Sensor Technology Selection Guide

Sensors are used in a wide variety of factory and process automation applications, and are designed to take accurate and reliable measurements that are critical to the safe and optimized operation of a machine or process. This handy selection guide provides an overview of the selection criteria for different types of sensors – inductive, ultrasonic, and photoelectric. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your local AWC office for additional assistance in determining the best-suited sensors for your applications.

Sensor technology selection guide

The ideal sensor for an application is determined by the sensor’s own features (type of sensing element, packaging and form factor, installation and mounting) as well as environmental factors and the type of material/ or fluid that the sensor must detect. Below are three common types of sensors (inductive, photoelectric, and ultrasonic) and applications and industries in which these sensors can be found.

Inductive Sensor Applications

Inductive sensors are often used in applications requiring close-distance, non-contact detection of metallic objects, and are well suited in most environments (clean, dirty, and both hazardous and non-hazardous).

Inductive sensor applications
  • Applications
    • Chain gear
    • Motor speed
    • Conveyor speed
    • Identifying broken belt or chain
  • Industries
    • Petrochemical
    • Oil & Gas
    • Aggregate
    • Manufacturing

Photoelectric Sensor Applications

Photoelectric sensors send out a beam of light that is used to detect the presence or absence of an object or piece of equipment, or changes in surface conditions. When the light beam is broken by or detects an object, the change in light pattern is measured by a receiver and identifies the presence of the targeted object or surface condition.

Diffuse type photoelectric sensor applications

Diffuse Type

  • Applications
    • Packaging
    • Counting
    • Presence detection
  • Industries
    • Manufacturing
    • Aggregate

Retro-reflective type photoelectric sensor applications

Retro-Reflective Type

  • Applications
    • Palletizing
    • Doorways
  • Industries
    • Manufacturing

Through-beam type photoelectric sensor applications

Through-Beam Type

  • Applications
    • Equipment monitoring
    • Doorways
  • Industries
    • Manufacturing

Ultrasonic Sensor Applications

Unlike photoelectric sensors, which use light, ultrasonic sensors use sound waves to detect the presence of objects or surfaces. Sound waves make ultrasonic sensors ideal for detection in less traditional applications such as uneven surfaces, dirty objects, or objects in motion.

Ultrasonic sensor application to monitor tank level and height

Monitor tank level and height

  • Applications
    • Tank level measurement
  • Industries
    • Petrochemical
    • Oil & gas
    • Aggregate
    • Manufacturing

Ultrasonic sensor application to monitor material placement and size

Monitor material placement and size

  • Applications
    • Conveyors
    • Web controls
    • Automatic doors
  • Industries
    • Petrochemical
    • Manufacturing
    • Aggregate
    • Printing
    • Packaging

Ultrasonic sensor application to monitor position to avoid collisions

Monitor position to avoid collisions

  • Applications
    • Automated guide vehicles
    • Overhead cranes
  • Industries
    • Petrochemical
    • Manufacturing
    • Storage and retrieval
Julyann Tu is an application engineer for AWC, Inc. in the Houston, TX office. She is a Certified Siemens Technology Specialist for Factory Automation and a SITRAIN Certified Instructor for TIA Portal Programming 1. With over 8 years of experience in industrial automation, she has a BS in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA from University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Julyann Tu

App Engineer/
Tech Support

Julyann Tu

App Engineer/
Tech Support

Julyann Tu is an application engineer for AWC, Inc. in the Houston, TX office. She is a Certified Siemens Technology Specialist for Factory Automation and a SITRAIN Certified Instructor for TIA Portal Programming 1. With over 8 years of experience in industrial automation, she has a BS in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA from University of Houston-Clear Lake.
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