Contact types still dominate makers' selections of temperature sensors
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  • Companies sustain product improvements to strengthen foothold in end-use industries. Some have released noncontact versions to broaden range.

    Contact units remain the key category in China’s temperature sensors line as makers capitalize on the mature type’s broad base in end-use industries such as home appliances. Suppliers leverage the country’s majority share of the global component output for this application, which surpasses 70 percent. At the same time, some have introduced noncontact variants, mostly IR units, in preparation for the expected market shift. Such advanced configurations are generally used in high-temperature and -vibration environments, specifically the plastic, metal, food and beverage sectors. Shenzhen Fulighten Optoelectronics Technology Co. Ltd has released IR models for medical equipment. Manufacturers are watching developments in smart kinds, which are also projected to grow in coming years.

    To enhance overall competitiveness, makers continue to boost product reliability, concentrating on precision, sensitivity, reliability and power consumption. Toward this end, they will use high-performance thermo-sensitive elements such as thermocouples, thermistors and resistance temperature detectors. Most currently source the components locally, with a few producing them in-house. Hefei Sensing Electronics Co. Ltd can churn out up to 150 million NTC thermistors per year. Other suppliers turn to Japan providers Shibaura and Semitec. So far, local manufacturers can realize ±0.2, ±0.1, ±0.05, ±0.03 and ±0.02 C precision levels, and 0.2 to 15s thermal time constant.

    In terms of miniaturization, companies are working to achieve more-compact configurations to match the trend in terminal products. Shenzhen Fulighten has a model for medical devices integrating a 0.5mm-diameter NTC thermistor from Semitec.

    The current selection of contact temperature sensors in China consists of thermocouples or TCs, thermistors, resistance temperature detectors or RTDs and IC units. The first three make up the bulk of output.

    The first type, which operates in -250 to 2,300 C, is widely adopted in industrial applications not requiring high accuracy. Besides the wide temperature range, it has a price advantage.

    Thermistors are classified into NTC and PTC variants. These feature better sensitivity than the other kinds. Units have between -100 and 500 C operating temperature, and are utilized in the automotive, medical and consumer electronics, and telecom industries. Shenzhen Fulighten and Hefei Sensing specialize in these products.

    RTDs come in thin-film and wire-wound units, respectively supporting -150 to 500 C and -200 to 850 C. They are broadly employed in process industries because of enhanced accuracy, stable output and ease of calibration. With these attributes, RTDs may replace thermocouples. The former, however, are not designed to withstand high vibration and mechanical shock. Yuyao Gongyi Meter Co. Ltd turns out mainly RTDs. It also offers TCs and thermistors.

    ICs are used mainly in circuit boards, computers and mobile phones. They operate in -55 to 150 C and can produce analog or digital output.

    Besides thermo-sensitive elements, the key inputs used in manufacturing temperature sensors are stainless steel or copper lead wires, plastic and metal.
    Makers usually obtain them from local companies.

    Manufacturers plan to maintain prices despite the appreciation of the yuan and increasing labor costs to attract more orders.

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