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What is a Proximity Sensor

Aproximity sensoris asensorable to detect the

presence of nearby objects without any physical

A proximity sensor often emits anelectromagneticfield
or a beam ofelectromagnetic radiation(infrared, for
instance), and looks for changes in thefieldor return
The object being sensed is often referred to as the
proximity sensor's target.
Different proximity sensor targets demand different
For example, acapacitiveorphotoelectric sensormight
be suitable for a plastic target; aninductive proximity
sensor always requires a metal target.

Magnetic Proximity Sensors

Magnetic proximity sensorsare non-contact proximity

devices that are used to detect magnetic objects (e.g.

permanent magnets). They sense the presence of a magnetic
object, commonly referred to as the target. The target,
characterized by its magnetic field, triggers the switching
process when it enters the detection range of the sensor.
Their operating principle is based on the use of reed contacts, whose thin
plates are hermetically sealed in a glass bulb with inert gas. The presences of a
magnetic field makes the thin plates flex and touch each other causing an
electrical contact.
It have advantages such as
Contacts are well protected against dust, oxidization and corrosion due to the
hermetic glass bulb and inert gas; contacts are activated by means of a
magnetic field rather than mechanical parts
Special surface treatment of contacts assures long contact life
Maintenance free
Easy operation
Reduced size

Hall Effect proximity Sensor

A Hall Effect proximity switch is a non-contact electronic switch,

which consist of a permanent magnet or ferromagnetic part as

trigger intermediary and a Hall Effect sensor IC.
The Hall sensor IC detects the change of the magnet field when
the permanent magnet comes in the close proximity to it and
generates an electric signal.
This signal is amplified and rectified to control the output signal of
the switch.
Although they are both magnetic proximity sensors, Hall effect
sensors & reed sensors are significantly different in the way they
A Hall effect sensor is a three-wire, solid-state device whose
output changes when exposed to a magnetic field.
A reed sensor, on the other hand, is electrically a switch, with
tiny contacts that open or close in the absence or presence of a
magnetic field.
A Hall effect sensor may be preferable to a reed sensor if you
have requirements of Unlimited life. For example, if you are
interested in sensing a spinning magnet that will operate a sensor
billions of times, you should consider a Hall effect sensor.

Capacitive proximity sensor

The capacitive sensor, consists of a target plate and a second plate known

as the sensor head. These two plates are separated by an air gap of
thickness h and form the two terminals of a capacitor.
Typical capacitive sensor construction shows two plates: one connects to
the oscillator (sensor electrodes), and the other is the object being sensed,
which is detected within the electrical field.
A capacitive sensor functions like a typical capacitor. The metal plate in
the end of the sensor electrically connects to the oscillator, and the object
to be sensed acts as the second plate. When this sensor receives power,
the oscillator detects the external capacitance between the target and the
internal sensor plate. This arrangement completes the circuit and provides
the necessary feedback path for the output circuit to evaluate.
Capacitive sensors can detect many different kinds of objects. For example,
solids, liquids, or granular targets are all detectable (including metals,
water, wood, and plastic
It is non-contacting and can be used with any target material.
The sensor is extremely rugged and can be subjected to high shock loads
and intense vibratory environments.
Can be used at high temperature.
Sensitivity remains constant over a wide range of temperature

Inductance proximity sensors

Inductive proximity sensors operate under the electrical principle of inductance. Inductance is the phenomenon where a

fluctuating current, which by definition has a magnetic component, induces an electromotive force (emf) in a target object.
Theseare best used for metallic target sensing .
An inductive proximity sensor has four elements: coil, oscillator, trigger circuit, and an output. The oscillator is an inductive
capacitive tuned circuit that creates a radio frequency. The electromagnetic field produced by the oscillator is emitted from
the coil away from the face of the sensor. The circuit has just enough feedback from the field to keep the oscillator going.
When a metal target enters the field, eddy currents circulate within the target. This causes a load on the sensor, decreasing
the amplitude of the electromagnetic field. As the target approaches the sensor, the eddy currents increases, increasing the
load on the oscillator and further decreasing the amplitude of the field.
The trigger circuit monitors the oscillators amplitude and at a predetermined level switches the output state of the sensor
from its normal condition (on or off). As the target moves away from the sensor, the oscillators amplitude increases. At a
predetermined level the trigger switches the output state of the sensor back to its normal condition (on or off).

