Just in - the results of our annual Trend Watch Sensors Survey of design engineers, who specify a wide range of sensor technologies in their applications, from basic proximity and photoelectric sensors to more advanced vision systems and energy-harvesting sensor networks. In general, respondents see sensors as growing in importance, with 56 percent saying they expect to see the use of sensors in their designs increase in the next three years. Half of the survey respondents design products for the industrial market. The balance of respondents works in industries as diverse as automotive and aerospace to packaging and healthcare. A full two thirds noted that in particular vision sensors and systems and wireless sensors will become increasingly more important in their design work. Some 15 percent of respondents noted that more traditional proximity, linear displacement and photoelectric sensors also will play a more prominent role in their design work. Hands down, the hottest trend noted in the survey results is wireless sensor networks, with 60 percent of the respondents saying that they see this technology heating up in the next 12-18 months, thanks to greater reliability and easy-to-use, plug-and-play connections. There is also the potential with wireless for significant savings when it comes to installation costs. When selecting a sensor, respondents said that reliability, accuracy and durability/ruggedness are the top three charactertistics, while product support and availability are critical when selecting a particular supplier. On design engineers' sensor wish list is more comprehensive data sheets and technical documentation, especially with regard to new products, as well as the availability of cost-effective sensors that meet the rigors of their applications. "We're looking for the right functionality with good pricing," one respondent noted.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.