is their flexibility, as they can be easily installed and reconfigured without the need for complex wiring or connectors. Unlike traditional methods, inductive couplers allow for misalignment of up to 15-20 degrees of angular offset or 2-4mm of axial offset while still maintaining functionality.

Another notable advantage is their reliability, as they are immune to wear and tear, corrosion, vibration, or dirt that may affect the performance of standard mechanical contacts. With both the base and remote components fully encapsulated, typically featuring an IP67 protection class, environmental concerns are effectively mitigated.

Additionally, inductive couplers enhance safety by eliminating the risk of electric shocks, sparks, or short circuits commonly associated with exposed conductors or contacts. They also reduce the electromagnetic interference that can affect signal quality or damage electrical components.

Overall, the use of inductive couplers brings about a combination of flexibility, reliability, and safety, making them a valuable choice in various industrial and technological settings.

Who Moved My Data? Part 2: Insourcing Condition Monitoring

In my previous blog on this topic, “Who Moved My Data? Outsourcing Condition Monitoring,” I established the case for condition-based monitoring of critical assets to ensure a reduction in unplanned downtime. I also explored the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing condition monitoring from critical assets. Here I discuss the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to condition monitoring and explore its advantages and disadvantages.

Understanding the DIY approach

Now, let me be clear to avoid any confusion, when I refer to “do it yourself,” I don’t mean literally doing it yourself. Instead, this is something you own and customize to fit your applications. It may require a fair amount of input from your maintenance teams and plants. It’s not a one-day job, of course, but an ongoing initiative to help improve productivity and have continuous improvements throughout the plant.

Advantages and disadvantages of DIY condition monitoring (insourcing)

Implementing the solutions for continuous condition monitoring of critical assets by yourself has many advantages, along with some disadvantages. Let’s review them.

Advantages of insourcing (DIY) condition monitoring:

    1. Data ownership: One of the greatest benefits or advantages of implementing the DIY approach to condition monitoring is the control it gives you over data. You decide where the data lives, how it is used, and who has access to it. As I emphasized in my previous blog and numerous presentations on this topic, “Data is king” – a highly valuable commodity.
    2. Flexibility and customization: Of course, the DIY solution is not a one-size-fits-all approach! Instead, it allows you to customize the solution to fit your exact needs – the parameters to monitor, the specific areas of the plant to focus on the critical systems and the method of monitoring. You choose how to implement the solutions to fit your plant’s budget.
    3. Low long-term costs: As you own the installations, you own the data and you own the equipment; you don’t need to pay rent for the systems implemented through outsourcing.
    4. The specification advantage: As a plant or company, you can add condition monitoring features as specifications for your next generation of machines and equipment, including specific protocols or components. This allows you to collect the required data from the machine or equipment from the get-go.

Disadvantages of insourcing (DIY) condition monitoring:

    1. High upfront cost: Implementing condition monitoring with a data collection system may involve higher upfront costs. This is because there is a need to invest in data storage solutions, engage experts for condition monitoring implementation (typically from an integration house or through self-integration), and employ developers to create or customize dashboards to fit user needs.
    2. Limited scalability: collecting more data requires additional storage and enhanced analytics capabilities, especially when transitioning from condition-based maintenance to predictive analytics. Designing your own solution with limited budgets may hamper the scalability of the overall system.
    3. Infrastructure maintenance: This is another area that requires close attention. Whether the infrastructure is located on-premises, centralized, or in the cloud, the chosen location may require investments in manpower for ongoing maintenance.

Another point to emphasize here is that opting for a DIY solution does not preclude the use of cloud platforms for data management and data storage. The difference between insourcing and outsourcing lies in the implementation of condition monitoring and related analytics – whether it’s carried out and owned by you or by someone else.

Strategic decision-making: beyond cost considerations

The final point is not to make outsourcing decisions solely based on cost. Condition-based monitoring and the future of analytics offer numerous advantages, and nurturing an in-house culture could be a great source of competitive advantage for the organization. You can always start small and progressively expand.

