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VIEWPOINT | TECHNOLOGY Sensors in Automation: Trends & Prospects

Nov 27, 2018

In industrial automation, sensors play a dynamic part to make products intellectual and remarkably automatic. These authorise one to perceive, evaluate, measure and course an assortment of transformations like alteration in position, length, height, exterior and dislocation that occurs in the industrial manufacture sites. New sensors not only expand the meticulousness of manufacturing processes but can help to gather even more information about them than was possible before. The Viewpoint section examines the growth opportunities in sensor technology in automation, what drives their demand in India and their role in predicting and preventing future events.

To meet the demands of smart factory, sensors should be easy to configure

Signal processing in sensors has vastly changed over the years. With the arrival of high-speed and compact electronic technology, the interaction of sensors with remaining part of machinery has developed immensely. Industry 4.0 is the buzzword in automation and IIoT forms the basis of smart factory. To meet the demands of smart factory, sensors should be easy to configure and simple to install. Other than this, the demand for rugged and durable sensors will always remain as one of the primary breaks for progression.

Sensors which protect man, machine, environment, thus guaranteeing safety and high availability of plant and machinery, have been witnessing major growth. Many innovative technologies, such as, RFID and tactile sensors are being adopted to make sure that the sensors are manipulation-proof. Besides, sensors are the first point of detection of any parameter change in the machine; they can detect non-conformity and trigger the main controller for further safe action. They themselves have fault-detection circuitry, which sends a response to the controller for monitoring system health. This leads to enhanced safety, which is very vital for HRC, where humans and robots work hand-in-hand.

Sanjay Kulkarni, Managing Director, Pilz India

The biggest innovation taking place in the world of sensors is IO-Link

Sensors have been upgraded very fast in the market. Real time monitoring of machine parameters and equipment being designed with Predictive Maintenance in mind is what is driving sensor demand in India in addition to the generic growth in sensor application due to increased automation levels on the plant floor. These days, the biggest innovation taking place in the world of sensors is IO-Link. The IO-Link technology, being digital, is being accepted by almost all industries, where we want to overcome traditional challenges of analogue systems like EMC issues / signal losses, etc, which are very common in analogue signals. This technology will drive total costs down as compared to analogue systems. It will certainly bring big information from sensors into the IoT interface, directly as well as into the PLC. It will also enable us to equip the machines to have much more Predictive Maintenance features, on the basis of extra data we get from the sensors.

Bipin Jirge, Managing Director, ifm electronic India

Data ownership will become the foremost concern

Efficient sensors, combined with communication capability, are driving sensing technologies and their possibilities in the industry way ahead of what they used to be. The fast growing Indian industry has already identified and defined connectivity as a priority. Hence, the demand for connected sensors is increasing and this will reflect in a medium-term economic impact, to both the local industry and major technology exporters.

When it comes to advances in sensor technology, these are mainly noticed on the basis of performance, efficiency and connectivity perspectives. The results are fast measurements integrated to systems that will compile this data, helping companies to take faster action and save money. Even as far as growth opportunities in sensor technology in automation are concerned, those are mainly present where connectivity is present – everything will be connected in the near future and data ownership will become the foremost concern. Companies must be ready to deliver solutions, which connect sensing points and give informative reports in a user-friendly way. What’s more, today’s biggest concern is not only measuring but learning through measurement, so that automatic action can be taken without human interaction. So, Predictive Maintenance will be possible through machine learning algorithms, which use sensor information as their main input.

Bruno Albuquerque, Key Account Executive, NOVUS Automation

With Industry 4.0, the role of sensors will become more crucial

Sensors are the eyes and ears of any automation system. Thus, the accuracy and efficiency of any system depends heavily on sensor specifications. Sensors started from being based on mechanical principles and now are even being developed on wireless technologies. They are becoming more and more technology-oriented, with latest features, such as, wireless sensing, IOLinks, etc. Additionally, with the advent of Industry 4.0, the role of sensors will become more crucial. Smart sensors will be needed at every point and the information required will elevate from GO/NO-GO inputs to a totally new dimension of detailed data from every point in the field.

Technocrats want sensors, which are compatible with the latest communication protocols and are able to work in high temperatures, pressures, and all sorts of environments, such as, underwater, space, etc. at a competitive price. When it comes to sensors’ contribution to predicting and preventing future events, it is governed by the data/history of events, which need to be evaluated in order to analyse the present state of any environment, as a result, arriving to conclusions regarding deterioration levels. The data can be obtained through sensors and so, whether it is the industry or the environment, we will need high levels of sensors if we want to predict future events and prevent mishaps from taking place.

Deepak Aran, Director, Contrinex Automation

Sensors are carriers of first level of information

Sensors have radically changed how we understand our world in real time. Sensors these days are small, smart and sustainable of every imaginable description that comes with the ability to connect to the internet and exchange information in real time. Wireless and IoT are some of the emerging trends in sensor technology. With this new capability, sensors are penetrating the gamut of applications in various industries, from smart industrial productions to security & surveillance.

Speaking of security, large scale production coupled with escalating security concerns and ongoing technological developments in consumer electronics are drawing the sensor market to India. Recent advances of sensor technologies have been powered by high-speed and low-cost electronic circuits, novel signal processing methods and advanced manufacturing technologies. The growth in the sensor market can also be attributed to the growth of the industrial sector as a whole; the initiation of smart city project, demand for sensors in smart homes in building automation segment and the phenomenal increase in process industries – all offer passable growth in sensor technology in automation.

Hence, being at the bottom of the automation pyramid, sensors are carriers of first level of information from the field to control room. Today’s smart and intelligent sensors analyse and give information to higher control system to take preventive actions and collect & store information for prediction purposes.

Prakash Rao, Director, JUMO India

Sensors greatly eliminate the role of automation system

Over the years, sensors have emerged as the core component of industrial automation. Earlier, sensors played the role of transferring signal to high level automation systems. But nowadays, they offer more than that — they give intelligent signals and data and thereby, eliminate the role of automation system to a great extent. They are impeccably integrated in plant communication systems. Also, they now communicate with other sensors on intelligent networks and collect data and transfer them to cloud for further storage and computing.

The demand for sensors is also increasing as the industrial automation level is rising. More machines are now automated and sensors come as handy tools to automate machines and plants. Greater awareness on safety of people and plant machinery has driven the demand for safety sensors. Diagnostics, data availability and robust performance in harsh environments, etc. are driving the demand for sensors in the country. Plus, the stricter emission norms of the government are driving the sensor business in the field of process automation. So, as sensors become more and more intelligent, they will act as standalone intelligent systems, capable of anticipating wear and tear of machines, likely downtime and failure of certain components. They can also order service parts or maintenance personnel if they are connected to the cloud and are capable of data analytics.

Sensors in the future will be used for data collection and analytics besides their normal routine function of sensing what is there in the field. Industrial revolution 4.0 is driving more and more industries to look for solutions that offer intelligent sensors and which are capable of delivering both signal as well as data. Data storage, computing and Data Analytics will drive the technological developments in the field.

Atul Dave, Managing Director, SICK India

Image Gallery

  • Atul Dave

    Atul Dave, Managing Director, SICK India

  • Deepak Aran

    Deepak Aran, Director, Contrinex Automation

  • Bruno

    Bruno Albuquerque, Key Account Executive, NOVUS Automation

  • Bipin Jirge

    Bipin Jirge, Managing Director, ifm electronic India

  • Prakash Rao

    Prakash Rao, Director, JUMO India

  • Sanjay Kulkar ni

    Sanjay Kulkarni, Managing Director, Pilz India

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