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Different Types of Sensors and Their Advantages and Disadvantages
Nov 25, 2018 - 9:38
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Sensors are integral in machine automation. Sensor technology is also broad, and each type of sensor has specific suitable applications. It is also essential for design engineers to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of sensor so that they can select which sensor is best for the intended use.

Inductive sensors

An inductive position sensor is applied widely in mechanical applications, the food and beverage industry, textile manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and other industrial applications. The most common use of an inductive sensor in process automation is to function as a limit switch since inductive sensors are only sensitive to metal. An inductive position sensor uses a non-contact technology where the sensor does not contact any moving parts; hence it is not sensitive to environmental factors. Some of the advantages of inductive sensors include:

• Not susceptible to wear and tear
• The sensor is non-contact; thus it does not produce false-positive output.
• Operates at a high frequency
• Resistant to mechanical stress and vibration

While inductive sensors are substantially superior to other types of sensors, they are not without limitations. An inductive sensor has low sensitivity and is dependent on the inductive reaction to the frequency of supply voltage.

Contact sensors

A contact sensor is the most straightforward sensing technology used today. These are also called resistors. One specific example of a contact sensor is a potentiometer which uses the resistance change between the object and the connecting wiper and resistive track to measure displacement. Advantages of contact sensors include:

• Low-cost and mass produced
• Can function with constant, alternating supply current

However, contact sensors have a limited lifespan and require consistent maintenance. Contact sensors are also challenging to implement and are affected by wear and tear.

Capacitive sensors

Capacitive sensors, similar to inductive sensors depend on alternating voltage to work. Some of the advantages of using capacitive sensors include high sensitivity, easy installation, and low inertia. On the other hand, capacitive sensors get influenced by electric fields, and measuring devices used with capacitive sensors are relatively more complicated.

Potentiometric sensors

A potentiometric sensor converts linear and angular displacement into electrical output. The advantages of using potentiometric sensors include:

• Simple sensor design
• Relatively compact and lightweight
• Offers high degree of linearity
• Stable performance
• Works with both AC and DC

But since potentiometric sensors consist of a sliding mechanism that gets in contact with the target object, repeated use can cause cracks due to friction. Other disadvantages include:

• Sensitivity to noise
• Can have an operational error due to load
• Small conversion factor
• Susceptibility to wear and tear

Potentiometric sensors are economical and produced in large quantities. This type of sensor is preferred for light applications because it is still reliable and easy to install.

Thermocouple

Thermocouples are high-temperature contact sensors. This type of sensor features a wide range of temperature measurement which is between -200 °C to 2500 °C. The structure of a thermocouple is also simple, durable, and economical to use. However, thermocouples require temperature compensation and also have low accuracy measurement at a temperature of 1 °C.

Image: Unsplash.com


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