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Title:
SENSORS FOR VALVE SYSTEMS AND RELATED ASSEMBLIES, SYSTEMS AND METHODS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/043708
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Valve systems include at least one component comprising a conductive material and at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor configured to wirelessly sense at least one property of the conductive material and relay a value associated with the at least one property to a control system of the valve system. Methods of sensing a position of a component of a valve system include wirelessly sensing at least one property of a conductive material of the component of the valve system with at least one inductance to-digital converter (LDC) sensor.

Inventors:
DOLENTI WILLIAM T (US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2014/055667
Publication Date:
March 24, 2016
Filing Date:
September 15, 2014
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
FLOWSERVE MAN CO (US)
International Classes:
F16K37/00; F16K31/00; G01D5/12
Foreign References:
US5471138A1995-11-28
US8608128B22013-12-17
US5140263A1992-08-18
US5609183A1997-03-11
US3859619A1975-01-07
Other References:
See also references of EP 3194821A4
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CATAXINOS, Edgar R. et al. (P.O. Box 2550Salt Lake City, Utah, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A valve system comprising:

at least one component comprising a conductive material; and

at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor separated from the

conductive material of the at least one component, the inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor comprising a coil powered by a control system and configured to wirelessly sense at least one property of the conductive material and relay a value associated with the at least one property to the control system.

2. The valve system of claim I, wherein the at least one component comprises at least one of a rotating component and a translating component within the valve system.

3. The valve system of claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor is configured to sense a position of the at least one component by monitoring the at least one property of the conductive material.

4. The valve system of claim 2, wherein the at least one inductance-to- digital converter (LDC) sensor is configured to sense an angular position of the at least one component by monitoring the at least one property of the conductive material.

5. The valve system of claim 2, wherein the at least one inductance-to- digital converter (LDC) sensor is configured to sense a linear position of the at least one component by monitoring the at least one property of the conductive material.

6. The valve system of claim 1 or claim 2, further comprising a valve actuator comprising at least one control system for controlling a position of a valve element in a valve, wherein the at least one component comprises at least one input device of the control system of the valve actuator, and wherein the at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor is configured to sense a position of the at least one input device by monitoring the at least one property of the conductive material.

7. The valve system of claim 1 or claim 2, further comprising:

a valve actuator for controlling a position of a valve element in a valve; and a valve encoder for monitoring a position of the valve element, wherein the at least one component comprises at least one encoder wheel of the valve encoder, and wherein the at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor is configured to sense a position of the at least one encoder wheel by monitoring the at least one property of the conductive material.

8. The valve system of claim 7, wherein the at least one encoder wheel comprises a toothed gear, and wherein the at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor is configured to sense at least one tooth of the toothed gear of the at least one encoder wheel by monitoring the at least one property of the conductive material.

9. The valve system of claim 1 or claim 2, further comprising a valve actuator comprising at least one control system for controlling a position of a valve element in a valve, wherein the at least one component comprises at least one shaft of the valve actuator configured for at least one of rotary motion and linear motion, and wherein the at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor is configured to sense a position of the at least one shaft by monitoring the at least one property of the conductive material.

10. The valve system of claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the conductive material comprises a conductive element that is applied over an outer surface of the at least one component.

11. The valve system of claim 10, wherein the conductive element is separated from the outer surface of the at least one component with an insulative material applied to the outer surface of the at least one component.

12. The valve system of claim 1 or claim 2, wherein at least one portion of the conductive material exhibits a first thickness greater than a second thickness of at least one adjacent portion of the conductive material.

13. The valve system of claim 12, wherein the conductive material comprises gradated thickness extending between the at least one portion of the conductive material exhibiting the first thickness and the at least one adjacent portion of the conductive material exhibiting the second thickness.

14. The valve system of claim 12, wherein the at least one component comprises at least one shaft configured for at least one of rotary motion and linear motion, and wherein the first thickness and the second thickness are taken in a radial direction of the at least one shaft.

