Designing and manufacturing a sensor is not something that one can just “do”.  In relation to much of the machinery on which sensors are installed, these items are small, and quite often overlooked as one of the most important parts of modern equipment.  Most people don’t consider the intricacies, including the highly specialized production equipment, the custom test equipment, and the knowledge it takes to design and manufacture these instruments.    

  • Selecting the appropriate technology is the starting point for all designs.  Consider all aspects of your application, and what you are looking to accomplish.  
    • Perhaps the most cutting-edge technology for use are what are called IoT sensors, and in the case of Smith Systems, Inc. our MetaSense™ line.  Standard IoT sensors are typically not considered robust enough to live in harsh environments, long-term, though heavy-duty sensors with IoT outputs can be configured, and can be quite effective for data collection in support of complex algorithms, timing, and proactive safety programs.  
    • While zero speed technology produces an incredibly accurate readout of the sensor target down “virtually” zero RPM, it requires power, and given its circuitry, has environmental limitations.  This makes a zero-speed sensor an inappropriate choice for a very high temperature environment, but a great choice for lower temperature variations.    
    • A passive or magnetic sensor can be built in many ways to withstand greater temperature variations.  It does not require a power input though it requires a minimum RPM to operate, making it an inappropriate choice for an application that might have to consider measuring down to zero RPM. 
    •  Temperature sensors can use a variety of elements with varying characteristics to produce the desired outcome.  


  • Material selection is a very important part of designing and producing sensor products.  
    • Whether solid steel, plastic molded, aluminum, or cast, sensor housings are important for environmental protection as well as their effect on the sensor performance.  It is important to note that different materials can result in different sensor behavior.  Housings are one of the many ways a sensor can continue to perform in extreme environments.     
    • Chemical materials such as epoxy, glue, tape, and solder are all important to consider when designing a sensor.  Not only does each of these items have to hold up to the rigors of the environment, but they must also not create a chemical reaction if different temperatures, causing the product to fail prematurely.  
    • Cables and connectors are how the sensor communicates to the vehicle.  In most extremely harsh environments, wireless sensor integrations aren’t proven to be as robust, and therefore, cables cab connectors are required.  They are most often chosen based on their testing capabilities (shock/vibration, temperature, etc.) and other regulations.  


  • Finally, sensor construction is essential in eliminating potential failures, and ensuring capability and longevity in the application.  The materials and technology must be built together taking into consideration factors such as thermal expansion and shock and vibration dampening.  Stress loops in cable and wire as well as material knit when molding are also very important.  


As you can see, a lot of considerations are made when designing a sensor.  These components may seem small, but their function is tied to engine timing and function, gas mileage, safety protection systems, braking ability, and wheel slip.  With over 40 years of experience in this specialized market, Smith Systems, Inc. can aid in identifying the right configuration for you, and exceed your expectations when it comes to reliability and price.   Contact us today with your questions!