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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NAAMS - A global standardization effort for "approved components" for use in automotive assembly and stamping machines. Standards produced and maintained through collaboration efforts of Chrysler LLC., Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, and their respective suppliers. Visit to learn more at NAAMS Components

N.C. - See Normally closed (N.C.)

N.O. - See Normally open (N.O.)

NPN output - See Sinking

Nanometer (nm) - Unit of length used to specify the wavelength of light energy. 1nm = 0.00000001 meter (10-9 meter). Some typical wavelengths: red LEDs are 650nm, green LEDs are 560nm,infrared LEDs are 880 or 940nm.

NEMA - A acronym that stands for the "National Electrical Manufacturers Association", NEMA is an association of electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers in the United States. See our NEMA/IP Comparison Chart. Or visit the NEMA website. As related to sensors and sensor brackets, NEMA publishes standard ratings they guide manufactures of sensors, switches and integration components as to the suitability of products for different environmental conditions. NEMA 4, 4X, 13 & 13…

Noise (electrical) - Undesirable energy which causes devices to operate erratically.

Nominal sensing distance - The nominal sensing distance is measured from the face of the sensor to the nearest point of the target. Steel is used as the standard target when nominal sensing distance is stated.

Non-contact sensors - In fields of industrial automation and machine control many detection applications have moved away from limit switches, which must physically contact objects to be detected. Newer electronic-based sensors emit a beam that determines if an object (target) is present, without contact; these sensors are referred to as non-contact sensors. A wide variety of non-contact sensors are available; laser, photoelectric, inductive, ultrasonic and capacitive.

Non-embeddable - See Non-shielded

Non-shielded - Sensors which have longer sensing distances and a wider magnetic field, but are sensitive to surrounding metal. As shown below, the magnet "flux" lines emit outward to the sides of a non-shielded sensor, so this area must be metal-free. Note, "non-embeddable" = "unshielded" = "non-shielded" = "non-flush" are equal terms for the same type sensor, as different companies/countries use varying terms.

Non-ferrous metal - Any metal which does not contain iron, or shows no magnetic tendencies.

Non-incendive - Inability under normal operation to ignite a hazardous mixture.

Normal contact position - The position of the contacts when no operating force is applied.

Normally closed (N.C.) - Output “opens” in actuated state; output is “closed” in rest (normal) state.

Normally high - See Normally closed

Normally low - See Normally open

Normally open (N.O.) - Output “closes” in actuated state; output is “open” in rest (normal) state.

Nor logic - A circuit, where no inputs are closed, and yet, the output is energized.

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