Advances in Sensor Technology Enhance the Smart Factory

Traditional manufacturing no doubt has evolved over the past century. Big drivers are the demand for increased productivity and flexibility as well as improved safety and security – all at lower costs. Industry’s answer? Smart Factories.

A Sense for Smart Factories


From ordering raw materials to final production, smart factories have revolutionized the manufacturing industry, increasing the rate of production through optimization, reducing human error and increasing efficiencies. 

Smart factories use intelligent machines, devices and measurement and testing equipment to monitor critical parameters of the manufacturing process. These improvements have transformed the factory floor infrastructure, providing an environment that promotes consistent and accurate communication, connecting machines, data storage and access points, while allowing operating systems to maintain maximum efficiency and productivity.  

These technological advances also have altered machinery requirements, increasing the demand for reliable sensors, especially in high vibration environments. Sensors play an important role in factory intelligence by collecting and implementing accurate data into manufacturing processes to improve the quality of the product. 

Recent advances in sensor technology now enable process control and data acquisition like never be-fore. Process controls can use communication to adjust system quality. For example, changing the tolerance for various products can be easily programmed via software, then implemented by inter-integrated circuits (I2C) or serial peripheral interface (SPI) protocols. In the same manner, data from sensors can optimize product quality and assist manufacturers in finding the most effective methods for production runs.

From basic temperature and humidity monitoring to sophisticated position and pressure sensing, smart factories require a variety of sensor types that help advance factory operations by moving product, controlling robotic and milling processes, and sensing environmental factors

TE Connectivity’s Sensor Solutions for Smart Factories  

TE Connectivity (TE) is one of the largest connectivity and sensor companies in the world, providing innovative sensor solutions that help customers transform concepts into smart, connected creations. The company’s broad sensor portfolio includes industrial and highly integrated multi-sensor modules, providing a solution that performs real-time processing thus enhancing the smart factory. Many of TE’s industrial sensors have digital outputs that adapt more easily to factory communication systems than less sophisticated sensors. TE’s sensors provide high accuracy and resolution, resulting in reliable data. They also can be integrated into intelligent machines, measurement and test equipment and statistical process control. 

In intelligent machines, position sensors monitor and measure the location of moving parts, often with high accuracy and precision, while temperature and pressure sensors monitor and measure parameters critical to proper machine operation. Flow switches monitor the proper flow of critical liquids including cooling fluids and cutting oils. Force sensors monitor the force applied to products during the forming, bending, and stress-related manufacturing processes. 

1115 TE Connectivitys Sensor Solutions for Smart Factories Image 1

Sensors are used to increase the accuracy of measurement and test equipment using temperature and pressure sensors to monitor proper operation. Position sensors (LVDT, gauge heads) measure product dimensions and load cells are used to determine weight, verifying the product is within the predetermined limits. 

Sensors are implemented into statistical process control to make accurate, consistent, and reliable measurements of the various process parameters. Available in ruggedized housings and enclosures, TE’s sensor portfolio provides long term stability, reducing maintenance requirements while reliably performing in harsh environments. These sensors are interchangeable, allowing for quick replacement of failed sensors, resulting in reduced down time on the manufacturing floor.

From pressure and liquid level sensors used to monitor water, air lines and fluid levels in process storage tanks to temperature and non-contact temperature sensors used to monitor ambient and work station temperatures and work envelope occupancy, TE’s portfolio of sensors can provide the solution needed to run a productive, safe and comfortable working environment.  

Sensor Advancements for Smart Factories 

Production capabilities continuously evolve as manufacturers implement equipment and/or system upgrades. As these upgrades are realized, sensor technology advances and new products are introduced.  For example, determining factors like temperature shutdown require elementary analog signals. Once a temperature threshold is crossed, the production process stops.  The most basic of these components is thermistors, [15] modules that change resistance values, as well as the Measurement Specialties (MEAS) HS1101LF relative humidity sensor from TE [2], that output a capacitance based on humidity. These simple components provide intelligence which results in a changing value for a normally passive device.  Although passive components require additional circuitry for implementing the final process, the decision making signal is incorporated into more intelligent, multifunctional components used to provide analog signals in a variety of ways. More advanced sensors will include hysteresis in order to reduce false triggering or to allow for a range of temperatures to be implemented.  

