We have been experiencing the rapid progress of technological advance for years. Sensors and measurement, as a key technology of this development, meet the most stringent demands on reliability, sustainability, and safety. In production automation, sensors detect the relevant parameters, the measuring technology processes the obtained data and triggers appropriate actions. Sensors and measurement improve safety, increase efficiency, and enable resource-oriented production automation.
At the end of the 19th century, mechanical pressure sensors, such as the Bourdon-tube gauge, were already being used in industrial production. With the advent of electricity, the introduction of electrical machines, and the transition to assembly-line production, the first electrical sensors, such as strain gauges, quickly found their way into the rapidly advancing industrialization process. In the 1970ies, electronics and IT came into play and changed automation forever. At the same time, sensor technology started to develop electronically compensated and calibrated devices with digital interfaces.
One example of a breakthrough in sensor technology is the giant magneto-resonance (GMR) effect, discovered by Peter Grünberg and Albert Fert in 1988, for which they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2007. Its technical application led to effective GMR read-head implementation in hard-disk drives (HDDs) as of the year 2000. Thus, improved sensor technology enabled a rapidly increasing HDD capacity and production quantities.
One other of many such examples is the first digital image sensor incorporating a charge-coupled device (CCD). It is based on the photoelectric effect to convert light into electrical signals. The design was conceived by Willard Boyle and George Smith and awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009. Today, CCD sensors are at the heart of digital cameras and have revolutionized digital imaging in numerous medical applications.
Trends in sensor and measuring technology
Technical challenges often demand new approaches to enable today's and tomorrow's continued advance in sensor and measuring technology. The AMA Association for Sensors and Measurement (AMA), applying its 30-year experience in networking, links all individuals and entities from industry, research, and science involved in the process. The AMA bundles the competence of its 480 member entities, observes the market trends and developments, and regularly publishes the results.
An ever greater role in production automation is played by smart systems, in which miniaturized devices enable efficient automation of complex processes by their ability to operate autonomously using a closed-loop control, energy efficiency, and networking capabilities. This considerably improves energy and resource management. These industrial requirements are reflected by trends in sensors and measurement.
Today, sensors are often self-monitoring and have their own communication interface. Their continually increasing efficiency provides faster signal processing while improving noise reduction, resolution, energy consumption, ambient temperature, and size.
In automated production processes, the implementation of fiber-optical sensors is increasing. Their continual innovative development results in more and more fields of application in more and more industries.
The AMA Trend Study shows a continued miniaturization and function integration, such as pattern recognition, self-monitoring, fault detection, and diagnosis. It also clearly shows an increasing utilization of highly integrated components for real-time signal processing, a rise in the implementation of wireless, energy self-sufficient sensors. Observed as well is the increasing coupling of physical, chemical, and biological sensors on a single sensor element, for instance lab on a chip or lab on a disc.
SENSOR+TEST: Invitation to the innovation dialog
Discovering innovative approaches and getting up to date on the state of the art - that is the idea behind the AMA's own trade fair, the annual SENSOR+TEST in Nuremberg. About 500 exhibitors from Germany and many other countries have expanded the impact of the fair in the last years far into the area of measuring and testing systems. The increasing demand for system solutions in the manufacturing industry has had a considerable effect on the product range offered by the exhibitors at the SENSOR+TEST. In times past, suppliers of electronic components were among the major exhibitors; today, we see experienced developers consulting with visitors on innovative approaches for solutions to their sensing and measuring challenges.
This year, the SENSOR+TEST puts the spotlight on the subject of Safety & Security. The more automated the production processes, the more import safety and security in sensing and measuring becomes: This applies equally to man-machine interaction, monitoring, or quality control.
Sensors and measurement: helping to shape the future
The demands in machine and plant engineering, automotives, robotics, or the entertainment and consumer industries, all drive the development in sensor and measuring technology. Characteristics, such as precision, reliability, longevity, availability, efficiency, and flexibility define today's perceived value. These characteristics depend to a great extent on the accessibility of sensor and measuring technology. The manufacture of state-of-the-art products, the use of novel materials, and the application of innovative processes always demand new and innovative approaches for sensor and measurement solutions. With these prospects, the sensor and measuring industry looks forward confidently to an exciting future.