15. The valve system of claim 12, wherein the at least one inductance-to- digital converter (LDC) sensor comprises at least two inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensors, and wherein the conductive material comprises at least two discrete conductive material sections, each positioned proximate to one of the at least two inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensors.

16. A method of sensing a position of a component of a valve system, the method comprising:

positioning at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor comprising a coil powered by a control system proximate a conductive material of the component of the valve system;

wirelessly sensing at least one property of the conductive material with the at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor;

relaying a value associated with the at least one property of the conductive material to the control system; and

comparing the value to stored values relating to predetermined positions of the component to determine a current position of the component.

17. The method according to claim 16, further comprising calculating at least one of a velocity of at least a portion of the component, a frequency of movement of at least a portion of the component, a force applied to at least a portion of the component, and a force applied to a portion of the valve system with the value associated with the at least one property of the conductive material.

18. The method according to claim 16 or claim 17, wherein comparing the value to stored values relating to predetermined positions of the component to determine a current position of the component comprises determining a position of at least one tooth of a geared encoder wheel of a valve encoder.

19. The method according to claim 16 or claim 17, wherein comparing the value to stored values relating to predetermined positions of the component to determine a current position of the component comprises receiving an input from a user in response to the user altering a position of at least one input device of a control system of the valve system.

20. The method according to claim 16 or claim 17, wherein comparing the value to stored values relating to predetermined positions of the component to determine a current position of the component comprises determining at least one of a linear position and an angular position of a shaft of a valve actuator utilizing the value associated with the at least one property of the conductive material.

Description:
TITLE

SENSORS FOR VALVE SYSTEMS AND RELATED ASSEMBLIES, SYSTEMS AND METHODS TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure relates generally to sensors for use with valve systems including one or more of a valve and a valve actuator, and more particularly, to sensors utilized to detect a characteristic of one or more components of a valve system and related systems, assemblies, and methods.

BACKGROUND

Valves include devices for both liquids and gases. Valve actuators for moving valve elements within valves may be mechanically operated. Valve actuators are used to operate valves and are manufactured in numerous shapes, sizes, forms, and have a wide variety of utilities. Valve actuators may be manually driven, electrically driven, operated by fluid pressure in which the shaft is connected directly or indirectly to a fluid operated piston, or other hydraulic systems. For example, the valve actuator may be manually driven, operated by fluid pressure in which the shaft is connected directly or indirectly to a fluid operated piston, or be driven by an electro-hydraulic or electro-fluid means. Conventional valve actuators comprise an electrically driven input shaft, which may be rotatable at relatively high speeds with relatively low torque. The input shaft may, through reducing gears such as a worm gear or a helical screw thread and nut, rotate a relatively high torque, low speed output shaft.

In order to operate and monitor valve systems one or more sensors may be implemented to monitor the position of various components of the valve systems. For example, sensors may be utilized to measure the position of various valve components such as valves, valves stem, and various components of the valve actuators used to operate the valve. Further sensors may be utilized to monitor the various components of a valve actuator to determine position of one or more of the actuator or the valve being controlled by the actuator. One conventional approach to measuring the position of a valve member (e.g., a rotary valve member) involves a rotary encoder. Rotary encoders include incremental and absolute encoders.

Incremental encoders are used to measure the rotational change of a shaft. A basic incremental encoder includes a disk with a large number of radial painted lines. A photodiode or other sensor generates an electrical pulse whenever a painted line is sensed. A computer, or other processor, tracks the pulses to determine the position of the disk and, in turn, the position of the shaft to which the disk is attached. With incremental encoders, if power is lost to the computer, the position information is generally lost when power is restored unless the position information has been otherwise backed-up and/or is not altered during the power outage.

