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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Machine Vision - A method of using electronic devices to capture (take a picture of) a process or part in a manufacturing or Automation system. Machine Vision often consists of the integration of multiple components that; 1) acquires an image using a camera, lense(s), and lighting, 2) software for image processing and decision making (i.e. pass/fail), and finally 3) circuitry that outputs a signal to other system components.

Magnetic Sensors - Type of non-contact sensor designed to detect targets (machine positions) without contact or wear-and-tear in control technology. These sensors are triggered by "permanent magnet" Targets, and are most commonly used to monitor piston positions on pneumatic cylinders and grippers. In other applications and since they have a long sensing range, they may be more favorable to inductive proximity switches reach their limits. Magnetic fields penetrate all non-magnetisable materials. Therefore the sensors can detect magnetic fields through walls made of non-ferrous metal, stainless steel, aluminum, plastic or wood.

Margin indication - An LED used to signal adequate light intensity or a warning of inadequate light intensity.

Maintained contact switch - Contacts remain closed after release of actuator until reset. make To close or establish an electrical circuit. See normally open (N.O.).

Margin - A measurement of light reaching the photodetector over the minimum light required to operate the sensor’s amplifier by crossing its threshold level. The calculation is expressed as a whole number ratio. In equation form: Margin = Light energy reaching the receiver Amplifier threshold Margin, plotted versus sensing distance, is used to predict the reliability of a photoelectric with consideration for ambient conditions. Optimizing margin increases the reliability of the sensor.

Maximum load current - The maximum amount of current that can flow through a sensor and not cause sensor failure.

Maximum inrush current - The maximum current level at which the sensor can be operated for a short period of time.

Maximum operating distance - See Maximum sensing distance

Maximum sensing distance - The longest distance at which a sensor can detect a target under optimal conditions.

Maximum travel - See Total travel

Mechanical convergence - A separate emitter and receiver pair is angled toward a common point, at a desired distance from the controls.

Microsecond - One millionth of a second. 1 microsecond = 0.000001 second. Abbreviated as "ms"

Millisecond - One thousandth of a second. 1 millisecond = 0.001 second. Abbreviated as "ms".

Minimum bending radius - The minimum radius a fiber optic bundle can withstand without breaking the fibers.

Minimum load current - The minimum amount of current a sensor requires to maintain reliable operation.

Minimum operating distance - See Minimum sensing distance

Minimum sensing distance - The lower limit of the specified sensing range of an ultrasonic or photoelectric sensor.

Modulated light source - An LED that emits pulsed light, permitting a photoelectric sensor to ignore ambient light.

Momentary switch - A switch with contacts that return from operated condition to normal condition when actuating force is removed.

MOV (metal oxide varistor) - A component designed to protect solid-state output devices and electronic equipment from damage.

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