Pack Expo 2007: Programmable sensors enhance production speed, quality

Las Vegas, NV—“Test often. Improve productivity” is the mantra Matt Simms, product manager for photoelectric sensors at Eaton Corp., an advocate for high-speed automated production. “You can spend $10,000 on an automated inspection system that will look at 29 quality measures,” he says, “but it may not be able to keep up with the line, in which case you’re doing sampling, not 100% inspection.”

10/17/2007


Las Vegas, NV —“Test often. Improve productivity” is the mantra Matt Simms, product manager for photoelectric sensors at Eaton Corp ., an advocate for high-speed automated production. “You can spend $10,000 on an automated inspection system that will look at 29 quality measures,” he says, “but it may not be able to keep up with the line, in which case you’re doing sampling, not 100% inspection.”

A better strategy, he suggests, is to test often—ideally after every operation—with simpler sensors capable of verifying the result. “For example,” he continues, “our iProx programmable inductive proximity sensors, when set up correctly, can see the difference between a small bracket with a hole drilled in it and the same bracket when the hole has been missed.” Verifying each operation means that any mistake can be caught immediately, before more work is done on parts destined for the scrap heap, anyway. It also catches mistakes when there is a better chance of saving the part.

What makes this strategy work, Simms suggests, is that iProx sensors are field programmable. Communicating with the sensor through an inductive “cap” placed over the sensor’s sensing element, a portable computer, or even a personal digital assistant (PDA) type handheld device, can program the sensor’s built-in microprocessor with a number of performance characteristics, such as gain, range, normally open / closed action, sensing band and more. Using this programmability, a system integrator can tailor the sensor’s performance for the application at hand.

While integrators can theoretically apply this strategy using any sufficiently sensitive and stable analog inductive sensor, the task is considerably simplified by Eaton’s advanced field programming system, Simms says. At its heart is the microprocessor built into the sensor head. This processor controls on-board signal-conditioning electronics to affect programming features.

The iProx sensor family includes the iProx Analog model with advanced features such as scalable 0-20 mA and 0-10 V dc output; the iProx Clone with the ability to “read” its external environment and sense variations that provide important control information; and the standard model, Simms says, which has limited programmability and superior price / performance.

Other Control Engineering Pack Expo coverage is available

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Also see the new blog on Control Engineering 's site:
Standard profits: Pack ISA-88 Part 5.

C.G. Masi, senior editor
Control Engineering
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