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Capacitive sensor switches are deployed in many industrial automation environments providing effective, reliable and durable switching capability. The switches are often used for simple functions such as to start and stop a cycle within a production process.

They have evolved with many different models, materials, connection types, fitting types, installation depths and specific standards and requirements, as shown by the CHT series from CAPTRON for example, which have options available for virtually any requirement.

What if the switches performed more than just the switch function, such as providing some kind of status indicator or signaling capability?

This is exactly what CAPTRON has developed with its latest series 4x. These new devices introduce even more versatility, adding signaling capability to the sensor switch – hence delivering combined switch and indicator functions in a single device. This all-in-one capability offers an intelligent human machine interface (HMI) for applications where a large, intuitive and clearly visible status display can make all the difference, such as in industrial and automotive manufacturing environments.

The series 4x is an extension of the existing CHT4 series sensor switches. That means it has all the base features already inherent in the existing product family, such as the robust, vandal-proof design offering IP69K protection and IK08 shock-resistance. The CAPTRON sensor switches are 100% water-and oil-proof, enabling them to withstand the most adverse environmental influences and industrial effects such as dirt, dust and chemicals. In addition, they cannot be destroyed by flames from lighters or blows to the touch surface. The switches are also proven to have an extremely long service life, with several 100 million switching cycles.

So, what is new with the series 4x?

Well, while the CHT4 series already features a large 63mm touch area to start or stop a cycle, the series4x adds the ability to indicate status on the switch’s 7-segment display, with those status messages being programmable. Hence it can show messages like ‘PASS’ or many other messages.

This is a significant benefit, since it does away with the need to have two components – one to switch and one to display the status: in other words, one component is doing the job of two, saving space and additional costs for separate command and signaling devices.

In addition to the messaging, the sensor switch also incorporates a configurable LED ring, enabling feedback via independently controllable LEDs, and with around 16 million light colors available to choose from. These can be predefined LED patterns or free configuration.

With the series4x, preconfigured switches can be easily integrated into existing systems with little configuration effort. Several different variants are available, including the series41 standard and the series41 solid options. The standard option has a standard plastic TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) body casing, and the solid model has a more durable aluminium housing for better protection in rougher environments.

Each model can have either a standard symbol on the touch surface or the LED display, or the LED display can be programmed via IO-Link to display certain messages with the LEDs. Hence this can be used to indicate different cycles that can be performed with the switch like ‘START’ and ‘STOP’, or ‘GO’ and ‘OFF’, but is completely customizable.

A key feature is the IO-Link programmability, enabling programming of parameters such as switch status (LED color, LED setting, number, text), the sensitivity, the minimum activation time, the sensor mode (dynamic, static, toggle) as well as static, flashing or pulsing light. As we highlighted previously, this feature provides the ability to integrate a truly programmable smart sensor switch. As with the series 10, the series4x can be seamlessly integrated into a networked plant, with almost all operating and electrical parameters of the switch freely and easily configurable via the industry standard IO-Link (IEC 61131-9) point-to-point communications interface for sensors and actuators.

Hence there’s no need to change a sensor switch when there is a change of scope or requirement for a production line – the required parameters can be updated via the interface through the system network.

The combined functionality of the series 4x is already finding its way into several automotive manufacturing plants, such as the series41 solid used as release buttons for machine safety speed doors. Other applications being developed using the series 41 solid include gate manufacturers for their gate controls.

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