Sensors and sensor systems are set to take on a key role in production in the future. Attention is focused here especially on smart sensors, which offer signal conditioning and processing. Panasonic Industry explains the potential applications and core features that have to be provided in this context


Panasonci Industry - Sensors and Industry 4.0The German cabinet presented the topic of Smart Factory/Industry 4.0 in its “New High-Tech Strategy for Germany” in 2014 as a global challenge for innovation leaders and included it as a key focus of its economic and scientific policy. And sure enough, the economy is now on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution. Driven by the Internet, real and virtual worlds are converging increasingly towards the much-talked-about Internet of Things (IoT). Recent advances in the production industry, for example, have paved the way for systematic use of cyber-physical systems (CPS), in which information is monitored precisely from all related perspectives and synchronized between the physical factory hall and the computer room. The starting point in this respect is the use of sensors, which convert the physical or also electrochemical signal into an output signal. The particular sensors in question and the requirements they have to fulfill in terms of their features will be described below.


Panasonic Industry responded a good 15 years ago to the requirement for compiling, collecting and processing data for automation in production processes. Users expect modern sensors to provide a host of functions in the area of digital data processing, from excellent reliability and minimum maintenance to flexible network functions and, above all, low energy consumption. These requirements can be fulfilled using smart sensors. The potential benefits of sensor systems in production relate to automatic identification and data recording of objects. Potential examples of applications include the transmission and interpretation of sensor information, derivation of production decisions and management of production processes by tracking production orders. These sensors will be an integral component of smart sensor systems in the future which, in addition to actual quantity measurement, also provide the full range of signal conditioning and processing. These systems communicate in many cases over powerful industrial networks, in particular, such as I/O Link, Profinet, EtherCAT, Ethernet/IP and other fieldbus technologies. This plays an important role, for example, in segments such as distance measurement, pressure and flow rate measurement, fibre optic sensors and laser sensors. Panasonic Industry as a company recognised the potential of smart sensors as far back as 2006 and helped to decisively shape their development for industrial use. We look at four sensors below along with their key applications:


HG-C Series – extremely compact and reliable distance sensor



Figure 2 - HGC - Micro Laser Distance SensorThe diversity of application of laser distance sensors for distance measurement is reflected in their wide-scale use in industry and research. They are ideally suited for quality controls and process monitoring in packaging systems, medical production and electronics production. The HG-C series from Panasonic Industry opens up a host of new opportunities for industrial automation in this respect, including positioning of robotic arms, thickness and position measurement of belt material, presence detection of the smallest products or recognition of overlaps in the thinnest materials. These measurements can be performed both statically and dynamically. The dynamic measurement allows control circuits to be realised or profiles and contours of various components to be identified.


The HG-C sensor is unique on the market for laser sensors thanks to a repeatability of 10μm and a response time of 1.5 ms. With dimensions of just W20 x H44 x D25 mm, this sensor offers high-end performance in a compact package. Three measuring ranges (100 mm ± 35 mm, 50 mm ± 15 mm and 30 mm ± 5 mm) are available depending on the model with a measurement resolution of 10 μm to 70 μm. The built-in display supports set-up and operation and the I/O options include a 0-5V analog output in addition to an NPN or PNP transistor output and an external input.



DP-100DP-100 Series – highly accurate miniature manometer with M8 connector type



Figure 3 - DP-100 Pressure SensorThe Panasonic Industry portfolio of digital miniature pressure gauges for measuring or monitoring air pressure has been using smart and small pressure gauges from the very beginning. With the introduction of the DP-100DP-100 series under the brand name SUNX, Panasonic Industry is adding new impetus in the area of microprocessor-controlled miniature pressure gauges on the market. The digital miniature manometers in the DP100 series are ideal for highly accurate measurement and monitoring of air pressure and non-corrosive gases in an array of industrial applications, especially for mechanical and plant engineering as well as in the air/gas pressure control of the manufacturing processes in the microelectronics industry. Other areas of use for the DP100 series include vacuum technology as well as leak detection in the foodstuffs and filling industry.


Special features of the new digital manometer include the dual LCD display for measured values and threshold values and the data copy function. Not only can the displayed measured values or settings be read easily with the new three-color, 12-segment LCD display, rather also the operating status (green or red for signal output ON / OFF operation) and setting status (orange) can be easily distinguished. The data copy function allows the setting to be made on a sensor and transmitted with ease to other sensors. The adjustable response times (2.5 - 5,000 ms) mean that dynamic pressure changes can be recorded but also that undesired, abrupt pressure fluctuations owing to abnormal drops in pressure can be ignored. The high measurement resolution (0.05% F.S.) and repeat accuracy (±0.1% F.S), low hysteresis (1 digit) and temperature dependency (£ ±0.5% F.S.) are further features that characterize this new series.




FX-550 series – quick and easy set up for fiber optic sensors



Figure 4 - FX550 Photoelectric SensorFiber optic sensors allow measurements to be taken in environments that are beyond the limits of electric sensors. Unlike electrical measuring methods, the strictly optical measuring method is completely immune to environmental influences, since light is the basis for supplying the sensor and transmitting the measurement signal. These sensors are also small and largely corrosion-resistant and extremely reliable against high electric voltages and magnetic fields as well as temperatures


The quick set mode allows inexperienced operators to use the sensor quickly. For experienced operators, the setting and PRO mode are still available. Other features, such as the ECO mode, copy and GETA function, enhance its practicality in the workplace. A total product range of 12 types is available for all customers’ requirements. The FX-550 achieves a response time of 250µs and at the same time offers extremely high precision.






SF4D – seamless maintenance and parametrization for point of operation guarding


Figure 1 SF4D Safety Light CurtainUnguarded, moving parts represent a hazard zone for employees and operators, in particular in the area of mechanical and hydraulic presses, compression moulding machinery, punching, forming, rivet and eyelet systems as well as other auto-mechanical assembly systems. The point of operation – that is to say the part that is responsible in the system for executing the mechanical or hydraulic process – must be protected as a source of danger. Safety light curtains offer a vital protection mechanism in this respect and their proper operation and regular maintenance is invaluable. Both constitute a massive cost and time issue that is explicitly addressed by the SF4D series.


Thanks to our own free software developed in-house, light curtains in the SF4D series can check for incorrect cable wiring, disconnection and short circuit as well as the reliability of internal circuits. What’s more, the ELCA function allows unwanted machine downtime owing to extraneous light to be prevented and calibrated accordingly. Details of all electrical problems, for example when starting the device, are shown on the digital display, making maintenance considerably more convenient. The customary M12 connector found on the market also guarantees fast and uncomplicated installation.


The seamless structure and processing of the SF4D series represents another significant advantage, which guarantees high environmental stability. The electronics are protected here by a cylindrical inner housing, while seams on the unit and on the lens surfaces have been reduced to such an extent that ingress by particles such as oil mist and dust can be excluded. The aluminum profile finally plays its part, guaranteeing high stability while maintaining the same product size and offering excellent resistance to mechanical loads or torsion.