Frequently Asked Questions about Ultrasonic Sensors
What are the Advantages of Ultrasonics?
Main advantages of using ultrasonic sensors vs. others include.
- High Frequency, high sensitivity and high penetrating power, it can easily detect external or deep objects.
- These sensors easily interface with microcontrollers or any type of controller.
- Ultrasonic sensors are easy to use and not dangerous during operation to nearby objects, people or equipment.
- Not affected by dust, dirt, or high-moisture environments.
*Our SCXL‑MaxSonar‑WR Product line is self-cleaning. Which allows for continuous running and less downtime.
Can I switch the beam pattern of a sensor model after ordering it or should I order a specific beam pattern for each?
You would need to select a sensor with a beam pattern that fits your application needs. The beam pattern of the sensor cannot be changed and would be specific to each sensor. To understand how to read our beam patterns, reference our “Reading MaxSonar Beam Patterns” Tutorial.
I have a specific problem I need to be solved, how do I choose the right sensor for the project?
Currently, we have 20 different product lines that are broken up into 2 types of environments, Protected (Indoor environments) and Unprotected (outdoor environments).
We have developed sensors for specific applications, such as:
- Kiosk Applications (Indoor and Outdoor)
- Robotic Applications (Indoor and Outdoor)
- UAV Applications (Indoor and Outdoor)
- Vehicle Profiling Applications (Indoor and Outdoor)
- People Detection Applications (Indoor and Outdoor)
- Parking Garage Applications (Indoor and Outdoor)
- Tank Applications (Outdoor)
- Snow Depth Measurement Applications (Outdoor)
- Bin Level Measurement Applications (Outdoor)
- Trash Level Measurement Applications (Indoor and Outdoor)
While we have 20 different lines, there are many variations we have to suit your use.
Along with a variant of housing options, we also offer options for protection.
We offer the F-Option, which is our IP68 rated Fluorosilicone sealant for Outdoor use. It offers additional protection in hazardous chemical environments, like corrosive gases or liquids.
We also offer the P-option, which is a Parylene coating we apply to the surface of the aluminum transducer. It helps improve the corrosion resistance of the aluminum transducer.
Contact Technical Support for more information and support with sensor selection.
What aren’t these sensors used for?
- Safety-critical applications (such as life support) or other applications where a failure of the product could cause a severe personal injury or death.
Sidenote: a popular use of our product is for canes for the blind. Unfortunately, we do not support such applications because many sensors do not include the self-checking redundant circuitry needed for such use.
Will Ultrasonic Sensors Work for My Project?
Our sensors are used in a lot of different applications.
They are used in distance, proximity, and level sending applications.
If you need to build a robot with obstacle avoidance or detect levels in a chemical filled tank, we have solutions for those applications and more.
What type of targets do MaxBotix Ultrasonic Sensors detect?
Ultrasonic sensors detect solids, liquids, or powders.
Our sensors are used to detect surfaces whether they are wet, dry, dirty, clean, rough or smooth.
Light, fog, dirt or dust have little to no impact on our ultrasonic sensors ability to sense. The sensors are not designed to be covered in mud and operate.
The ideal surface to detect with our sensors is hard, smooth and non-porous.
Your sensors are expensive compared to other solutions, Why is that?
Our sensors are priced competitively for their quality. The cost of repairs in the field quickly add up to the overall sensor cost making the “cheaper” sensors much more costly in time, money spent and reputation.
MaxBotix sensors are designed and tested for an MTBF of at least 200,000 hours.
Our proprietary processes ensure reliability which allows us to stand by the products we sell.
This means we’ve built these sensors to last.
We also offer price breaks for bulk orders of our sensors. If you’re buying our sensors as a standard customer, you’ll see the price breaks on our product pages. It looks like the image below:
If you’re a distributor or OEM manufacturer, be sure to email us at [email protected] for a quote.
How Do You Solder The Sensors?
We have written a guide to show you the proper techniques to solder our sensors.
As you’re testing our sensors, you may not want to solder our sensors (as you can’t return them for a refund after doing so). You can test the sensors with clip leads*.
Also, we have new header options for our indoor (non-protective) sensors which will eliminate the need for soldering any of your sensors.
If you’re using WR sensors in your project, it could be beneficial to use the Shielded Cable Attach to fully seal the sensor and remove the need to solder your wires to the sensor (as we’ll do this for you).
If you’re interested in this feature, add it to your order at checkout or email us at [email protected] with your request.
How do you mount the ultrasonic sensors?
Mounting your ultrasonic sensor for your project depends on your application.