As always, your feedback is welcome.

Understanding Machine Safety: The Power of Risk Assessments

My last blog post was about machine safety with a focus on the different categories and performance levels of machine safety circuits. But I just briefly touched on how to determine these levels. By default, we could design all equipment with the highest-level category and performance levels of safety with an abundance of caution, but this approach could be extremely expensive and not the most efficient.

Enter the important concept of risk assessments which enable us to identify, evaluate, and prioritize potential hazards and risks associated with specific activities, processes, or systems. Whether it’s in the domain of occupational health and safety, environmental health, or product safety, risk assessments can guide us toward ensuring the safety of those who may interact with these hazards. This process involves the following well-defined series of steps, including hazard identification, risk analysis, risk evaluation, and risk control.

Hazard identification

Hazard identification involves identifying potential hazards and risks associated with the activity, process, or system you’re assessing. This can be done using a variety of methods, such as observing the process, reviewing relevant documentation, or consulting with experts.

Looking at Figure 1, what are the hazards? They are pinch points from the robot, crush points from the robot, and shock or burn from the end effector. Another potential hazard that cannot be determined by the picture is the speed at which the pallet is traveling. Identifying the hazards is an important step because you cannot mitigate a risk without properly identifying it first.

Risk analysis

Analyzing the likelihood and severity of the identified hazards and risks is key to risk analysis. Various methods, including the use of historical data, simulations, or mathematical models can facilitate this.

Risk evaluation

Risk evaluation involves assessing the significance of the identified hazards and risks by considering their exposure, severity of injury, and the likelihood of avoiding that hazard. In this example, the robot could potentially crush you, making it a high severity. When the robot operates at full speed, the likelihood of avoiding it is low. In the case of an automated cell, exposure may be infrequent, but maintenance on the robots will still be necessary.

Risk control

Risk control encompasses the identification and implementation of measures to prevent or mitigate the identified hazards and risks. This can include redesigning the process, implementing safety controls, or providing training to employees.

Again, the category and performance levels of safety controls required are based on the defined risks.

In our robot example above, the first control we would implement is an enclosure around the robot to prevent people from getting close to the hazard. We cannot have an enclosure without some method for entering the enclosure, so we will add a door to the enclosure. It’s the door’s interaction with the cell that must have the appropriate category and performance level based on our evaluation. When the door is open, we will limit the operation and speed of the robot. We can use a teach pendant with a “dead man” switch that requires the person inside the cell to hold it while operating the robot at a slower speed. This will decrease the likelihood of a hazard. Additionally, we would need to have a method for the pallet to enter in and out of the enclosure.

Risk assessments should be conducted with a group of qualified people which may include safety personnel, engineers, managers, and potentially end users familiar with the automation process. The risk assessment process is iterative in that it may need repeating if new hazards or risks are identified, or if changes are made to the activity, process, or system being assessed.

Have a safe day!

Click to read my previous blog post Focusing on Machine Safety.

Using RFID Technology for Rapid Changeover

In today’s tight economy, marked by high inflation and supply chain issues, the need to enhance product flexibility has become increasingly important. Most manufacturing lines these days are set up to run multiple work orders of the same product type based on specific requirements. The goods produced at the manufacturer line are still the same, but the package size can change. The raw materials that start the process might be the same, but other component parts and tools on the machine that help with the different packaging sizes must be replaced. The process of converting one product line or machine to another is known as changeover. This blog explores how Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology can revolutionize changeover by eliminating manual verification and adjustments.

Challenges of changeovers

Changeover can involve swapping out parts, tools, or molds specific to each product along with setting up specific parameters on the PLC controller for that product run. This requires personnel to make sure all the required parts are exchanged out correctly and the new settings are correctly entered into the controller. Afterward, it is necessary to verify that everything is correct before full production starts again with the new work order. Any incorrect setting part replacement can result in wasted product and troubleshooting. During this changeover period, no products are being produced since the machine/line is being set up for the new work order. Therefore, it makes sense to try and reduce this time as much as possible to maximize production efficiency and reduce produce waste.