Beyond basic analog triggers, increased sensing capability results from sensor data that produces a range of voltage values.  As semiconductor processes continue to use lower voltage levels, more sophisticated methods for providing granularity are needed. In these applications, digital signals replace the limited analog range of voltages; however, some markets do not require the expense and complexity of communication protocols with the additional decision making microprocessors.  For these applications, pulse width modulation (PWM) and sigma delta modulation are employed as digital signals and the results are averaged into an analog output.  TE’s TSYS02S digital temperature sensor [1] is an example of a product with these two types of outputs along with an additional I2C option. The advantage is an analog signal created for three-volt logic with a larger resolution range than a typical three-volt operational amplifier.  The number of available options allows customers to choose a temperature sensing solution that matches their budget and level of sophistication for decision making circuitry.

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Reference [1] TE’s TSYS02S digital temperature sensor has three types of analog outputs; PWM, SDM, and I2. Implementing this generation of analog signals requires averaging, resulting in even more granularity, achieved through the use of communication protocols.  In these sensor products, sensing, A/D communication and data outputs are integrated into one package. Granularity increases with the bit size of the data stream.  Addressing is a vital part of the bit stream that enables many sensor slave loads to be controlled by masters, increasing data acquisition for better control.  The additional clocking and data synchronizing are minimal side effects compared to the improved accuracy and signal integrity of analog style solutions.

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Reference [14}  The four data line structure of an SPI interface helps enable faster data acquisition compared to I2C . 

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Reference  [14] The serial data line structure of an I2C interface Is less complex than SPI. 

Sensor products with serial communication capability are available for sensing temperature [1] and humidity [3] as well as a combination of temperature and humidity [3].  A variety of pressure sensors [9-11] control processes that are sensitive to barometric pressure as well as compressed air levels of pressure. 

See related product


TE Connectivity Temperature and Humidity Sensors View

Position sensors detect magnetic field strength in order to determine alignment [8], linear position [5], or angular position [5, 6, 7].  These magnoresistive (MR) [14] products employ onboard Wheatstone Bridges.  The output value is in the form of two sinusoidal waveforms that are out of phase, based on the angle determined by the Wheatstone Bridge.  



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Reference [5] TE’s KMT32B sensor is a magnetic angle sensor that can determine robotic arm position.  The output signals are sinusoidal with a phase difference that represents the angle. 

In addition to information on product features and values, packaging options offer a variety of mounting methods, from surface mount to elevation above board using through-hole mounting.  For components that are affected by temperature, such a TE’s HTU20D(F) sensor, valuable mounting information instructs the user on how to employ slots in the board to reduce heat transfer from other components.  This in turn provides a more accurate humidity reading based on ambient temperature rather than the additional temperature generated by the support circuitry.

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Reference [3] TE’s HTU20D(F) humidity sensor data sheet instructs how mounting is crucial to product performance based on the actual ambient temperature. 


From ordering raw materials through final production, smart factories have revolutionized the manufacturing industry, increasing the rate of production, reducing human error and increasing efficiencies. These advances to the factory floor have altered machinery requirements, increasing the demand for reliable sensors, especially in high vibration environments. Based on the level of sophistication and signaling methods

required, there is a sensor product available that will provide a reliable solution.  As smart factories’ functions increase, TE is committed to advancing its sensor technologies to meet growing system requirements. 

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[3] The Optional Features for TE’s HTU2XY(F) Includes a PTFE Filter/Membrane the Protects Against Dust and Water Immersion+


1. “TSYS02S Digital Temperature Sensor”, Measurement Spectialties
2. “HS1101LF – Relative Humidity Sensor”, HS1101LF.pdf
3. “HTU20D(F) RH/T Sensor IC, Digital Relative Humidity sensor with Temperature output”, HTU20D.pdf
4. “HTU20P(F) RH/T Sensor IC – Miniature Relative Humidity and Temperature” HTU20P.pdf
5. “KMA36 Contactless Rotational and Linear Encoder”, KMA36.pdf
6. “KMT32B Magnetic Angle Sensor”, KMT32B.pdf
7. “KMT37 Angular Sensor”, KMT37_Angular_Sensor.pdf

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