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Understanding Model Number Nomenclature for Industrial Sensors

Posted by Tracy Molnar on Thu, Feb 14, 2013

Decoding inductive, capacitive, and ultrasonic sensor model numbers


Model numbers like those shown above can appear to be a meaningless mixture of letters, numbers, dots, dashes, and other characters, but they are, in reality, quite descriptive, once you get to know them. In this post, you’ll find enough information to crack the code for most inductive, capacitive, and ultrasonic proximity sensor model numbers, and be able to tell the basic features of each sensor listed above.

Sensors model number nomenclature explainedFirst, some general notes on model numbers and their format:

  • Dots and commas are often interchangeable and almost always indicate a decimal point in a measurement. Most measurements that are part of a model number are in millimeters.
  • The typical model number tells us at least five important things about a sensor: the type of sensing, the detection range, the housing style, the type of output, and the connection style.
  • The most common model number format has three or four segments, so for the sake of simplicity, this post will cover those. A dash is the character most often used to separate the various segments of a model number, but a plus sign might also be used.

First Segment

The type of sensing is indicated by the first letter of a model number, as follows:

  • N Inductive sensor
  • C Capacitive sensor
  • U Ultrasonic sensor

The detection range is a number contained in the first segment of the model number. For example, a model number beginning UC2000 is an ultrasonic sensor with a two meter range (2000 mm = 2 m).

Second Segment

The housing style is described in the second segment of a model number, and requires a little more information in order to make sense of it:

  • If the second segment begins with a number, this usually translates into the diameter of a cylindrical housing. The number can be followed by other characters, such as G to indicate a threaded housing, M if the housing is metal or K if it’s plastic, and another number that corresponds to either the threaded or overall length of the housing.
  • If the second segment begins with a letter followed by one or more numbers, the housing will be a surface-mount style, typically rectangular.
  • Since a few digits can only specify so much about a housing, a sensor selection guide is an indispensable tool for determining size and shape. More detailed information, including dimensions, is available on the datasheet for any given model.

Third Segment

The third segment of a model number indicates the type of output. Some common examples are shown below:

  • Z0 2-wire DC normally open
  • E2 3-wire PNP normally open
  • W 2-wire AC normally open or normally closed
  • US 2-wire AC/DC normally open
  • I analog current

Fourth Segment

Many model numbers contain only the three segments described above, in which case it can be assumed that they have a standard connection type, usually a 2-meter length cable integrated into the housing with flying leads at the opposite end, but occasionally a terminal compartment instead. If a sensor has a connector, either integrated into the housing or on a short pigtail cable, this segment of the model number will begin with a V. Some standard connectors are:

  • V1 M12, 4-pin
  • V15 M12, 5-pin
  • V3 M8, 3-pin
  • V31 M8, 4-pin
  • V93 7/8 in., 3-pin
  • V94 7/8 in., 4-pin
  • V95 7/8 in., 5-pin
  • V12 ½ in., 3-pin

Some sensors include special features, such as weld-field immunity, more than one output, shielding, or the ability to be programmed via serial interface. Often such features are indicated somewhere in the model number as well. Model number keys, found in the sensor catalog, are helpful tools for deciphering some of these added features.

Cracking the Code

Let’s look again at the four model numbers that began this post, and see if they make more sense now. Although some of the finer aspects were not covered, we should be able to determine the main features of each device. Remember, the best information for each model is found on its datasheet, a downloadable document.


First segment:
C = capacitive sensor
BN was not covered in this post, but the B means this model is from the Basic Series, and the N indicates that the sensor is unshielded, i.e., not flush mountable
5 = 5 mm sensing range

Second segment:
F46 = flat rectangular housing, F46 style

Third segment:
E2 = 3-wire DC PNP normally open output

Fourth segment:
A connection type is not included in this model number, but the standard one for flat rectangular sensors is a 2 m cable.


First segment:
N = inductive sensor
CB was not covered, but the C means this is a Classic Series model, and the B indicates it is shielded, i.e., flush mountable in metal
1.5 = 1.5 mm sensing range

Second segment:
8 = 8 mm diameter cylindrical housing
G = threaded housing
M = metal housing
50 = 50 mm housing length

Third segment:
Z0 = 2-wire DC normally open output

Fourth segment:
V3 = 3-pin M8 connector


First segment:
U = ultrasonic sensor
C = Classic Series model
2000 = 2000 mm (= 2 m) sensing range

Second segment:
30 = 30 mm diameter cylindrical housing
G = threaded housing
M = metal housing

Third segment:
E6 = 2 outputs, each 3-wire DC PNP, normally open or normally closed (programmable)
R2 was not covered, but it means this model has an RS232 programming interface

Fourth segment:
V15 = 5-pin M12 connector


First segment:
N = inductive sensor
J was not covered – this is an older Classic Series model and the datasheet will need to be consulted to determine whether it is shielded or unshielded
15 = 15 mm sensing range

Second segment:
U4 = surface mount housing, U4 style

Third segment:
W = 2-wire AC output, normally open or normally closed

Fourth segment:
A connection type is not included in this model number, but the standard one for the U4 housing is a terminal compartment.

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Topics: Terminology, Inductive Sensors, Capacitive Sensors, Ultrasonic Sensors

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