Role of RFID technology in streamlining changeovers

Using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology can significantly help changeover in the manufacturing process by preventing errors, and ensuring correct component loading and accurate parameter settings. RFID tags can be attached to different parts requiring replacement for various packaging sizes and to store all the information needed for the production run, including product-specific settings and parameters that need to go back to the PLC controller.

In the figure below, three RFID tags are attached to different parts needed to run the production Variant A of a product.  All three tags are programmed for use with Variant A along with any required settings for the controller. For a different product size, the parts that needed to be swapped out would have a unique RFID tag on them – Variant B, for example. Before the controller starts a new production run, a RFID antenna can quickly scan the RFID tags to verify that all three Variant A parts are on the machine. The RFID antenna can quickly tell if a part was missing, or if Variant B was loaded by mistake. This can be tied back to a signal on the controller so that it does not run. The RFID antenna can also read the product-specific settings on the RFID tags and send those parameters to the controller as well, eliminating the need to manually enter the settings in the controller.

RFID helps by taking out the manual verification and adjustments needed by the operator. With careful planning and implementation, RFID technology can help reduce downtime, increase productivity, and improve operational efficiency.

Click here to learn about guided changeover solutions, including step-by-step instructions to improve OEE.

Unlocking the Future of Manufacturing With Smart Sensor Technology

In the present technological age, sensing technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace, transforming the way we monitor the manufacturing process. One of the newest innovations that will reshape various manufacturing and industries is the advent of smart sensor products. These “smart” sensing devices have permeated every aspect of our lives personally, let alone in manufacturing, and offer unparalleled advantages in information, efficiency, convenience, and sustainability. Let’s explore some of the compelling reasons why smart sensors will soon become indispensable in manufacturing and highlight the aspects they will impact.

Beyond single sensing

Smart sensor products are engineered to offer more than just a single sensing function, such as a photoeye sensor detecting the presence of a pallet. They can also detect and respond to various environmental inputs like internal temperature, cycle count, vibration, and even inclination changes. This enables significantly greater insight into a changing manufacturing environment, possibly even prompting the need for human intervention before a failure occurs.

Efficiency, automation, and cost savings

In manufacturing, sensors play a crucial role in improving production processes, reducing waste, and enhancing quality control. But today’s smart sensors can also provide greater efficiency and speed in changes to the manufacturing environment and automate not only the manufacturing process but the detection of changes as well. This increased efficiency and automation not only saves time and resources but also holds the potential for substantial long-term cost savings by minimizing waste.

Real-time insights for informed decisions

Smart sensors can collect and report significant real-time data, providing valuable insights into various phenomena, as mentioned above. In manufacturing, imagine detecting a rise in temperature on the production line that could potentially affect product quality or the efficiency of the manufacturing equipment. Or consider identifying changes in a sensor’s inclination, possibly because the device has come loose or shifts in the machine’s mounting – both of which can negatively affect product quality and productivity, lead to waste, and even unplanned downtime.

Smart sensors and environmental conservation

The ability to collect and analyze precise environment and device performance data empowers manufacturers and industries to make informed decisions, encourage innovation, and significantly improve problem-solving processes.

Smart sensor products can play a pivotal role in environmental conservation efforts. By monitoring conditions like vibration and even inclination, these sensors can detect problems in motors and drive systems that can have a direct impact on energy consumption. Typically, they tend to consume more power to compensate for the impending mechanical failures. By detecting these conditions sooner rather than later, smart sensors can help optimize energy usage in manufacturing industries, contributing to the global push for energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.

Safety enhancement

Smart sensor technologies can also bolster safety measures across various systems. In manufacturing, they can detect hazardous conditions like excessive heat buildup and vibration. This enables prompt interventions and helps prevent accidents that could jeopardize safety.

