Safety sensors: market trends and challenges
Source: Elvina Yang, Freelancer
Trends such as data metrics and multiparameter sensing devices are rising in the safety sensor market. Convincing manufacturers of the importance of investing in safety components however, remains a challenge.
With the establishment of new industrial facilities and the increasing adoption of collaborative robots or “cobots”, there are great opportunities for growth in the market for safety sensors for use in industrial automation.
Such sensors have been used in the industrial sector to aid monitoring of remote and hazardous areas, and areas without direct access for humans. Nikhil Kaitwade, Research Manager at Future Market Insights, pointed to two key trends in the sensor market for this sector -- data metrics and multiparameter sensing devices.
“Data metrics being captured by IoT-(internet of things) enabled sensors are being analyzed followed by monitoring and control by the automation control systems, which is integrated into the overall system.
“In addition, sensor manufacturers are offering multiparameter measuring and sensing devices (e.g. temperature, electric field, level, moisture, etc.) catering to several end use industries, which was earlier relegated to only single parameter measurement.”
Manufacturers still deterred by costs
Although manufacturers know that adopting cobots and safety sensors can benefit their operations, it isn’t easy for them to quickly agree with investing in the technology.
“With the rapid pace of technology introduction and replacement in subsequent intervals of time, fear of existing technology being redundant and installation of long term technology type is poised to be the major challenge of adopting safety sensors by manufacturers,” said Kaitwade.
For manufacturers, the sunk costs and ongoing expenditure associated with the adoption of cobots and upgrading to new prototypes of safety sensors requires further examination.
“The low operating margin for the manufacturers can be considered as a challenge to the growth of the machine safety and sensors market,” said Kaitwade.
For manufacturers in those regions where price sensitivity of product procurement has a considerable weightage over quality and norms of system safety, Kaitwade suggests skipping the safety sensors and looking for more economical alternatives for system monitoring and control.
Currently, the world’s manufacturing hubs were confined to developed countries such as the U.S., Japan, the countries of the EU, and to an extent China, Kaitwade said. However, he added that with manufacturing companies shifting or expanding their operations base in Asia and Latin America, “this restraint can be offset in the next 5-6 years.”
Manufacturers should be safety conscious
From the perspective of a sensor company, a safety sensor isn’t something that can be elminated to reduce costs. Although it’s tiny compared to the whole system, it’s actually the safety controller of the entire operation.
“Most designers only focus on the cost of a sensor even if the component has no safety certification. How to educate customers to choose suitable components for an adequate safety system is a short-term market challenge,” said Roger Wang, Senior Service and Product Technical Manager at Pilz Taiwan.
Machine safety for industrial robots is like the health insurance. If a policy holder remains healthy, the cost of insurance is fixed but low. If they get ill, the cost will be much higher. The same applies to manufacturing. Although implementing the right safety sensors costs time and money, the investment is worth it to avoid injuries and downtime.
“Building up safety consciousness is the most important mission in the future,” said Wang. “Due to exportation orientation, machine builders in Taiwan shall upgrade their own safety consciousness and meet ISO and European legislation by inherent safety design.”