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Tilt Sensor basics | Tilt Sensor types, Tilt Sensor applications

This article covers Tilt Sensor basics and Tilt Sensor types including its applications. It describes different types of Tilt Sensors (i.e. tilt switches) viz. mercury, ball type etc.

What is Tilt sensor?

• The sensor which senses angle or inclination of device housing it with respect to downward force of gravity is known as tilt sensor. It is also known as tilt switch or tipover switch.
• Due to its function it is also known by other names such as inclinometer or accelerometer.
• The types of tilt sensors are described below.
• Unlike tilt switch, tilt sensor is not built an electromechanical switch.
• It is easy to interface tilt sensor with microcontroller or logic gates to evaluate signals from it in order to determine its orientation.
• The figure depicts two popular tilt sensors viz. mercury based and steel ball based.
• A small tilt switch or sensor can be used in conjunction with a relay or transistor to amplify its signal sufficiently to drive a larger load.
• Most of the tilt sensors are SPST (normally open) or SPST (normally close) types, minority of them are DPDT.

Tilt sensor or tilt switch applications

Following are the applications of Tilt sensor:
• Tilt sensing for remote controls
• Rotating display adjustment in smart phones and tablets.
• Robotic movement
• Alarm systems
• Light switches containing mercury switches
• To indicate orientation of consumer electronic devices such as digital cameras.
• It is used in aircrafts to indicate position of aircraft with respect to the Earth during landing, takeoff and during flight.
• It is used to stop electric fuel pump if the motorcycle falls on its side.
• Four tilt switches are used in game controller with a joystick

Tilt sensor Types | tilt switch types

Following are the types of tilt sensors based on their construction and principles of operation.
• Single axis, single output: The sensor responds to being tilted around one horizontal axis, relative to the downward force of gravity.
• Dual axis, dual output: The sensor contains two sensing elements at 90 degrees to each other. Each has an output which is determined by its angle of tilt from vertical around one axis.
• Dual axis, single output: A single sensor responds to an angle of tilt from vertical around any horizontal axis.

Mercury tilt sensor

Mercury Tilt Switch

• These are earlier days tilt switches which use blob of mercury in a glass tube.
• When the bulb is tilted, mercury rolled to the end and makes electrical connection between two metal contacts which are penetrated inside the bulb for the purpose.
• Advantages: Mercury is excellent electrical conductor. It offers long operating life usually 100 years.
• Disadvantages: Mercury is hazardous substance to the environment. Hence its use is restricted.

Ball based tilt sensor

Ball type tilt switch

• It is the most common type of tilt sensor or tilt switch.
• It consists of a cylindrical metal or plastic enclosure containing two spherical steel balls. These balls may be nickel plated or gold plated.
• When the switch is tilted, balls eventually move downward. Hence lower ball makes electrical connection between the two contacts or with single contact & metal enclosure. The second ball is included to add weight and suppress vibration in the first.
• Surface mount tilt sensors are available with 2 axis. It contains one IR LED, two phototransistors, and small ball which moves when the sensor is rotated. Refer surface mount ball type tilt sensor working >>.

Other tilt sensor types

Following are other types of tilt sensors.
• Force balance sensors
• Electrolytic tilt sensors
• Solid state sensors
• Capacitive tilt sensors
• Accelerometers

Also refer advantages and disadvantages of tilt sensor or tilt switch for more information.

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