Absolute encoders do not require a power supply to maintain position information. Absolute encoders produce a unique digital code for each distinct angle of a rotary shaft. Absolute encoders can be a single wheel or multiple wheels, each with a complex pattern machined into the wheel. The wheel or wheels are rotated by movement of the shaft in question and numerous distinct angular positions can be identified by the patterns on the wheel or wheels.

In valve systems, even further position sensor may be utilized to monitor user inputs into a control system. Such controls systems, or at least a portion thereof, is often positioned on the exterior housing of a valve actuator for controlling flow through a valve to which the valve actuator is connected through a human- machine interface (HMI). Such control systems enable a user to control various functions and configurations of the valve actuator, run diagnostics on the valve actuator, and check the status of the valve actuator.

DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

In some embodiments, the present disclosure includes a valve system including at least one component comprising a conductive material and

at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor separated from the conductive material of the at least one component. The inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor comprises a coil powered by a control system and is configured to wirelessly sense at least one property of the conductive material and relay a value associated with the at least one property to the control system.

In additional embodiments, the present disclosure includes a method of sensing a position of a component of a valve system. The method includes positioning at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor comprising a coil powered by a control system proximate a conductive material of the component of the valve system, wirelessly sensing at least one property of the conductive material with the at least one inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensor, relaying a value associated with the at least one property of the conductive material to the control system, and comparing the value to stored values relating to predetermined positions of the component to determine a current position of the component.

The features, advantages, and various aspects of the present disclosure will be apparent to those skilled in the art from a consideration of the following detailed description taken in combination with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

While the specification concludes with claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming that which is regarded as the present disclosure, the advantages of this disclosure can be more readily ascertained from the following description of the disclosure when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is a cut-away view of an electrically driven valve actuator.

FIG. 2 is cross-sectional view of a pneumatically driven valve actuator.

FIG. 3 is a schematic view of valve system including one or more inductance-to-digital converter (LDC) sensors utilized to sense one or more characteristics of one or more components of a valve assembly in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 4 is a partial cross-sectional perspective schematic view of a valve system including one or more LDC sensors utilized to sense one or more characteristics of a component of the valve system in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure. FIGS. 5 through 7 each show a conductive material for use with a valve system including one or more LDC sensors in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIGS. 8 through 10 each show a partial cross-sectional perspective schematic view of a valve system including an LDC sensor utilized to sense one or more characteristics of a component of the valve system in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIGS. 11 through 16 each show a partial view of a valve system including an LDC sensor utilized to sense one or more characteristics of a component of the valve system in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

MODE(S) FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION The methods, devices, apparatus, and systems of the present disclosure include sensors for use with valve systems including one or more of a valve and a valve actuator. For example, such sensors may be utilized to detect at least one a characteristic of one or more components of a valve system.

FIG. 1 illustrates an electrically driven valve actuator 100. FIG. 1 illustrates just one version of an electrically driven valve actuator and is not intended to limit the applicability of the disclosure to any electrically driven or other valve actuator (e.g., a pneumatic actuator, a hydraulic actuator, etc.). Valve actuator 100 includes electric motor 104 coupled to worm shaft 103. Handwheel 101 is connected to handwheel adapter 11 1. Handwheel adapter 1 11 is connected to drive sleeve 102. Drive sleeve 102 is connected to valve stem nut (not shown). Worm gear 1 10 mates with worm shaft 103. Worm gear 110 is also coupled to a valve stem nut, which is able to drive the valve stem of a valve. In FIG. 1, valve actuator 100 is not shown attached to a valve. Operation of either electric motor 104 or handwheel 101 raises or lowers a valve stem. The valve stem is able to travel up and down through the center of handwheel 101. The valve stem may also rotate and either operate a nut in the valve which can either open or close the valve or can directly rotate a valve to an open or close position (e.g., as in a butterfly, vane, or ball valve).

