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Sensor, Accelerometer, or Transmitter?

Chris Hansford | Managing Director, Hansford Sensors

Sensor, Accelerometer, or Transmitter?

What is the difference between an accelerometer, a transmitter, and a vibration sensor?

A vibration sensor is a type of accelerometer, but an accelerometer is not necessarily a vibration sensor. An accelerometer measures a quality of acceleration, not necessarily vibration. But vibration sensors, which measure a quantity of acceleration and are therefore a type of accelerometer, are by definition accelerometers.

A vibration sensor typically contains a piezoelectric crystal element bonded to a mass. When the accelerometer is subject to an accelerative force, the mass compresses the crystal, causing it to produce an electrical signal that is proportional to the level of force applied. The signal is then amplified and conditioned using inbuilt electronics that create an output signal, which is suitable for use by higher-level data acquisition or control systems.

Having established the difference between an accelerometer and a vibration sensor, what then is a vibration transmitter? This is an accelerometer that has been configured for loop-powered, 4-20mA output, which may be interfaced with many types of commercially available current-loop monitoring equipment, such as PLCs. If you are using a PLC to measure lower-value assets, such as motors, fans, and pumps, a 4-20mA device with the capacity of interfacing directly into PLC, BMS, or SCADA offers a cost-effective means of online monitoring.

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About the Author

Chris Hansford Managing Director, Hansford Sensors

Chris Hansford is a qualified electromechanical engineer with over 30 years’ experience in the vibration monitoring industry. In 1986, he was involved in the formation of a sensor manufacturing company and, as Managing Director for 20 years, successfully grew the business and gained a wealth of commercial experience within the UK market. In 2006, Chris moved on to set-up Hansford Sensors Ltd, a manufacturer of accelerometers and ancillary equipment that has already become a global market leader.