IoT with smart sensors

And finally, smart sensors are at the heart of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0, connecting more devices and systems in seamless communication using protocols like IO-Link and Ethernet. This interconnectedness fosters innovation by enabling the development of new, more efficient manufacturing applications and services. For instance, smart sensors in industrial settings help predictive maintenance, which in turn reduces downtime, enhances overall productivity, and bolsters competitiveness. The integration of smart sensors is driving a wave of innovation, transforming ideas into tangible solutions.

Embracing the future: competitive advantage

The adoption of smart sensor products represents a paradigm shift in how we perceive and interact with machines in manufacturing. Their ability to enhance efficiency, improve data analysis, report on, and improve the environment, ensure safety, and foster innovation underscores the significance they can play in the modern manufacturing facility. As we continue to explore the boundless possibilities of interacting technology, embracing smart sensor products is not just a choice, but a competitive advantage. By integrating these intelligent devices into our machines and industries, we are paving the way for a future that is more productive, efficient, environmentally sustainable, and more interconnected. This marks another transformative leap toward a smarter and more interconnected manufacturing world.

Cracking the Code: How to Choose the Best M12 Connector for Your Application

The new iPhone packs a pretty punch — better camera, bigger battery, more storage in a selection of pastels – but, uh oh, your old charger is incompatible.  The disappearance of the Lightning port makes all the previously purchased chargers – one in the kitchen, the car, the bedroom, the office – obsolete. And without the right cable, your iPhone becomes an expensive paperweight.

The need for proper cables isn’t limited to our phones, of course. In the ever-evolving world of automation, a multitude of new products emerge daily, each demanding the precise cable for optimal functionality. Even within standard cable sizes, the array of connector types designed for diverse applications can be overwhelming.

Selecting the right cable for your application involves careful consideration of size, length, number of connectors, pinout, and the sometimes-confusing cable codes. Cable codes signify a cable’s unique capabilities and intended uses. Different codes correspond to distinct specifications and electrical features.

There are a wide variety of cable codings used for different purposes. Let’s explore the five most common M12 cable codes and their respective applications:

  • A-coded connectors: The most prevalent connector style, these are the go-to choice for sensors, actuators, motors, and standard devices. A-coded connectors can feature a varying number of pins, ranging from two to twelve.
  • B-coded connectors: Predominantly employed in network cables for fieldbus connections, particularly within Profibus systems. B-coded connectors typically come with three to five pins.
  • C-coded connectors: Less common but valuable, these connectors find their niche with AC sensors and actuators. They offer an additional level of security with a dual keyway, ensuring they are not mistakenly used in place of another cable. C-coded connectors usually sport three to six pins.
  • D-coded connectors: The choice for network cables designed for Ethernet and ProfiNet systems, these connectors can transfer data up to 100 Mb. Typically, they provide three to five pins.
  • X-coded connectors: A more recent innovation in the world of cables, X-coded connectors are gaining popularity for their capacity to transfer large data volumes at high speeds, up to 1 Gb. These are particularly suitable for high-speed data transfer in industrial applications. Unlike other coded cables, X-coded cables consistently feature eight pins.

By understanding the distinctive attributes of each M12 cable code, you can ensure your automation system operates efficiently and effectively.

Which One Is the Salad Fork Again? Fork Sensors in Modern Factory Automation

You’ve probably heard of forklifts, salad forks, forks in the road, even forked tongues, but what do forks have to do with factory automation and object detection? I’ll get to the answer, but for now, let’s talk about arguably the most reliable form of object detection: through-beam photoelectric sensors.

An unsung hero of reliable object detection is the through-beam photoelectric sensor. Its operation is simple: an emitter sends light to a receiver. No reflectors, no fancy, high-tech lasers, and very few material limitations are involved. If the emitter and receiver are properly aligned, and within their designated range, the sensor is happy and will function well. It detects when the transmitted light is blocked.

