The unexpected application of sensors

Engineering at 30 Frames: Sensors can lead to some impressive feats, even more so when it’s given to those with little familiarity with control engineering concepts.

02/10/2012


We occasionally overlook the wonder of sensors. It's easy to understand why... the mechanism behind sensors doesn’t change regardless of the application. The (sensor) device measures a quantity, status, or characteristic then converts that measurement to a signal. That signal is then read by another instrument or observed. It’s easy to look past something so basic to the control engineer’s everyday life.

On the other hand, sensors are often looked at by lay people with a bit of mysterious wonder. They can lead to mundane confusion (How do I turn on the lights in this bathroom?) to anger (Why isn’t water coming out of the sink?) to pure wonder (Go, Roomba, go!) to angered wonder (How many photo enforced lights are there in Chicago?!). But the real magic of sensors is brought out when those not “traditionally” trained or familiar with them deconstruct and create with them.

I find myself impressed with sensors on a daily basis. Despite being fairly common, I still find a sense of wonder when I realize there are several in things we consistently use throughout the day. One of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve come to own is an Xbox 360 console and with a Kinect peripheral, which – if you’ve been under a rock for the last couple years –is a motion capture device that allows videogame players to experience a more interactive way to game. This technology has already been ported to PC applications which are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to possible future uses for this technology.

For instance, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre has been trying out possible means to control x-ray imagery in the midst of surgery. This can help shorten surgery times, as there is no need to leave the operating room to look at x-rays or other scans, and allows for more accurate surgery because the images can be checked more often. The technology may come as a no-brainer to the control engineering world, but the solution didn’t arise until the technology was shipped out to the masses and deconstructed for a different purpose.

FoldIt Protein Modeling

Similarly, microbiologists have looked to non-technical applications to solve a question lingering for years: Gamers logged on to Foldit, a puzzle “game”, to decipher the crystal structure of a protein that causes AIDS and succeeded in only 10 days (scientists had been working on the problem for 15 years).

I believe non-traditional applications can lend a great deal of insight to most everything we do, but especially in the way of making better use of the amazing technology we deal with on a daily basis. I suggest that the next time you encounter an especially challenging problem at work, you take it home and try dancing in front of your TV to solve it.

www.controleng.com/blogs/engineering-at-30-frames.html

Also see:

controleng.com/sensors

controleng.com/videos



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.