A rundown of the range of sensor types available today

At HDDG21, Jonathan Foote describes 20+ sensor types available for prototyping your next project

Supplyframe’s mission is to create more access to information about electronics design and manufacturing. As such, we do a meetup in San Francisco called, Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic. These events include talks by industry experts in hardware and software. The speakers are often building hardware for recreation or as part of their employment. The common thread is that they want to give a view “under the hood”.

HDDG21 was held May 18th, 2017 at the Supplyframe San Francisco office. We welcomed Jonathan Foote (@rrmutt), long time electronics designer and “a recovering scientist”. Jon’s career has gone from industry to academia and back again, with multiple stops at prestigious research institutions such as Cambridge University and Palo Alto Research, Inc.

The talk started with the “most terrifying day of his life” when his robot design that does surgery on swollen prostates (Procept Biorobotics) was tested on a human being. This was a particularly well quantified device, as most of the work the end effector would be performing was in a tight space, indeed. The pressure, light, temperature and a range of other parameters needed to be monitored closely for patient safety and proper robot operation.

His work also moves into the realm of performance and artwork. Jon worked on 30 foot statues that went to Coachella. While the direct implication of injury is not as direct as a medical surgery robot, there is a large safety component to creating such large artwork. A moving, metal, fire-breathing art piece has the possibility for lots of damage and making sure that it’s properly instrumented will prevent any potential issues.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things that Jon talks about sensing and some of how they are sensed. Watch the video for the full list of possible uses and more detail on how things are detected:

  • Optical
  • Gesture
  • Ultrasonic
  • Microwave/RADAR
  • LIDAR
  • Light & Color detection
  • UV detection
  • Flex and Force
  • Force and mass
  • Pressure
  • Audio (MEMs microphones)
  • Flow
  • Vibration (piezo)
  • Magnetic (Hall effect)
  • Gas detection
  • Temperature detection (various)
  • Motion detection

These kinds of recaps are often frenetic, simply because there is so much to get through. There are so many different ways to monitor the world around us today that it can be important to periodically pause and see which new methods are available. We’re glad Jon stopped by to tell us about these sensors and how he’s used them in the past.

Were there any categories or sensor types missing? Let us know in the comments!