Valve actuator 100 may include any drive train, hardware, devices, electronics, and/or software utilized in operating a valve. Valve actuator 100 may be designed for any type of valve element within a valve, including for example, linear, quarter-turn rotary, multi-turn rotary, ball, plug, gate, butterfly, and diaphragm valve elements. The components of valve actuator 100 may be arranged in any fashion. Handwheel 101 may be oriented to the side of valve actuator 100, as is known in the art.

The drive train encompasses any prime mover, any manual operation mechanism, any disengagement or isolation mechanisms, braking mechanisms, any speed modulation mechanisms, and the mechanisms for attachment to a valve. A drive train may also exclude any of the above elements or also include additional elements. For purposes of illustration only, FIG. 1 shows electric motor 104 as the prime mover and handwheel 101 as the manual operation mechanism. Often, a clutch mechanism will be included so that operation of either electric motor 104 or handwheel 101 does not result in operation of the other. By way of example, a lever 105 and a declutch mechanism 1 13 can be provided as the disengagement or isolation mechanisms. Numerous clutch and engagement mechanism are known in the art. Declutch mechanism 113 may be designed to engage or disengage any portion of the drive train of valve actuator 100.

In FIG. 1, the braking mechanism and speed modulation mechanisms are both incorporated in worm shaft 103 and worm gear 1 10. Instead of, or in addition to, worm gear 110 and worm shaft 103, other gear types or no gears may be used in valve actuator 100. Gear types for valve actuators are often selected based upon the amount of speed reduction, if any, between electric motor 104 and valve stem nut. Hereinafter, when referring to the gears of the drive train of a valve actuator, the example of a worm gear and a worm shaft are primarily utilized. However, it should be understood that the discussion may be applied to any gear. If a gear is not present in the valve actuator, then output mechanism of any applicable prime mover may also suffice.

In the example of FIG. 1 , the mechanisms for attachment to a valve may be a valve stem nut and associated supporting structures, as are known in the art.

However, any mechanism for attachment known in the art may be utilized. The term "valve" as used herein encompasses the most generic uses of the term as used in the art, including the definition of a device that at least partially controls the flow of a liquid, gas, and/or solid. Electric motor 104 may be any electrically driven prime mover capable of operating a valve actuator.

FIG. 1 also illustrates an exemplary control system 106 for the valve actuator 100. For example, the control system 106 may include a control module 108 for controlling electric motor 104, and depicts circuit board 1 15 for receiving inputs from human-machine interface (e.g., control panel 107) and for sending outputs to indicator 1 12. The control panel 107 may include one or more input devices 116 (e.g., knobs and/or switches) accessible to a user for operation of the control system 106 of the valve actuator 100.

In this particular example, indicator 1 12 is illustrated as a liquid crystal display (LCD). One or more indicators 1 12 may be present. A few non-limiting examples of indicators include light-emitting diode lights (LED) and displays, filament lights, and dials.

The control system 106 may also include an encoder 109, which is depicted as a multi-wheel absolute encoder in FIG. 1. The encoder may include one or more wheels 117 (e.g., rotating toothed gears). In other embodiments, the encoder 109 may comprise a different type of encoder such as, for example, a single wheel absolute encoder, an incremental encoder, etc.

In some embodiments, the human- machine interface may be part of the control system 106. In other embodiments, the human-machine interface may be formed separate from and remotely communicate with the control system 106.

The present disclosure is not limited to any particular valve actuator and may be applied to any valve actuator. FIG. 2 illustrates a pneumatically driven valve actuator, valve actuator 140. Valve actuator 140 is shown mated to valve 136 and actuator stem 122 is coupled to a valve stem 129 and plug 130. The movement of actuator stem 122 results in corresponding movement of the valve stem 129 and plug 130, which governs the operation of valve 136. Valve 136 may be a globe, gate, ball, butterfly, plug, diaphragm, or any other type of valve operable by an actuator. Actuator stem 122 and plug 130 are illustrated for a representative globe valve. However, it should be understood that either component may be modified depending upon the type of valve present. Additionally, when the phrase "drive train" is used hereinafter, the phrase encompasses the drive components of valve actuator 140, such as actuator stem 122.

