Glossary of Sensors, Switches & Automation Terms

Thanks to the Sensor, Switch, Smart Camera, and Machine Vision device OEM's who've helped us compile our listing here.

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IEC - The "International Electrotechnical Commission", headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. This organization writes and distributes recommended safety and performance standards for electrical products and components for all fields of electrotechnology. Learn more at the IEC website.

Impedance - The opposition in an electric circuit to the flow of alternating current (AC) at a given frequency. Impedance consists of resistance, inductive reactance, and capacitive reactance. It is measured in Ohms.

Individual fiber (optic) - A fiber optic assembly having one control end and one sensing end.

Inductance - The property of an electric circuit whereby an electromotive force (emf) is induced in it by a change of current in itself or in a neighboring circuit.

Inductive load - Electrical devices generally made of coiled wire to create a magnetic field to, in turn, produce mechanical work when energized. Inductive loads exhibit inrush of current when energized that can be many times the steady state holding current. When de-energized, the magnetic field collapses, generating a high voltage transient. This transient can cause arcing across mechanical switching contacts or can cause damage to solid-state contacts. Examples of inductive loads include motors, solenoids, and relays. See Transient

Inductive proximity sensor - Sensors with an oscillator and coil that radiate an electromagnetic field that induces eddy currents on the surface of metallic objects approaching the sensor face. Typically, the eddy currents dampen the oscillator energy. This energy loss is sensed as a voltage drop that causes a change in the sensor’s output state. Also referred to as; "inductive proximity sensor", “proximity switch”, or just "prox" for short. An article on Specifying Inductive Proximity Sensors

Industrial Controls -

Infrared - Invisible light energy starting at a wavelength of 690 nanometer and longer. Infrared LEDs are used as an emitter type in photoelectric sensors. See LED (Light Emitting Diode).

Input - The signal applied to a circuit to indicate either the status of machine or process, or used to initiate controlled actions.

Inrush current - The initial surge of current through a load when power is first applied. Inrush current to an inductive load (solenoid, contactor) can be up to 20 times the holding current.

Interrogate - See Gate

Intrinsic safety - A design technique applied to electrical equipment (sensors and switches) and wiring for hazardous locations. The technique involves limiting electrical and thermal energy to a level below that required to ignite a specific hazardous atmosphere.

Intrinsic safety barrier - A protective component designed to limit the voltage and current in a hazardous area. The barrier functions outside of the hazardous location to divert abnormal energy to ground.

IP rating - A rating system established by IEC (standard 529), which defines the suitability of sensors, connectors, switch housing/enclosures for various environments. IP stands for "Ingress Protection" and contains two numbers (i.e. IP65), where in most instances relates to the level of protection that the device has in given environments. For guidance you may consider our IP & NEMA equivalent chart as helpful guidance- detailed reference should be taken from appropriate agencies only.

Isolated output - An output optically and/or electrically separated from the rest of the control system.

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