From ‘tilt sensor’ to ‘slope meter’ to ‘inclinometer’, there are dozens of different names for the indispensable pieces of equipment that tell us how far from a given axis an object is tilting. From aircraft that are banking to execute a turn to submarines, information on the degree of tilt is vital for safe industrial and marine operations.
Tilt sensors can be attached to underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) or to high-tech industrial equipment operating on the sea bed, so they need to be manufactured to withstand both water and pressure and to operate robustly without manual intervention. High-quality sensors are therefore made from stainless steel and ruggedised to withstand an underwater environment.
How Does the Sensor Measure Tilt?
The sensor measures linear displacement – that is, movement in one direction along an axis. It outputs a signal to report how far the object has travelled. The sensor also shows what direction the movement is going in and the number of degrees of deflection from the pre-set requirement.
Although the sensor itself can move through a full 360 degrees, it can be pre-set at a required angle so that it reports the degree of tilt towards or away from that angle. A marine installation might be required to operate within 10 degrees of a 90° angle, so the sensor would be pre-set to report deviations from 90°.
IP67 and IP68 Waterproof Ratings
Whether it’s our mobile phone or a tilt sensor, we need to know just how waterproof an item is. IP67 is the standard for items such as consumer electronics. A bit like a shower-proof raincoat, it tells you the object can cope with light rain or splashing. Obviously, a tilt sensor that is going to be operating underwater continuously needs to be far more robust. The IP68 rating means that the object can be used as a submersible because it is completely waterproof. The sensor will usually also have a pressure rating (for example, 350 bar which is equivalent to a depth of 3,500 metres).
Harsh and Hazardous Environments
Intrinsically safe equipment is vital when the environment is hazardous – for example, when gases may be present that could be ignited by sparks. ATEX & IECEx are the main two approving bodies. EMC protection is vital – this stands for Electro Magnetic Compatibility and ensures that the equipment will not produce electromagnetic energy which could interfere with other equipment and is also not vulnerable to interference itself.
The ATEX/IECEx approval has different categories for different types of hazard, so when buying a tilt sensor, check the classification is correct for your application – some are designed for use with gas, others for dust, and so on. Sensors for use in environments where vapour or gas hazards are present need to have “CSA” approval.
Additionally, all intrinsically safe sensors need a galvanically isolated amplifier for safe operation. Clearly, this is an area where expertise is vital, so choose an expert manufacturer, such as http://www.positek.com/inclinometer-and-tilt-sensor/submersible-tilt-sensors, that can offer not only high-quality and robust tilt sensors but also clear online documentation and a well-informed helpline. This will enable you to make the correct choice for your particular requirement, including any customisations you may need
Underwater temperatures vary widely, so a sensor must also be able to operate within a wide temperature range, such as -20 to +85° C.
Submerged sensors can send information back to vessels or installations when conditions on the surface may be too hazardous for human operators – another way in which these compact technical wonders help us to operate safely.