Valve actuator 140 may also include a control system similar to the control system 106 as shown and described above with reference to FIG. 1.

Embodiments of the present disclosure include sensors utilizing inductive sensing (e.g., magnet-free inductive sensing, such as inductance-to-digital converter sensors that operate without the use of magnets (LDC sensors) even though the sensors may still produce a magnetic field) for use with one or more components of a valve system such as, for example, valve actuators, encoders (e.g., rotary encoders) for valve systems, control systems for valve actuators (e.g., internal or external (e.g., remote) control system of a valve actuator). Such LDC sensing may provide contactless (e.g., wireless), magnet-free sensors that may be relatively more resilient in harsh environments where such LDC sensing may be less susceptible to interferences (e.g., foreign contaminants) between the sensors and the object being sensed. Further, such LDC sensing enables one or more conductive targets on movable components (e.g., translating and/or rotating components) to be sensed by one or more stationary LDC sensors.

Such LDC sensors operate by utilizing an inductor (e.g., a coil, a wound wire, a coil on a printed circuit board (PBC), a spring, etc.) to detect a conductive material (e.g., metal, foil, conductive ink, etc.). By measuring a property of the conductive material (e.g., the inductance and/or the eddy currents of the conductive material), various characteristics of the conductive material may be determined. For example, an alternating current (AC) current flowing through the coil will generate an AC magnetic field. As the conductive material is brought into the vicinity of the coil, this magnetic field will induce circulating currents (e.g., eddy currents) on the surface of the conductive material. These eddy currents are a function of the distance, size and shape (e.g., area, volume), and composition of the conductive material and generate their own magnetic field, which opposes the original field generated by the coil. The inductive coupling between the coil and the eddy currents of the conductive material depends on distance and shape. Thus, the resistance and inductance of the eddy currents of the conductive material shows up as a distant dependent resistive and inductive component on the coil. Such an LDC sensor can detect movement or other characteristics of the conductive material (e.g., rotation, translation, linear position, angular position, fluid flow, speed, angular velocity, linear velocity, compression, elongation, torque, vibration, composition, stress, strain, defects, or combinations thereof) and/or changes in the conductive material (e.g., a dimension of the conductive material such as length, width, thickness, etc.). The LDC sensor relays such values detected from the conductive material to an inductance to digital converter (e.g., available from Texas Instruments Incorporated of Dallas, Texas) to output a signal corresponding to the valves (e.g., sensed position) detected from the conductive material.

FIG. 3 is a schematic view of valve system 200 including one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics (e.g., position) of one or more components 206 of a valve assembly 208. In some embodiments, the valve system 200 may then be utilized the sensed value to determine another characteristic of one or more components 206 of a valve assembly 208 (e.g., a force associated with of one or more components 206 of the valve assembly 208).

In some embodiments, the valve assembly 208 may comprise a valve actuator such as, for example, the valve actuators 100, 140 shown and described above with reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, respectively, and/or may include a valve assembly (e.g., valve 136).

In some embodiments, the one or more components 206 of the valve assembly 208 may comprise a shaft (e.g., a rotating and/or linear displacing shaft, such as, for example, the worm shaft 103 (FIG. 1), actuator stem 122 (FIG. 2), or the valve stem 129 (FIG. 2)). In some embodiments, the one or more components 206 of the valve assembly 208 may comprise input devices, such as the input devices 1 16 of control system 106 (FIG. 2). In some embodiments, the one or more components 206 of the valve assembly 208 may comprise wheels of an encoder, such as, for example, the rotary toothed wheels 1 17 of encoder 109 (FIG. 1).

