The importance of sensors

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Hidden inside machines and vehicles, sensors of all kinds do their important jobs without being much noticed by the operator. They have no pretty design to show off; they are simply about function, precision, and durability: tiny parts that make a huge difference.

Sensors are an essential part of the Swedish company Caldaro’s business.

”We have sold sensors from the beginning of Caldaro’s history,” says sales engineer John Repfennig. ”It started with potentiometers, a mechanic sensor with a small needle that runs on a circular electrical track, showing the position of a movement. The big disadvantage is that the needle will wear out the surface after a certain million operations. That’s why a contactless sensor using a Hall-effect chip is a better solution in most applications.”

An extremely compact sensor

The Italian company Prinoth uses the durable S02A sensor in their Snow Groomer. It is a small, contactless sensor made with custom friction for the most delicate feeling. The housing cage is designed to withstand even the harshest of environments.

“The sensor is mounted on the right armrest inside the driver cabin,” explains Alberto Paoletti, R&D, Prinoth. “It’s used for the engine speed hand throttle function, as an alternative to the pedal throttle.”

An optical sensor that beats laser

S09 Sensor Bearing

Caldaro has created an optical sensor bearing, S09, developed originally for forklift trucks.

”Laser may seem like a more modern way to measure height, but it turns out our optical sensor eliminates electrostatic interference problems and keeps the precision even when the machine rocks a bit,” Repfennig points out. ”It has two optical sensors and a patented method to measure height in two directions, with a lower price point than laser alternatives.”

The signals from the S09 determine the forklift’s exact height, so the machine can be programmed to return to a specified position automatically – essential in storehouses with standard height shelves, such as IKEA.

Quality sensors mean fewer error codes

Today sensors play a critical role in giving the operator control in many types of vehicles. Analog knobs are not so sensitive, while electronics and touch displays are made to be sensitive, and the digital networks rely on all signals for correct and precise functioning.

Dump trucks use waist steering; the vehicle folds when you turn it instead of turning the wheels. Here, a sensor must accurately and reliably report the folding angle in order to limit vehicle speed.

Forest machines use sensors to measure the diameter and length of each log while the harvester head grabs hold of the tree and cuts it. This gives accurate data about how much timber you have harvested in real-time.

Giant oil tankers depend on signals from their rudders. In case one sensor malfunctions, they need redundancy. Therefore they use multi-ganged sensors with three units doing the same job on each axis.

The S11, Caldaro’s tiny contactless sensor, just 28.8 millimetres wide

The S11, Caldaro’s tiny contactless sensor, just 28.8 millimetres wide

The more surveillance systems our vehicles depend on, the more and better sensors they need. Only the highest quality sensors can make our vehicles safe to drive.

”Everyone knows how frustrating it is to get an error code when there is no error. This will happen if the sensor is broken,” explains Repfennig. ”That’s why it’s important that the sensors last — many of our sensors can do more than 100 million cycles.”

”Some of our sensors based on contactless Hall-effect technology; can rotate up to ten turns which is not so common,” says Repfennig. ”Sometimes, one of our sensors needs just a minor adjustment to be perfect for the customer. We excel at adapting the details to meet each customer’s exact and unique requirements.”

This article has also been published in IVT International.

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