Facing the Inevitable: Sensor Obsolescence, Mitigation Strategies, and Alternatives

Obsolescence. If its only difficulty was remembering how it is spelled it wouldn’t be so bad. And whether you’re trying to replace a sensor that has failed with age or are a manufacturer who can no longer source an important sensor, obsolescence of an inexpensive sensor can create extremely expensive headache. At Everight Position we help customers to understand the causes of sensor obsolescence, explore mitigation strategies and find alternative solutions.

Causes of Sensor Obsolescence:

  • Technological Advancements: Emerging sensor technologies boasting superior performance can quickly eclipse their predecessors, resulting in sensor series ending production, or worse, their manufacturers’ going out of business. The most recent example being the Farrand Controls Inductosyn. See this recent blog post for more details https://evrtp.com/inductosyn-end-of-an-era-new-opportunities-or-both/ .
  • Component Discontinuation: The supply chain crisis of the last few years has increased this risk exponentially. Manufacturers have been forced to discontinue product series years before originally planned simply because they cannot reliably source sub-components.  This can leave users scrambling for replacements when repairs or upgrades are needed.
  • Software Compatibility Issues: As software evolves, compatibility with older sensors can become a challenge. This can be especially difficult as the engineer who wrote the software for the control system may very well be retired by now.

Strategies for Addressing Sensor Obsolescence:

  • Modular Design: Employing modular designs where sensors can be easily swapped out for newer models allows for easier adaptation to technological advancements and facilitates future upgrades. For shafted rotary encoders for example, there are standard flange options shared among multiple vendors, providing easy dual sourcing.
  • Standardized Interfaces: Utilizing standardized communication protocols and interfaces such as SSI and BiSS-C helps ensure compatibility with future sensor generations, even if the underlying technology changes. Proprietary protocols are generally more expensive, less widely available and will be harder to find engineers to work on them in the future.
  • Obsolescence Management Programs: Implementing obsolescence management programs involving proactive component lifecycle assessments, securing last-time-buy options for critical components, and exploring alternative sourcing channels can provide a buffer against disruptions.

Sensor obsolescence is an inevitable reality, but at Everight Position we can help you every step of the way. Whether you are selecting a sensor for a longterm OEM project, trying to replace a sensor from a defunct manufacturer or looking for a second source to avoid potential supply chain issues, our team of engineers and vendors are uniquely equipped to help. As Everight is NIST800.171 compliant we can help with Defense and other related applications. Call Everight today so that tomorrow you can get back to other tasks.

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