Essential Types of Sensors Used in Industrial Process Automation

Sensors are available in an extensive range of varieties; selecting the right one for a specific application is vital. In industrial applications, almost all sensor categories are needed. There are position sensors, temperature sensors, level sensors, and pressure sensors which all are essential components of automation and machine function.

In specific applications, the sensor is the core element that makes up its function. This is especially true for industrial machinery which requires sensors for controlling quality, maintaining efficiency, and ensuring safety.

Controlling industrial processes

The role of sensors in controlling various industrial processes is wide-ranging. Industries involved in chemical production, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, energy generation, utilities, and the oil and gas sector need sensor manufacturers like to supply a host of sensors used in automated processes. Automation is integrated into industrial processing because it not only increases the speed of production, it also ensures the efficient consumption of raw materials while at the same time minimising waste. Sensors control parameters integral to these processes and accurate sensor selection is equally important.

Types of sensors used in industrial processes

There are many examples of specific types of sensors used for industrial automation:

  • Position sensors. As the same suggests, the function of a position sensor is to detect object displacement. For industrial processes, the two most common types of position sensors used are linear variable differential transducers (LVDTs) and encoders. An LVDT is a non-contact type of sensor where the primary mechanism consists of a cylindrical core. LVDTs are quite useful for scientific applications because they are resistant to wear and tear.
  • Force sensor. Sensors used in measuring force and pressure are similar to transducers in function. When there is pressure imposed on the sensor, it will generate a signal that will be transmitted to the device and interpreted accordingly.
  • Acceleration sensors. Accelerometers detect the vibrations that affect an object. This type of sensor is typically used in automobiles and aircraft. This sensor functions by detecting vibration and sending position data to the device, in which a specific example of using accelerometers is guiding an aircraft.
  • Level sensor. This type of sensor is another common device used for industrial automation. Level sensors are usually found in applications where fluid flows. Some level sensors can be submerged to maintain the proper fluid level inside a tube or tank.
  • Wireless sensors. Traditional sensor systems often include wires to connect the device to external accessories and instruments, but wired installation can be time-consuming and susceptible to power losses. Wireless sensors are a suitable alternative to improve process controls because they reduce the cost of maintenance and improves process control and monitoring.

Sensors used in industrial processes can also be mechanical, capacitive, optical, or inductive. The simplest form of a sensor system is a mechanical type sensor which functions to switch on or switch off a specific application. Inductive sensors, on the other hand, are robust and are suitable for applications exposed to harsher conditions. Process control engineers use a variety of different types of sensors for each specific application not only to ensure functionality, but to drive down the cost of installation as well.