Pressure Sensors Support Safe Operations of Heavy Equipment

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Construction projects are time-sensitive, and contractors are often under extreme pressure to complete them on schedule. Project delays could mean millions of dollars will be lost in penalties or bonuses. And if those delays are caused by equipment failure, it could cost millions more in downtime, but more importantly, worker safety could be compromised.

Given what’s at stake, it seems unlikely that a $100 pressure sensor plays an important role in supporting the safety and efficiency of operations. But, they are used in many safety critical applications in some of the largest equipment used in construction, mining and agriculture.

Pressure Sensor Use in Safety Critical Applications

Pressure sensors are embedded in the mobile hydraulic systems of heavy equipment to detect the pressure and/or its change and convert it accurately and repeatedly into an electrical signal. This electrical signal, which is a measure of the magnitude of the applied pressure or change in pressure, is relayed to the operator through monitors or other types of instrumentation. This safety critical information helps operators prevent equipment upsets that can impact worker safety and delay projects. Examples of safety critical applications for pressure sensors include:

  • Crane Outriggers – Pressure sensors work to alert the operator to pressure decreases in the outriggers, which indicates ground subsidence below the outrigger pads. Outriggers balance the crane during lifting operations, and if the ground beneath is giving way, the crane could collapse if the issue is not addressed.
  • Hydraulic Booms – A pressure sensor embedded in hydraulic booms works to ensure the load is not exceeding capacity and prevent the equipment from tipping over. Pressure sensors measures pressure in the boom and send an electronic signal via a load moment indicator to warn the operator that the load is too heavy.
  • Rear Suspension – In dump trucks, pressure sensors measure the pressure in the rear suspension to determine if the truck is overloaded to prevent it from toppling over.

Proper Application of Pressure Sensors
When the pressure sensors are properly applied, they work like monitors to: ensure optimal safety of operations and avoid downtime; reach or increase the planned performance of the plant and machinery; and reduce total costs. However, with many technical solutions and providers it can be difficult to determine exactly which pressure sensor will be best for an application.  To help narrow the options, consider the following:

  • Reliability – You need a pressure sensor that will perform just as well on day one as it does on day 101.
  • Environment – Most often heavy equipment is used in rugged environments. The pressure sensor must be able to withstand rigors such as shock and vibration to perform as expected.
  • Pressure Spikes – When heavy equipment is in use, propagated waves of pressure can come back and hit the pressure sensor. This can affect the reliability of the sensor if it’s not designed to withstand the impact.

For more information on pressure sensor usage and selection, consider these articles:

  • Electronic Pressure Measurement – Pressure Instrument Selection Criteria
  • Pressure Sensor Principles and Technology
  • Hydraulic Pressure Transmitter in Hydraulic Crane Use
  • Fluid Power and Mobile Hydraulics Systems in Equipment including Cranes

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