Smart Digital Sensor Revolution
Published on : Tuesday 07-09-2021
Smart sensors provide a platform for advancements in automation and improvement in efficiency, says Jasbir Singh.
Sensors are basically devices that convert signals from one form of energy to electrical/digital signals. Smart sensors play a vital role in the process/manufacturing industry for reading the information to which it is designed for, and also transmit information of its health/deterioration pattern to avoid its unpredicted failure. Smart digital sensors enable more accurate and automated collection of data with less erroneous noise in required format to monitor, store and input to control the process.
Diagnostic and maintenance planning
Sensors are an important part of the maintenance plan because that allows us to monitor changes in measured parameters and reflect on controllers for adjustments of the final element to maintain the set point. Multiple sensors are used in systems for monitoring different parameters for collecting information from processes to control, and preventing early failures that result in downtime that cause damage of loss.
Smart sensors are the key enablers of automation for smart industry applications in factories and process industries. Smart sensors are extremely beneficial for condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance. Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance of machines in factories and process systems require several smart sensors for collecting data from equipment and analysing the same with software.
Smart sensors are developed for operations with low power, compact and high noise immunity, and cost-effective in providing Industry 4.0 compatible wired and wireless sensor network solutions. Specific software as well as high-speed data loggers support data scientists in the collection of information and analyses of this data for the development of algorithms. Smart digital sensors collect high speed real time data from assets and communicate with the manufacturing controller by providing inherent signal processing in required format and enhance data communication capabilities. A smart sensor has intelligent, embedded and on-board diagnostics capabilities on advanced platforms. In the past data used to be transmitted through modules/layers, which introduced delays in communication and responsiveness. In order to prevent such delays, smart sensors are developed which are capable of digital data collection/use conversion tools for direct control/display. In Industry 4.0, smart sensors play an active role in enhanced detection of equipment, processes, and network-based sharing of key information across the manufacturing facilities.
Efficiency improvement by advance computing
Smart sensors provide a significant efficient structure and platform for providing advancements in automation and improvement in efficiency. Machine input data information can be accessed in every stage/condition and seamless communication of this information in high speed real time which is to be used to reduce maintenance costs, increase operational efficiency and improve customer experience. The computing capabilities with smart digital sensors have been improved significantly. Large amount of data is being processed in the field sensors itself. Computing and field control is becoming more decentralised. The industry is witnessing field computation and control to improve fidelity and speed. This is driving the growth of local field controllers, reducing the time lag involved and better health monitoring.
Features of smart sensors
Sensor and its data management: Smart sensors are used in an increased number of applications in the process applications and manufacturing sector. Analytics with data continue to improve, with the application of smart sensors, enabling the operator and/or engineers’ timely decision making or auto correction. Storage of complex data in the right format and its retrieval is more manageable. Right algorithms and their continuous improvement have made it easier to predict and thereby understand potential problems for corrective action. As the manufacturing process becomes more integrated and data-intensive, the output signal/signals from such integrated sensor controller devices must be precise and unambiguous. Key challenge shall always be the management of the data generated through the sensor network which is growing day by day of any operating system. Engineers are facing scenarios wherein large amounts of time (about 80%) being spent on extracting relevant data from server/storage device while less than 20% is spent on its analysis and preparing output control strategy. Raw data many a time cannot be used in its raw form. Efficient data collection and stacked storage for fastest retrieval is important. Managing useful data of key process parameters and its continuous use in algorithms to maintain processes and define maintenance schedules is imperative for higher efficiency and smooth operation. Garbage of non-usable data should not be stored.
Open platforms: Operator requirements mostly of semi-automated plants or multi product manufacturing from same machines can vary widely. Operators develop/change their own algorithms with the need of new functions and customer requirements. Data collection and processing capabilities have been enhanced by sensor embedding processing, in an effort to establish retrieval of real-time data requirements. The data is processed in the sensor electronic getting from the transducer is then communicated to the controller to generate a set point of controller for actuators to modulate the final element/device.
Open presence to data from sensors: The developments of wireless or wired networks of sensors connected over the Internet for Omni availability. The IoT-enabled sensors connected to networks in manufacturing enterprises are using seamless communication protocols for machine-to-machine interaction via low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) wireless communication.
Major advantages of smart sensors
a. Multiple Information by communication: sensors collect multiple information from a single device and transmit digitally by wire or wireless connected to the server.
b. Self-diagnostics: in-built digital processing features for calculation and data processing in sensors are creating opportunities as a result of real time signal processing and self-diagnostics. High speed processing of large volumes of data is the important factor for better results.
c. Calibration-free sensors: auto calibration means calibration-free sensors are a critical requirement for IoT applications with enhanced availability factor.
d. Additional parameter sensing: Smart sensors are developed and manufactured in Industry 4.0 to sense multiple parameters in addition to process requirements such as vibration, pressure, temperature or more for diagnostic features.
e. Production and efficiency monitoring: Production and efficiency monitoring and its improvement can be performed by smart sensors. Customers want to augment in speed but are looking for low cost and effective solutions.
f. Asset health monitoring: Smart sensors play a key important role in Industry 4.0. IoT based sensors are becoming a reality now, which enhances the asset’s conditions monitoring. High speed network system improves its ability to access information across the entire setup.
Types of sensors/detectors/transducers
Large types of sensors are available among many of its subcategories. For factory automation, Hall Effect sensors are used like non-contact proximity, optic fibre, light beam sensors, level sensors, motion sensors, and so on are commonly used. Infrared sensors for flame detection, level sensing, etc., are widely used. Smart infra-red, ultrasonic, radar guided and non-guided contact/non-contact type fuel level measurement in tanks provide continuous monitoring and safety signal outputs for stoppage of pumps. Smart process parameter sensors provide regular information to monitor and control the sophisticated chemical, pharmaceutical plant, refineries and other metal processing plants.
Output types: control sensors use 4-20 mA current loops, digital communication like HART, RS 232, RS 485S, RS485L,CANBUS, FLEXCOM, Profibus, Ethernet, MOD bus, Device-net, and so on
Networking components: for connectivity and data transmission the right networking system is selected, like VOIP, LAN, router, Firewall, wifi, network switches, wide area network, Gateways, VPN, Ethernet Hub, Network Bridge, Servers and cables.
Response time: smart sensors have fastest response times measured in milliseconds, microsecond, or more to capture information, process it and generate output signals
Features of sensors: smart sensors designed like other sensors to function in extreme climatic environments, dusty, hazardous locations, etc., with functional and operational safety.
Selection of smart sensors and actuators for intended application
It is highly critical to select the right type of sensor for signal/parameter monitoring of process plants and factory automation to safely run the machines/plants. Actuators might be electrical drives or a pneumatic system to modulate the units. Smart sensors include an embedded Digital Motion Processor (DMP) is, essentially a microprocessor that is integrated into the sensor for processing data and generating output. These essentially mean normalising the data, filtering noise and performing signal conditioning. Smart sensors perform data conversion to digital processing prior to any communication with external devices.
Jasbir Singh is an Automation Expert having long experience in Factory Automation, Line Automation, Implementation Strategist, Business Coach, Regular writer on automation, Artificial Intelligence, Robots/Cobots, Digital Technology, Network Communication, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Wireless Communication, Block Chain and use of advance digital technologies. He has established a long association with Business Houses/large production houses to improve factory automation in their production lines as well as productivity improvement in factories in India and overseas; and in advising and designing the units to transform into digital platforms by use of Artificial Intelligence. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org