If a human being was a machine, then we wouldn’t call our eyes, ears, nose and tongue senses – we would call them ‘sensors’.  And we do.

That’s because, just like our senses detect something about the outside world and send off a signal for our brain to process, sensors work in much the same way.  In other words, whether we’re talking about senses or sensors, what they’re doing is acting as an input device that translates stimuli into a signal that is then interpreted and processed.

In the manufacturing world, those artificial eyes, ears, noses and tongues do some very heavy lifting.  But they’re actually all around us all of the time: in our houses, our cars and our coffee machines.  On a plane, we call a highly sophisticated network of sensors autopilot, and on your car’s bumper, sensors let us know when they are detecting an imminent collision.

But let’s get back to manufacturing, where a vast range of sensors make that race towards higher productivity and efficiency and ultimately bigger profits faster, easier, more efficient, more affordable and fully customisable.

Here are 3 types of fascinating sensors that manufacturing industries just can’t do without:

  1. Load cell sensors

Otherwise known as a weight or pressure sensor, load cells measure weight in the form of force or pressure.  The detection of a specific load is translated into a comparable electronic signal – typically voltage.  Load cells can be put together to weigh things as huge and heavy as aircraft, demonstrating their versatility for use in manufacturing.  Shipping and distribution, for instance, requires highly accurate weighing processes, such as forklift scales that allow for fast, streamlined operations.

  1. Infrared sensors

Did you know that every object naturally emits energy?  If you did, you’re half-way there to understand how infrared sensors work.  In a nutshell, infrared thermometry is about measuring that emitted energy without actually touching it – and the benefits in manufacturing processes are vast.  Extremely hot temperatures, for example, can be measured quickly and safely, even on objects that are in motion or out of reach, making them perfect for applications in which a contact temperature sensor would otherwise be damaged.

  1. Ultrasonic sensors

Automated manufacturing processes and ultrasonic sensors are like peas in a pod.  Like the infrared sensor, it’s a non-contact device, but typically cheaper and even more versatile.  A bit like how a whale or a bat finds its way around by using echolocation – otherwise known as sonar – ultrasonic sensors detect and measure both speeds and distances to a target object by shooting out a signal that bounces back.  That’s why you’ll find so many of them in use on the factory floor for so many different reasons: whether they’re monitoring liquid levels, or doing high-speed counting, box sorting, robotic sensing, stacking height control – the sky really is the limit.

The final word: We all need sensors!

The 21st century is a world chock full of sensors that quite simply make life easier, safer and better as they open our garage doors, warn us to put our seatbelts on, or wake us up when smoke is detected.  But it’s in the world of manufacturing that sensors step into a higher gear, as they become the eyes, ears, noses and touch receptors that feed our technology and systems the information they need to make processes faster, easier, simpler, more automated and – ultimately – more profitable.