We’ve detailed the mounting of a sensor in a pipe, here.
When considering mounting a sensor in a tank for liquid or grain level sensing, read this article here, about Tank Level Monitoring for more information.
Mounting Your Ultrasonic Sensor in a Tank
The following images will provide mounting recommendations for use in a tank.
Tank Mounting Illustration 1:
Tank Mounting Illustration 2:
Mounting Your Ultrasonic Sensor in a Trash Bin
Trash bins that are lined with plastic bags may detect false reflections if there is air trapped behind the plastic bag.
If the sensor is mounted in a trash bin with stepping sides that get narrower from top down, shown in Diagram 1, the sensor will typically not range properly to the trash.
In this installation the sensor may report the range to the highest side step.
For trash bins with internal side braces, shown in Diagram 2, the sensor will not report the range past the internal brace. Like the side steps, this brace creates an ultrasonic echo that the sensor may report the range to.
For installations that get wider from the top of the bin to the base, shown in Diagram 3, the sensor will typically report the trash level properly. Testing is recommended for this configuration if side steps get dramatically wider as they may be detected by the XL-TrashSonar-WR.
Diagram 4 shows the ideal sensor mounting for the XL-TrashSonar-WR sensor line. It is recommended that the sensor is mounted in a trash bin with smooth sides. This either eliminates or dramatically reduces the secondary reflections that may return to the sensor. As the bin increases in size, the less likely the installation is going to detect unwanted objects and noise. Testing is recommended for any sensor mounting method and bin size.
If you’re mounting a Snow Sensor, review our notes on Snow Sensor Mounting.
Our technical support has assisted many engineers in their mounting configurations.
How do you read our MaxSonar Beam Patterns?
We provide beam patterns for all of our ultrasonic sensors to assist you to choose the right sensor for your application, target size, and distance.
We’ve provided this resource to help you find the right sensor for your application based on beam pattern:
Are Your Sensors Waterproof?
We don’t currently market our sensors as “waterproof”, but our WR sensors are IP67 rated. The sensor pinout is required to be sealed by the customer unless the shielded cable attach is used.
What that means is they are rated as “dust tight” and protected against immersion for 30 minutes at depths from 150 mm-1000 mm.
In order to further protect your sensor for water intrusion we suggest the following add-ons:
- The F-Option – This addition provides weather resistant sensors with extra protection against corrosive chemical environments. (Will make the sensor IP68 rated).
- Shielded Cable Attach – This addition will fully project the pin out of your MaxSonar and it also includes 3ft (90cm) of wire.
Interfacing our Ultrasonic sensors with Controllers?
We’ve written quite a bit about interfacing our sensors with an Arduino or Raspberry Pi.
Those resources can be found here:
Raspberry Pi Resources
- Interface Raspberry Pi with an ultrasonic sensor to read serial data
- Interface Raspberry Pi with an ultrasonic sensor to read serial data pt. 2
- Connect a Raspberry Pi Zero with an USB Ultrasonic Sensor
- Setting up the Raspberry Pi Zero for an I2C Sensor
While we haven’t worked with a Pixhawk inhouse, we’ve compiled this short list of resources used by creators to interface our sensors with a Pixhawk.
What else are you interfacing our rangefinders with? Contact us today with any feedback or see how we can help.
When are my items shipped?
Your order will be shipped the same business day or next business day if the items are instock. Orders of 100 units or less that require manufacturing will be shipped within 1 week in general. During order confirmation, an updated lead time can be requested.
Where are my items coming from?
Your shipment will be shipped from our manufacturing facility in Brainerd, Minnesota, USA.
Your delivery time depends on where and how your order is being shipped.
What Delivery services are available?
FedEx, UPS and USPS are our standard delivery services. If you prefer a different service, please contact us, and we will see if we are able to accommodate your request.
How can I track my order?
We will send the tracking information to you once your order has shipped.
I don’t see the particular sensor I need on the site, what is the process for acquiring a custom sensor?
We do offer custom engineering services to customize any of our existing sensors in our product line to meet any requirements of a specific project, solution or product development. We offer a wide range of customization services including custom firmware, hardware or aesthetic modification to accommodate individualized solutions.
What would be the price range for a custom application that would fit our needs?
This will depend on your specific application needs and would be determined by our Sales and Engineering teams after an in-depth discussions with you. If your range and power requirements are flexible, we may have a sensor that would work in your application off the shelf.
Do you ship Worldwide?
Yes, we ship worldwide. If you would like a shipping quote, feel free to email us at [email protected] We’d be happy to help.
We also have many distributors worldwide that you can order from as well.