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How Do Silo Sensors Work?

Reliable grain equipment is essential for maximizing production and quality, and as agricultural demand has grown, the need for automation has only increased. Luckily, technological advancements have improved productivity far beyond initial harvesting and management equipment. Automating more tasks enhances efficiency and allows you to focus on the areas that need the most attention.

Before silo sensors, grain measurement required regular monitoring with mechanical methods or in-person checks. While these methods worked, they took far more time, effort and resources to provide accurate results. Grain silo sensors use advanced technologies to calculate silos’ filling rates without manual or mechanical checking. These sensors let you conveniently and accurately monitor silo bulk grain levels.

Silo level sensors have made measuring grain levels a much easier and more streamlined process. Selecting the right sensor gives you better readings and keeps you up-to-date on your silo’s contents 24/7, making your facility more efficient and precise than ever.

What Is a Silo Level Sensor?

A silo level sensor measures the level of solids in a silo. Sensors can measure micro-deformations in the silo — movements created by emptying and filling the silo — and a measurement device lets facilities know when the silo requires refilling or emptying. The sensor system continuously monitors the silo’s changing conditions, providing up-to-date information on its contents.

There are two main parts to a silo sensor. These components work together to collect and transmit data successfully:

  • Sensor: The sensor’s core function is to measure silo levels. Both contact and non-contact sensors accurately read silo contents, but they do so in different ways. Contact sensors must have regular contact with the material they measure to work, while non-contact sensors have no contact with silo material.
  • Electronic components: The electronics help convert and transfer the data while containing the power source that makes the system work. Once the sensor collects its measurements, the system needs to convert the data into a format that electronics can read. The electronic converter transforms the sensor’s data into a digital form. Once other systems can read the data, the electronics transfer it to reports for analysis.

How Do Silo Sensors Work?

All sensors monitor silo levels, but there are different options for the measurement process. Silo sensors use contact or non-contact technologies to provide accurate, continuous readings for more efficient silo usage. While both sensor categories provide high-quality readings, the best system for your silo will depend on your setup and preferred integration method.

Contact Sensors

Contact sensors are installed on the silo and have components inside for material contact and measurement. Contact sensors are typically cabled and will have continuous or intermittent contact with your silo’s material.

A rod or cable travels down into the silo to contact the material or sit at the preferred detection point. When the material reaches the detection point or the signal traveling down the cable contacts the material, the indicator alerts the system of the silo’s levels.

Weigh-and-cable, guided wave radar and bob-type sensors all fall under this category.

Non-Contact Sensors

Non-contact sensors are installed on your silo’s exterior. They measure your silo’s material without contacting it and require no interior installation like cables or rods. Some operations prefer non-contact sensors since they never touch the silo material and avoid potential interferences with inner silo components.

These sensors use ultrasonic, acoustic, laser or radar technology to launch pulses or signals at the silo’s contents. The contents reflect the pulse or signal back, letting the sensor measure how full the silo is.

Since non-contact sensors work by emitting signals and interpreting what comes back, they often have size requirements for the material they measure. Using these sensors with too-small material may give inaccurate readings. Check your sensor options and ensure you get a sensor that works with your silo material.

How To Install Continuous Level Sensors

Different types of silo sensors will have different installation processes. Contact sensors mount to the top of the silo and extend down into the silo to the preferred detection point. You must install these sensors inside the silo, where they can contact its contents once they reach the detection point.

In contrast, continuous non-intrusive sensors use non-contact technologies to provide accurate readings without touching the silo contents. You’ll install outside the silo:

  1. Mount the sensors on the silo’s feet or exterior.
  2. Install the electronic box near the sensor so you can connect the two components.
  3. Apply insulated foam around the sensor and electronic box to protect them from the elements and other potential damage.

If you have a complex continuous level sensor, you may need a certified technician for installation. These sensors often need professional installation to avoid malfunctions due to improper installation. Their different mounting and calibration methods frequently require expert knowledge and experience to ensure the most accurate operation.

Explore Silo Measuring Systems From LCDM

As an employee-owned enterprise, LCDM understands the importance of having the right equipment. High-quality grain measurement systems allow you to maximize your facility’s efficiency and productivity while minimizing resource waste. Silo level monitoring is critical for enhancing your operation and getting the most accurate silo material readings possible. Our silo level sensors deliver real-time reports, energy efficiency and durability. With wireless network capabilities and critical inventory alerts, you can always know your silo levels.

If you’re looking for silo level sensors or need industry-leading grain storage facility design, trust the experts at LCDM. We work with your operations to provide the products that fit your needs and give you the best return on your investment. From our initial agricultural millwright roots 40 years ago to our advanced Solidworks design software today, we deliver innovative, reliable results for your grain material operation. To request a quote or learn more, contact us online today.

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