The Achilles heel of through-beam sensors: why alignment matters

You probably have a through-beam photoelectric sensor at the bottom of your garage door. Garage door companies use this technology because it’s both reliable and inexpensive, with the power to span large distances. However, the Achilles heel of through-beam sensors is their vulnerability to misalignment. Whether it’s a complex light curtain or a simple garage door safety switch, ensuring the alignment of the emitter and receiver is key for the sensor’s reliability. Proper alignment also takes up more time during installation and may cause issues during production. Misalignment can occur whether a kid is hitting the emitter with her bike in the garage or a production worker is hanging his coat on the sensor on the factory floor.

The evolution of object detection: introducing the “fork” sensor

Imagine having the benefits of a through-beam sensor but without the hassles of installation and the risk of production disruptions. This is the key principle behind one of my favorite types of sensors designed for factories: the fork sensor. It consists of an emitter and a receiver set at a fixed distance and pre-aligned at the factory, all enclosed within a fork-shaped housing. These sensors are available in various spacings, each optimized for reliable object detection and greatly reducing the chances of errors. The beauty of this housing is that it allows for single-point mounting and provides protection for the vital parts of the sensor, preventing them from harm and being knocked out of alignment.

The use of forks in eating separates us from our ancient ancestors. We have evolved even more over the years to use different-sized forks for different courses and types of foods. Like the title of this article suggests, I can never remember which one is the salad fork. Think about the benefits of my favorite sensor type, the “fork” sensor, and see if it could make your automation process more civilized.

Boosting Sensor Resilience in Welding With Self-Bunkering Inductive Proximity Sensors

A welding cell will press the limits of any sensor placed in its proximity. Avoiding weld spatter, magnetic fields, extreme temperatures, and impact damage are common challenges in a harsh welding environment. And when sensors fail in these conditions, it can significantly disrupt production uptime. To prevent such disruptions, manufacturers explore more robust sensor mounting solutions, such as proximity mounts, bunker blocks, and other protective devices to shield sensors from these harsh conditions. The self-bunkering inductive proximity sensor plays a key role in alleviating the issues, especially in situations where other accessories are not an option due to limited space.

Weld spatter and magnetic field resistant

In many welding applications, the substantial currents involved can generate heightened magnetic fields, making a welding cell vulnerable to interference. This interference can lead a basic proximity sensor to trigger, even though a part may not be present. The self-bunkering proximity sensor is designed to resist magnetic fields, allowing it to work much closer to the welding surface than a typical inductive sensor. Additionally, the sensor comes with a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) weld coating, allowing for easy removal of the spatter buildup with abrasive tools like a wire brush.

Guard against heavy impacts

Again, the self-bunkering inductive proximity sensor is built for rugged environments. It features a thick, strong one-piece connector body and super thick brass housing to buffer the internal electronics from external impacts and conductive heat. It also includes a deflection ring and a non-brittle, ferrite-free coil carrier to protect the sensor face from direct impacts, disperse shock, and safeguard internal sensing components. The wide-radius corners offer stress relief at the major junction points of the connector body and housing.

Withstand extreme temperatures

With a ceramic PTFE-coated face plate, the sensor can resist up to 2200°F weld spatter burn through from the front. The rest of the body, coated with PTFE and paired with an extra-thick brass housing, provides protection for the sensor up to 300°F. This means that if the sensor is properly maintained, its lifetime should be quite a bit longer than a standard inductive sensor.

Don’t replace, defend

The core components of the proximity sensor can be destroyed if any of the three critical failures – conducted heat, impact, or spatter – occur in combination. To prevent this, the product incorporates a collection of design measures intended to create a virtually impenetrable shield around the internal critical components.

In summary, the self-bunkering inductive proximity sensor is a key solution to combat the challenges sensors face in harsh welding environments that will ultimately disrupt production. Its resistance to magnetic fields and ability to withstand heavy impacts and extreme temperatures, especially in situations with limited space, ensures the protection of the critical sensor components and extended sensor lifespan.