Ultrasonic Sensors
Ultrasonic sensors are based on measuring the properties of sound waves with frequency above the human audible

Systems typically use a transducer which generates sound waves in the ultrasonic range, above 18 kHz, by turning
electrical energy into sound, then upon receiving the echo turn the sound waves into electrical energy which can be
Ultrasonic sensors are non-intrusive in that they do not require physical contact with their target, and can detect certain
clear or shiny targets otherwise obscured to some vision-based sensors.
Active ultrasound sensors emit sound waves from quartz-crystal transducers. The waves strike objects within the field of
detection and as long as there are no movement the waves are not disrupted. However, when movement occurs the
sound wave is disrupted and is reflected back to the systems receiver.
Passive sensors operate on the principle of sounds such as breaking glass or metal striking metal to trigger alarms.
These sounds produce waves detected by the sensors that, like the active sensors, relay them to electronic control units
to determine if the sound wave pattern falls within established normal parameters

Optical Proximity Sensors

An optical proximity sensor offers non-contact sensing of almost any

object up to a range of 10 meters.

It includes a light source, (usually an LED in either infrared or visible
light spectrum) and a detector (photodiode).
The light source generates light of a frequency that the light sensor is
best able to detect, and that is not likely to be generated by other
nearby sources.
When adjusting optical proximity sensors, red light has the advantage
that it is visible in contrast to infrared light.
Infra-red light is used in most optical sensors. To make the light
sensing system more foolproof, most optical proximity sensor light
sources pulse the infra-red light on and off at a fixed frequency.
Due to the high intensity infra-red energy beam, these sensors have
major advantages over other opto-electronic systems when employed
in dusty enviroments.
Photodiodes or phototransistors are used as receiver elements.
There are 3 variants of Optical proximity sensors
1. Through Beam type
2. Retro-reflective
3. Diffuse sensors

Through-beam sensors
Through-beam sensors consist of

separately assembled emitter and

receiver components whereby wide
sensing ranges can be achieved.
For the interruption of the light beam to
be evaluated, the cross-section of the
active beam must be covered.
The object should permit only minimum
penetration of light, but may reflect any
amount of light.
Failure of the emitter is evaluated as
"object present".

Retro-reflective sensors
Light emitter and light receiver are

installed in one single housing.

An additional reflector is required.
Interruption of the light beam is evaluated.
Interruption of the light beam must not be
compensated by direct or diffuse reflection
of an object. Transparent, bright or shiny
objects may in some cases remain
Mirroring objects must be positioned in
such a manner that the reflecting beam
does not impinge on the receiver.
Compared to a diffuse sensor, the retroreflective sensor has a greater range.

Diffuse sensors
The emitter and receiver are fitted in the same

The object diffusely reflects a percentage of the
emitted light thereby activating the receiver.
Depending on the design of the receiver, the
output is then switched through (NO) or
switched off (NC).
The switching distance largely depends on the
reflectivity of the object.
The size, surface, shape, density, and colour of
the object as well as the angle of impact
determine the intensity of the diffused light so
that as a rule only small distances within a
range of a few decimeters can be scanned.

Common Sensing Technologies






Short range

Operates in harsh
Induced electromagnetic

Rapid response time
Difficult array setups

Virtually all objects

Sound wave echo


Long range
Measure distance

Reflection or absorption
of light different to Medium range


Solid objects


Permitivity variation
absorbing or creating
electric charge


Dead zone
No idea of size/shape



t materials

Short range
to construction

Detect metal and Object properties