Torque Sensors in Automation Systems

What is a Torque Sensor and How is it Used in Industrial Automation? 

Industrial automation has revolutionized the way the world works. However, it’s impossible to set up a fully-functioning system without an array of different sensors. In general, these sensors create a measurable output for a specific physical force—whether that is electricity, temperature, or torque. 

The latter is an extremely important measurement for systems that include rotary motion and/or frequent tightening of components. Torque sensors are used to measure the amount of torque both within a system and being applied to other components. 

The torque sensor is an extremely important—though often underappreciated—part of industrial automation systems. 

What Does a Torque Sensor Do? 

In essence, torque sensors are used to measure and record the torque on a rotating system. This could be anything from an engine to a crankshaft to a bicycle crank. Monitoring torque helps ensure that a system can run safely and at its maximum level of efficiency. For industries that manufacture machines and mechanical components, torque is a crucial measurement. 

It can be divided into two categories—static and dynamic. Each represents a different type of torque that needs to be measured in its own way. While dynamic torque involves angular acceleration, static torque does not. Something like a car’s engine can produce both static and dynamic torque depending on where and when it is measured. 

Torque sensors are designed to capture these torque measurements in a reliable, replicable fashion. They are a form of transducer that converts a torsional mechanical input (torque) into an electrical output signal. This allows engineers and supervisors to measure torque over time and at precise intervals. Moreover, it helps quantify torque with easy-to-understand output values and measurements. 

What Types of Torque Sensors Are There? 

Simply saying “torque sensor” doesn’t clarify much as there are multiple types of torque sensors. The two types most commonly used in industrial automation include rotating torque sensors and torque transducers. 

A rotating torque sensor is, as the name suggests, used for measuring the response of rotating torque. It is equipped with mechanical stops to increase surplus capacity and safety during both assembly and operation. 

Torque transducers are a bit different. They use superior strain gauge technology. This allows them to measure the most demanding static and dynamic torque inputs across a variety of applications. 

Torque sensors can further be broken down into either the rotary or reaction type. A rotary torque sensor is used when a dynamic torque measurement must be taken. Meanwhile, reaction torque sensors measure static torque, often at a point where it is transferred to the ground. 

How Are Torque Sensors Used in Industrial Automation? 

As mentioned, there are countless uses for torque sensors in industrial automation systems. A fantastic example is an automated vehicle assembly line. This type of system relies on consistency and quality control with life-or-death consequences for its end users. 

One important use for torque sensors in this system relates to its fastening tools. Nuts and bolts need to be tightened to the correct torque settings. This ensures ideal performance and safety. If too much torque is applied, a bolt could be sheared, wasting materials and potentially compromising the final product. Not enough torque is even worse. This could lead to a bolt that vibrates or even comes loose. This also jeopardizes the quality of the final product and poses serious safety risks. 

In an automated production line, the addition of torque sensors allows for constant monitoring. Bolts can be individually audited thanks to the sensor data to ensure they have been tightened with the appropriate amount of torque. 

Of course, this is just one example of how torque sensors can be used in industrial automation systems. There are countless other uses for this versatile type of sensor. 

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