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Prox sensors with 'world's longest range’ could save millions

02 October, 2017

Omron has announced a new generation of proximity sensors which, it claims, have the world’s longest sensing distances. The E2E-Next sensors have almost twice the sensing distance of the company’s previous models. According to Omron, this will result in substantial savings for users because the new sensors are less likely to collide with objects, thus avoiding costly plant shutdowns to replace them.

The sensors will be available in four shielded sizes from M8 to M30, as well as an unshielded M30 format. For a shielded M12 version, the sensing distance has increased from 3mm to 7mm, while for an unshielded M30 version, the distance has been extended from 20mm to 40mm.

The sensors also use a new mounting system, called e-jig, that reduces the time taken to replace them after a failure, from around ten minutes to just 10 seconds. Setting up the sensors is no longer a trial-and-error process until the correct sensing distance has been established. It can be done rapidly, without needing any adjustments, Omron says.

This means that the time needed to recover after a sensor failure ­– typically about an hour because of the time needed to check the failed parts, dismantle the equipment, and replace, wire and check the new sensors – could drop to about 50 minutes.

The new sensors are aimed, in particular, at automotive assembly and parts factories. In Japan, these factories typically lose 10–60 million yen ($89,000–534,000) if they are forced to stop for an hour.

Before developing the new sensors, Omron conducted a survey at engine parts factories and found that unexpected stoppages at these sites average around 1,600 hours per hear – 240 hours of which (15%) are caused by malfunctions and collisions involving proximity sensors. Omron estimates that its new devices could reduce such stoppages from the average of 240 hours to just 67 hours per year – equivalent to cutting total unplanned plant stoppages by more than 10%.

Some of Omron's new generation of proximity sensors have detecting ranges that are more than twice as long as earlier devices

The company predicts that increasing the devices’ sensing distances will also reduce malfunctions caused by wear and vibrations. The limited sensing distances of earlier proximity sensors meant that they were more susceptible to detection faults caused by items moving out of the sensor’s narrow range.

Another problem with previous proximity sensors was that their performance could be affected by changes in the ambient temperature. The new sensors incorporate hybrid analogue-digital chips which correct for changes in temperature and minimise their effect on sensing distances. According to Omron, this helps to achieve long, stable sensing distances.

The new sensors are said to be the first two-wire proximity sensors to use such chips. Temperature compensation is not possible using conventional analogue chips, Omron says.

Omron says that its new mounting jig will reduce the time taken to install a proximity sensor from 10 minutes to a matter of seconds

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