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Top Sensors Used in the Market

The smart manufacturing process is intended to optimize all production process steps and involves the use of sensors, those of which play a vital role in sub-sector logistics involving procurement, production, distribution, and end of life cycles. This article explores a variety of popular sensor types used in different parts of the smart manufacturing process.

Regarding supply chain logistics, there is a reliance on the proper management of massive amounts of components, packages, and storage devices. Through smart manufacturing technology, tracking these objects is made possible. For example, a Boeing 777 aircraft is constructed of more than three million separate parts which are sourced from more than five hundred suppliers and manufacturers. Managing the millions of parts that comprise an airplane involves the help of massive amounts of data sets which are dependent upon the automated tracking of all such components in a warehouse.

There exists a variety of tracking tag types including RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification tags, which are inexpensive wireless identification devices used to keep track of supply chain inventory. RFID tag readers are present at loading docks and come in the form handheld devices that passively read tags up to ten meters away. This makes quick package, product reel, and individual component tracking possible. Meanwhile, NFC tags are used to validate information about products and offer more product data to smart manufacturing systems.

During production, six different types of sensors are often employed in specialized smart manufacturing systems. First, temperature sensors are used in applications where temperatures need to be maintained for proper product application, such as in petrochemical, pharmaceutical, food, medical, and raw material manufacturing. An example is aluminum drinking cans which feature a food safe plastic coating that needs to be applied at specific temperatures to correctly stick to the interior of the can itself. Another type of sensor is the hall effect sensor which is used for counting applications, employing a magnet attached to a machine component in motion. The hall effect sensor is able to detect the magnet and offer data to the machine controller like in a rotating bottle labeler. In this application, the label spindle can be monitored and adjusted when the hall effect sensor receives magnetic input. This makes seamless label application possible. A third sensor type is the infrared sensor which is used to monitor the infrared output of an object. As such, these sensors can detect temperature data, gas composition analysis, object reflectivity, and surface smoothness. In addition, infrared sensors are used to keep track of the gas composition in applications like titanium welding to keep dangerous gas away from the manufacturing system.

Proximity sensors are another type of sensor that monitors how close the sensor is to an object. These are used in smart manufacturing applications where machines are performing automated manufacturing actions. For example, manufacturing pick and place machine sensors tend to contain proximity sensors to let the tool know how close it is to the component when moving it. On the other hand, the accelerometer is another type of sensor used in many smart manufacturing systems involving motor control, anti-theft, machine dynamics, and much more. Finally, level sensors gauge the level of fluid in distribution and storage containers to ensure their processes are operating smoothly.

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