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Weigh the Options for Selecting Industrial Position Sensors



Bourns' Model AMS22U and Model AMM20B non-contacting rotary position sensors may be used in industrial, commercial, medical and automotive applications such as pneumatic control valve position feedback, actuator motor position feedback, lift/shuttle suspension systems, tilt control feedback and patient platform position feedback.
When sourcing rotary position sensors for industrial applications, buyers need to take a look at the total cost of ownership when comparing non-contact to contacting type sensors. Typically, contact position sensors come with a lower price tag. However, they also have several technical limitations, including less durability and shorter lifetime.

"Non-contact sensors are witnessing increased adoption in harsh working environments, by virtue of their strong resistance to high temperatures and pressures when compared to traditional contact sensing systems," according to a market research study from Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (GIA), San Jose, Calif.


"The cost of machine downtime, service calls and replacement parts must all be taken into consideration when selecting the best and most reliable product for the application," says Chuck Manzano, application engineer for sensors and controls at Bourns.
Rotary position sensors that use non-contact magnetoresistive (MR) technology are easier to integrate into a design, and offer highly accurate and sensitive absolute position sensing and high durability, says Rob Hillman, speed and position North America product marketing manager at Honeywell Sensing and Control, Golden Valley, Minn. In addition, the non-contact design eliminates mechanical failure mechanisms, which reduces wear, improves reliability and durability, and minimizes downtime.

The primary benefit of a rotary magnetic sensor is the use of the solid state technology, which allows the sensor to operate in environments with dust, debris and vibration, Hillman adds.

But because non-contact position sensors typically come with a higher price tag, in the range of $15 to $25, buyers will need to consider the total cost of ownership before widespread adoption in industrial applications takes off.

"The cost of machine downtime, service calls and replacement parts must all be taken into consideration when selecting the best and most reliable product for the application," says Chuck Manzano, application engineer for sensors and controls at Bourns, Inc., Riverside, Calif.

"There is continuing price pressure from supply chain management to provide lower-cost products. The typical request is for 5% reduction in price per year," says Manzano. "However, when replacement and service calls are taken into consideration, contacting products result in a higher cost over non-contacting products even though the price of non-contact products may be higher."


Rotary position sensors that use non-contact magnetoresistive (MR) technology are easier to integrate into a design, and offer highly accurate and sensitive absolute position sensing and high durability, says Rob Hillman, Honeywell's speed and position North America product marketing manager.
"Overall, the cost of raw materials continues to increase, resulting in higher prices for contacting products. As an example, the cost of a contacting product may be $8 today and may last two years in service before it is replaced," says Manzano. "When the product is replaced, the market price may be $10 due to material increases. This covers four years of service plus the cost of servicing the equipment and down time."

On the other hand, a non-contacting product may cost $18 today, but will provide 10 years or more of trouble-free service," he adds.

GIA expects that technology innovations will drive the sensor technology into newer applications. The big markets today for position sensors include process and manufacturing sectors and the automotive industry. The global position sensor market is projected to reach $6.1 billion by 2018, according to GIA.

"We see innovation occurring in the industrial, transportation and medical areas, where they are adopting RTY-like products [non-contact Hall-effect rotary position sensors] to help enable new applications, which is one of the contributing factors to the increasing volume trend," says Hillman.

However, he says there has been slower than expected adoption of smart position sensors. Smart position sensors are available in non-contact rotary configurations.

GIA's report finds that these sensors are making gains due to space constraints and the need for greater flexibility and performance, and higher accuracy levels. High adoption is expected in pneumatic and hydraulic machines and plastic processing industries.


The Honeywell RTY series of Hall-effect rotary position sensors provide a variety of options, including sensing range, pinout, and voltage range for industrial and transportation applications.
The value proposition for smart sensors is the rugged packaging, high accuracy and the ability to handle dust, dirt, water and heat, making "certain nasty industrial environments a good place to start," says Nelson. Smart sensors can be used in materials handling, industrial wash-down environments, and other applications where there is a lot of hot or cold water spray, high temperatures and cleaners, he adds.

Sensors used in industrial applications need to withstand a wide range of harsh environments, including dirt, dust, water, heat and chemicals, while offering a long lifetime, which is why non-contact rotary position sensors are starting to make inroads in the industrial market.

"Requirements for higher performance and increased product longevity for applications that operate in harsh or rugged environments are two of the top trends in the rotary position sensor market," says Manzano. "More stringent reliability standards and safety are driving these trends, as well as an increasing number of applications that operate in extreme environmental conditions."

In addition, the ability to easily customize a position sensor by providing a wide range of options is a key differentiator, and something that customers are demanding, says Ben Nelson, senior application engineer-speed and position, Honeywell Sensing and Control, Golden Valley, Minn.


The ability to easily customize a position sensor by providing a wide range of options is a key differentiator, and something that customers are demanding, says Ben Nelson, Honeywell's senior application engineer-speed and position.
Honeywell continues to add different variants and offer custom options for its position sensor lines, including the RTY series of non-contact Hall-effect rotary position sensors, whether it's using different magnetics or connectors, and/or adding unique outputs or levers to meet customer requirements.

If Honeywell doesn't have product available and a customer needs to urgently test the device, that's where the company leverages the capabilities of its channel partners— including Hotenda—that place stocking orders during the product launch in order to service those customers.

In most cases, if a custom part is requested, it won't extend leadtimes beyond the average delivery of 40 days, unless it's a very special or complex design change, says Nelson.

"As an example, with a different connector, we have to get new drawings made, change our design, get the connectors in-house, and determine how we're going to crimp and solder them, which takes a little longer," he adds.

Looking ahead, rotary position sensor manufacturers expect to be continually driven to innovate and provide devices with higher reliability, longer life and smaller package profiles.


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