Bullet Sensors & Transducers e-Digest, Vol. 102, Issue 3, March 2009: Product News

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Non-wearing Angle Sensors: From Contactless to Non-contact


Towcester, UK – As the exclusive UK distributor for Contelec, Variohm Eurosensor presents the following technical note on optical encoders and magnetic rotary sensors.


A common feature of contactless sensors for angle measurement is that the rotating shaft is mounted on bearings in the sensor body and, consequently, is subject to a certain degree of wear. Non-contact rotary sensors eliminate this weakness completely.


Although the contactless rotary sensors are based on a non-contact measurement method, they are not the same as non-contact sensors. On contactless sensors, there is no direct contact between the magnets located on the rotating axis and the actual measurement system, for which reason this can be referred to as a contactless, non-wearing measurement method. This is in contrast to potentiometers, the wipers of which are in physical contact with the conductive coating (e.g. conductive plastic) and, at best, can be termed “low-wear”.


Yet even contactless rotary sensors are not totally immune to mechanical wear effects. This is due to the fact that the rotating shaft is mounted on bearings in the sensor body and, particularly in the case of poor concentricity or when subject to axial forces, is prone to a certain degree of mechanical wear. A remedy to this problem is offered by rotary sensors termed “non-contact”, in which the permanent magnets are attached by the customer to the rotating object – usually a shaft. This eliminates any direct mechanical linkage between the axis and the measurement system, so that axially and radially acting forces cause no wear, and the life of the sensor is not impaired.


Due to their architecture, noncontact rotary sensors are used in cases where the out-ofroundness of the rotating object exceeds a specific tolerance range or if physical contact between the rotary sensor and the object is not possible, for example, in applications in which rotating components are screened by a protective body, so that there is no direct contact with the sensor unit. The transmissive measurement in the non-contact rotary sensors elegantly bridges the spacing.


Irrespective of whether contactless or non-contact angle sensors are used, a key issue in the evaluation of the suitable technology is the ageing of the permanent magnets and the r resulting signal deviation over time. This is definitely a factor that needs to be taken into account with simple Hall systems. However, it is quite easy to eliminate this shortcoming. If instead of measuring the field strength, it is the direction of the magnetic field that is measured, the measurement method is based on a stable value. In measurement systems of this kind, the field direction of the permanent magnet is converted by the sensor into angle information and output via analogue or digital interfaces. This method ensures that measurement precision remains at a high level – totally unsusceptible to the ageing-related reduction of the magnetic field strength or a changing magnetic field strength as a result of the temperature coefficients of the magnet.


Non-contact rotary sensors are ideally suited for implementing tailor-made customer solutions, which can differ in aspects such as the body form, magnetic transducer, distance between the permanent magnet and the measurement system as well as the permitted tolerances. The Vert-X exMag family of rotary sensors offers solutions suitable for applications in ultra-confined spaces and for heavy-duty applications. Body diameters from 13 mm to 37 mm, resolution of up to 14 bit, fully moulded-on bodies, IP69K-specified versions or solutions for the temperature range between - 400C and +1250C are available both as standard components and in customer-specific versions.


A range of connection technologies and output signals significantly adds to the user-defined individualization possibilities. Available options include analogue output – with various voltage and current values – and digital interfaces such as PWM, SPI or SSI. Physical connections can be by stranded wire, straight cable or pin-connector packages.

Angle sensors

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Other advantages of magnetic rotary sensors include the possibility of free programming of the rotary angle from 0є to 360є. A remarkable feature here is that the full resolution and precision is available even at angles less than 3600. This means that a sensor programmed to a 1800 electrical angle offers the full 14-bit resolution, thereby corresponding to a 15-bit optical 3600 encoder. Even the direction of rotation and the index point can be individually configured, allowing customer parameters to be programmed in the calibration of the sensor during manufacture.


An additional system-related advantage of the magnetic systems is the possibility of integrating two complete measurement systems into a single rotary sensor, thereby implementing completely redundant solutions. These are available both as contactless and non-contact rotary sensors, further strengthening the position of systems for non-contact angle measurement.





Variohm Eurosensor Limited

Williams' Barn Tiffield Road

Towcester, Northants

NN12 6HP, UK

Tel: +44 (0) 1327 351004

E-mail: graham@variohm.com












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