Standard inductive proximity sensors are used across the automation industry for metal detection applications and are generally reliable in these operations. But issues arise when switching from steel to other metals like copper, brass, or aluminum. A standard inductive sensor may encounter problems in such scenarios. Due to the reduction factor, the standard inductive sensor detects these different metals at different distances. If you had a sensor mounted and set up to sense a steel material but switched to copper, for example, the copper material might be out of the sensor’s range due to this difference in reduction factor, resulting in a missed reading. Factor 1 sensors were created to eliminate this problem.

Reduction factor

content provided by balluffThe reduction factor is the root cause of variable distance readings with a standard inductive sensor. But what exactly is it? The standard operating range of an inductive proximity sensor is determined by its response to a one-millimeter-thick square piece of mild steel. Other metals like copper and aluminum deviate from this standard range due to differences in material properties. For example, copper has a reduction factor of around 0.4, so it can only be detected at 0.4 times the standard operating range of an inductive proximity sensor.

We can save for later the details of why this occurs, but the key point here is that different material properties cause different reduction factors, which result in different switching distances. The table below shows these different reduction factors and switching distances. Factor 1 sensors take all these variable reduction factors and equalize them to a standard operating distance. This means that you can read anything from copper to steel at the same range, reducing the possibility of missed readings and eliminating the need for repositioning sensors whenever a material change occurs.

Material Reduction Factor Typical Switching Distance
Steel 1.00 4.00mm
Stainless Steel 0.60...1.00 2.40...4.00mm
Brass 0.35...0.50 1.40...2.00mm
Aluminum 0.30...0.45 1.20...1.80mm
Copper 0.25...0.45 1.00...1.80mm

When to use Factor 1 sensors

Factor 1 sensors are well-suited for any process that involves different metals. Whether it is automated welding or a packaging conveyor, the factor 1 sensor will keep the material switching ranges uniform. But why is this such a big advantage?

Think about the time spent having to adjust sensor distances. Not only is the task annoying, it also takes up time. Having factor 1 sensors in place will increase the uptime of these processes and eliminate the need for sensor adjustments.

One last benefit to note about factor 1 sensors is that they are inherently weld field immune. The internal construction of the sensor prevents it from being affected by the electromagnetic field generated during welding. This additional immunity allows the sensor to survive in these welding conditions where a typical sensor might fail if it comes in proximity to the weld field.

In the end, you know your application best, but if any of the above benefits resonate with you, it’s time to start thinking about factor 1.