Why Doesn’t My Temperature Sensor Work Like I Want? An Effective Sensor Development Methodology Is Critical

Engineers often encounter challenging applications where they are unable to find an off-the-shelf temperature sensor that reliably meets their requirements.   When you need to design and build a custom sensor, you should follow a comprehensive product development methodology to ensure your project’s success.   This is especially true for critical applications where poor performance or premature sensor failure is not an option.

Effective Sensor Development Can Be Challenging

Developing a sensor for specialized or mission-critical applications can be extremely challenging. Since no two projects are alike, each sensor will require specialized design, development, and testing.  An effective development methodology will ensure that the sensor will meet your application-specific requirements, fits well with the end-use application and is manufactured correctly and consistently.   If you don’t have a good development methodology you may encounter one or more of these frequently occurring problems:

  • Poor sensor fit with the end product due to inaccurate tolerances or incomplete design specifications
  • Fragile components or connections due to insufficient understanding of the linkage between the application’s operating environment, key sensor system components (sheath, cement, sensing element), materials and manufacturing procedures
  • Poor performance due to inaccurate sensing element placement or incorrect material selection
  • Inconsistent quality due to inadequate test facilities or poor manufacturing procedures
  • Non-optimal performance due to insufficient or inadequate engineering resources or not iteratively modelling and prototyping (3D printing, manufacturing, etc.) prior to design acceptance
  • Regulatory non-compliance due to a lack of knowledge or immature quality system
  • Schedule delays due to misalignment on the development process between marketing, engineering, manufacturing, and testing

Selecting a Good Supplier

When searching for the ideal temperature sensor, your selection criteria should go well beyond the end product’s performance.  Look for a supplier that will take the time to understand and analyze all of your application’s requirements—not just its functional performance.  Upon request, your supplier should be able to provide you with a set of options and trade-offs for materials and manufacturing processes. As you move further into the selection phase, a supplier should also demonstrate expertise in your application area, understanding of the sensor’s performance and attention to your project’s specific requirements.  This supplier should provide explanations on every phase of the design, development, and manufacturing process prior to accepting the contract. This ideal supplier will help you develop a sensor that will meet your quality, cost, and delivery requirements.

An Effective Sensor Development Methodology

Sensor development is akin to rocket science, but the methodology behind it doesn’t have to be.  An effective sensor development project should utilize the following comprehensive methodology:

  • Translate critical application performance requirements into sensor design specifications
  • Define environmental and performance tests and a calibration method that will verify the sensor’s design against your application’s requirements
  • Iteratively model the design and conduct experiments with prototype parts to optimize the design, manufacturing and testing processes to create the ideal sensor
  • Define all of the required end-product documents and how they will be created, tracked, approved, archived, and accessed
  • Select a sensor manufacturer that has the expertise you need to build a successful sensor

Selecting your sensor manufacturer is the most critical part of this methodology.  The ideal manufacturer must have the engineering expertise available to help you solve problems and optimize the design.  They must also have manufacturing expertise in precisely placing elements as well as performing difficult thin-walled welding, soldering, and brazing with a wide variety of uncommon metals as well as implementing manufacturing procedures that will produce high quality parts consistently over time.  They should also have an established and reliable supply chain that can provide your parts when you need them.

Ultra Electronics Delivers Sensors that Work

The design and development of a custom temperature sensor dictates how that sensor will perform across its lifetime. By selecting a custom sensor manufacturer with decades of mission-critical sensor application experience, sensor development guesswork is eliminated.

Ultra Electronics excels at delivering engineered-to-order, ruggedized sensor solutions for high value, mission critical applications.   We offer the Weed Instrument brand of sensors that meet the most demanding application requirements in the world.  We offer industry leading sensor development methods, facilities, and expertise.  We have extensive global standards and regulatory compliance experience to help your team successfully deliver engineered solutions for complex, harsh environment locations and applications.  Our fully computerized production and supply chain operations enable us to deliver sensors on a schedule that matches your consumption preferences.  When reliability and performance are paramount, a solution engineered and manufactured specifically for your application is the best solution.

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