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Pepperl+Fuchs Blog

Inclination Sensors Explained: My Slant on Things

Posted by Patricia Stafford on Thu, Sep 11, 2014

What is an inclination sensor?

Inclination sensors provide a simple way to measure and monitor the angles of stationary and moving objects. They are also called tilt sensors or inclinometers.

Inclination sensors measure angles
Different types of inclination sensors include “fixed range” and “programmable range.” An example of a fixed range sensor with fixed end points is one that has a range between ± 15°. Fixed range sensors are also known as fixed-point sensors. Programmable sensors may have an adjustable range of up to 360°. With a programmable sensor, you can adjust the range between different points by setting the endpoints for the output range. You can use 4 mA ... 20 mA for a 360° angle, a 180° angle, or some other finite angle of your choosing.

Inclination sensors can be single axis or dual axis. A single-axis sensor measures in only one axis, while a dual-axis sensor can measure in two axes of orientation.

What is the principle behind inclination sensors?  How do they work?

Inclination sensors feature a robust, noncontact measuring system based on a micromechanical spring-mass system called MEMS (Microelectromechanical system). MEMS technology works by using gravity, and combines semiconductor technology with micromechanics.  You can compare the way this technology works to a spring mass system. A fixed reference mass is used to measure angles based on changes in electrical capacitance so that you can measure the acceleration of gravity relative to the MEMS system.

What kinds of output types are possible with inclination sensors?

Inclination sensors offer the following output types: current, voltage, CANopen, and J1939. Voltage is available in both 0 V … 5 V and 0 V … 10 V. The CANopen protocol is designed for use with a controller area network (CAN). The J1939 protocol is prevalent in mobile equipment and material handling vehicles.

How do I mount an inclination sensor?

Inclination sensors are easy to install. They are placed inside a bracket with mounting holes at the bottom. You can mount these sensors on machine elements that tilt relative to the gravitational pull of the earth. Mounting and output calibration should be done relative to the direction of gravitational acceleration.

How accurate are inclination sensors?

Standard accuracy is equal to ± 0.5°.  INX360 and INY360 are two models offering standard accuracy and a range of 360°.  INY030 is a model that offers a higher accuracy equal to ± 0.2°, with the understanding that its range is limited to ± 15°.

Can inclination sensors withstand a washdown with fresh water?

Yes.  Make sure that the inclination sensor you choose has a protection degree rating of IP68/IP69K.

How do they handle vibration?

Since an inclination sensor measures acceleration, the effects of vibration as well as gravity can affect the output signal. Sometimes filtering needs to be applied to minimize the effect of machine vibration and allow for smoothing or elimination of the vibration effect.

What can you do with an inclination sensor? What kinds of applications are they used in?

Tilt sensors are used on a solar panel
Inclination sensors are ideal for many types of automation and renewable energy applications, as shown in the following list.

  • Commercial vehicles and mobile equipment
  • Construction machinery 
  • Transport and loading units
  • Solar plants and wind energy
  • Automotive production plants 
  • Rail and marine vessels
  • Metal processing
  • Elevators
  • Scissor lifts

See an inclination sensor at work

Watch this video to see an inclination sensor in action.


Inclination Sensor Questions?  Get the Quick Select Product Guide

Topics: Inclination Sensors

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