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Application Note

Position sensors in tobacco cutting machine

Position sensor replaces potentiometers on tobacco cutting machinery


Gill Sensors was contacted by one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tobacco processing machinery, to supply a measurement solution for their cutting blade machines.

The company required the 60mm position sensors, a reliable sensor which could be installed into the tobacco cutting machinery to measure the position of 10 individual cutting blades. The machines have a high-speed rotating drum containing the ten cutting blades, whose position was currently being fed back to the control and automation software by linear potentiometers, over a 50mm movement.


Over time these potentiometers were succumbing to the highly dusty environment they were installed in. In addition to sourcing a robust linear position sensor that would continue to function despite tobacco debris producing a dusty environment, the sensor also had to withstand high g-loads, as the drum rotates at high speed during operation.


The solid-state, non-contact design of the Gill sensor provided the key benefits necessary for the application. Featuring inductive technology, the 60mm sensor is unaffected by the dusty and high vibration conditions. Designed with no-contact between the sensor housing and activator, dust cannot penetrate the sensor to cause wear or malfunction by clogging up, unlike the previously used potentiometers.

In addition to the proven durability and accuracy, another key advantage of the non-contact position sensor is its ability to provide fit and forget installation without extensive re-engineering.

Furthermore the sensors can be re-calibrated to a 50mm measurement range through the sensor’s easy to use Graphical User Interface (GUI).

To test the sensor’s suitability under high ‘g’ conditions, a sample was supplied for installation onto a knife feed unit, which was placed in a centrifuge to test performance under realistic operating conditions. Throughout the testing programme the performance of the sensors provided exceptionally high reliability and accuracy resolution.

10 Gill position sensors are now installed as standard within the blade assembly of the tobacco cutting machinery, enhancing the reliability and reputation of the customer and its products.

Position sensors for tobacco cutting

Tobacco cutting machinery


Position sensors