Position Sensor – Operations and Applications

The position sensor is a device that collects information on the precise position and movement of an object. The information can be obtained by direct contact with the object or remotely using magnetic sensors. It can also detect the thickness of a part, the level of a fluid or the angle of rotation of a shaft. The position sensor is essential for the correct operation of different machines such as machine tools.

How does a position sensor work?


The position sensor can operate in different ways:

  • It delivers a signal that varies according to the position of the object. It is through these signal variations that the displacement is translated.
  • With each elementary movement, it emits an impulse. It is by counting the pulses emitted that the displacement and position are determined.
  • It provides a signal through a field when there is no mechanical connection between it and the moving object. This may be an electromagnetic field as with Eddy-current sensors, an electrostatic field as with capacitive sensors and a magnetic induction field as with magneto-resistance, reluctance variation or hall effect sensors.

There are a wide variety of position sensors such as:

  • The optical sensor based on the reception and emission of a light beam.
  • The ultrasonic sensor which is equipped with a transmitter and a receiver. A wave train is reflected on the object to be detected and then returns to the source. The distance of the object is determined from the time it takes the wave stream to travel back and forth.
  • The capacitive sensor allowing the detection of an object of any nature. When an object is in front of the sensitive face of the detector, it is reflected by a variation in the capacitive coupling. The oscillator is then triggered to start by this capacitance change. Following this, an output signal is delivered after formatting.
  • The pneumatic sensor that allows non-contact detection of an object at a short distance.
  • The mechanical sensor which is a contact sensor and allows to interrupt or establish an electrical contact by mechanical action on the moving part of the sensor.
  • The inductive sensor (hall effect). Several types of sensors can coexist since they are all based on a magnetic phenomenon. Among these types of sensors is the hall effect sensor


The Hall Effect Position Sensor


The hall effect position sensor is a non-contact detection device that reacts in the presence of a magnetic field. The position sensor is required for motor switching, multipolar magnet detection, speed detection or position encoding.

The hall effect position sensor has the advantage of being accurate, small in size and easy to use. There are two ways to use it: either by directly detecting the presence of the magnet, or by fixing the hall probe on a magnet to detect the presence of a part.

When the probes are assembled in integrated circuits, amplified and logical outputs are available and implementation by the sensors, particularly 3-wire sensors, is facilitated.

The position sensor preforming machine


In order to be used, the position sensors must be modelled and soldered to electronic modules and circuits after cutting. Because of this, the detectors are delivered by the manufacturers in rolls or strips. To cut and bend them, the use of a specific machine is essential. Most often, these types of machines – automated or not – are used by automotive suppliers and manufacturers who can install more than a hundred sensors in a single machine.

MGA technologies, a Lyon-based SME, has created a machine that allows the preforming and regular cutting of various position, counting or speed sensors, all on a chain. It specialises in the design of special machines for the biotech, automotive and pharmaceutical industries. It is an easy-to-use machine with interchangeable, scalable and modular tools.

A downloadable brochure is available if you would like to know all the details about the position sensor cutting and preforming machine we offer.

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