Precision Pneumatic Cylinder Sensing

When referring to pneumatic cylinders, we are seeing a need for reduced cylinder and sensor sizes. This is becoming a requirement in many medical, semiconductor, packaging, and machine tool applications due to space constraints and where low mass is needed throughout the assembly process.

These miniature cylinder applications are typically implemented into light-to-medium duty applications with lower air pressures with the main focus being precision sensing Image 2with maximum repeatability. For example, in many semiconductor applications, the details
and tolerances are much tighter and more controlled than say, a muffler manufacturer that uses much more robust equipment with slower cycle times. In some cases, manufacturing facilities will have several smaller sub-assemblies that feed into the main assembly line. These sub-assemblies can have several miniature pneumatic cylinders as part of the process. Another key advantage miniature cylinders offer is quieter operation due to lower air pressures, making the work place much safer for the machine operators and maintenance technicians. With projected growth in medical and semiconductor markets, there will certainly be a major need for miniature assembly processes including cylinders, solenoids, and actuators used with miniature sensors.

One commonality with miniature cylinders is they require the reliable wear-free position detection available from magnetic field sensors. These sensors are miniature in size, however Image 1offer the same reliable technology as the full-size sensors commonly used in larger assemblies. Miniature magnetic field sensors play a key role as speed, precision, and weight all come into play. The sensors are integrated into these small assemblies with the same importance as the cylinder itself. Highly accurate switching points with high precision and high repeatability are mandatory requirements for such assembly processes.

To learn more about miniature magnetic field sensors visit

Sensor Technology Drivers in Semiconductor Manufacturing

As in many industries, the degree of automation in semiconductor manufacturing is increasing.  The reasons for this are the same as in any industry striving to automate: increase throughput, reduce labor, and improve quality.

However, semiconductor manufacturing presents some unique technical challenges that differentiate it from conventional manufacturing in other industries.  Some of the factors driving sensor technology in automated semiconductor manufacturing include:

  • Small size.  The clean room environment, necessary for semiconductor processing, is very expensive per square foot.  There is constant pressure to reduce the size of the machines, and the sensors that go into them.
    • In fact, the high cost of clean room space is another motivator for reducing the role of humans in the process.  Not only do humans take up a lot of physical space, they represent about 75% of the particle contaminant sources in the clean room.
  • Advanced Process Control (APC).   APC is a method for shortening the time frame between collection of SPC (Statistical Process Control) data and the application of process corrections.  This means that rather than time-consuming external metrology, there is a drive for so-called “in-situ” metrology. There is a need to measure process variables in real-time or near-real time in order to close the APC loop in a shorter time frame.

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Industrial Sensing Fundamentals – Back to the Basics: NPN vs PNP

Written by: Andrew Bollinger

What’s the difference and why should anyone care? If you’re confused by the terms PNP and NPN, then hopefully this post will shed some light on the differences between the two.  In the context of this post, they refer to the construction of a sensor’s transistor and whether it has a p-type or n-type semiconductor.

When it comes to wiring a sensor, you can think of the “N” as standing for “Negative” and the “P” as standing for “Positive”. With respect to sensors, an NPN device is one that can switch the negative side of the circuit while a PNP device switches the positive side.

The next question to ask is, what direction do you want the current to flow?

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