As shown in the FIG. 3, the LDC sensor 202 is positioned in proximity to the component 206 of the valve assembly 208 in order to sense one or more

characteristics (e.g., position) of the component 206 of the valve assembly 208. In some embodiments, the component 206 of the valve assembly 208 may be formed of a conductive material (e.g., a ferrous metal) that may be detected by coil 204, which is driven by electronics 205 (e.g., a control system) that may power the coil 204 and sense a value of the coil 204 (e.g., resistance and/or inductance) in response to the position of the component 206 of the valve assembly 208. The component 206 of the valve assembly 208 may comprise a conductive material 210 (e.g., a conductive foil, conductive ink, a thin sheet of conducive material, etc.) that may be detected by coil 204. In some embodiments, the conductive material 210 may be applied (e.g., adhered) to a portion (e.g., an outer surface) of the component 206 of the valve assembly 208. In some embodiments, where the component 206 of the valve assembly 208 is also formed of a conductive material, an insulating material 212 may be positioned between the conductive material 210 and the component 206 of the valve assembly 208.

The conductive material 210 may be formed in any number of suitable shapes and/or thicknesses to identify one or more characteristics of the component 206 of the valve assembly 208. For example, the conductive material 210 may be formed as a linear strip where deformation (e.g., strain, compression, torsion) of the underlying component 206 of the valve assembly 208 will be present in the linear strip and detectable by the LDC sensor 202 (e.g., a necking or twisting of the linear strip). In some embodiments, various known values of shapes and/or thicknesses of the conductive material 210 (e.g., initial values) may be stored such that the values detected by the LDC sensor 202 may be compared at a known or expected value (e.g., a stored value and/or a value detected and/or determined using the same or a different conductive material with the same or different LDC sensors 202) to detect deviation (e.g., deformation) of the conducive material 210.

By way of further example, the conductive material 210 may be formed in any number of specific shapes and/or thicknesses (e.g., varying thicknesses) to detect one or more target characteristics (e.g., linear and/or angular position and related values) of the component 206 of the valve assembly 208, such as those shapes discussed below with reference to FIGS. 4 through 16.

FIG. 4 is a partial cross-sectional perspective schematic view of a valve system 300 including a component of the valve system 300 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 302) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft 302. In some embodiments, the shaft 302 may be a rotating and/or linear displacing shaft, such as, for example, the worm shaft 103 (FIG. 1), actuator stem 122 (FIG. 2), or the valve stem 129 (FIG. 2)). As depicted, the shaft 302 may comprise one or more conductive materials 304. For example, the conductive material 304 may be applied to an outer surface (e.g., outer circumference) of the shaft 302 to detect at least one characteristic of the shaft 302 (e.g., angular position, linear position, angular velocity, torsion, etc.). As discussed above, where the shaft 302 is also formed of a conductive material, an insulative material 306 may be utilized to separate the conductive material 304 of the shaft 302 from the conductive material 304 applied to the shaft 302 to at least partially isolate the conductive material 304 of shaft from the LDC sensors 202. In other embodiments, at least a conductive portion of one or more components of a valve system may be formed to exhibit a shape similar to conductive material 300.

In order to determine the angular position of the shaft 302 (or to further determine a characteristic of the shaft 302 or another portion of the valve system based at least in part on the position of the shaft 302), the conductive material 304 may be designed to vary along the circumference of the shaft 302. For example, as depicted, the conductive material 304 may be formed as one or more triangular shapes that vary along the circumference of the shaft 302. In other embodiments, any other suitable shapes may be implemented. Such variation in the shape of the conductive material 304 varies the portion (e.g., area, volume) of conductive material 304 that is positioned proximate and sensed by LDC sensors 202 in order to correlate the data sensed by the LDC sensors 202 with known or expected positions of the shaft 302 and conductive material 304 utilizing the LDC sensors 202.

In some embodiments, two or more LDC sensors 202 may be utilized to determine the position of the shaft 302. For example, the conductive material 304 proximate to each LDC sensor 202 may be applied to the shaft 302 in an alternating manner (e.g., reverse, inverted, mirrored) such that each LDC sensor 202 may be utilized to determine the position of the shaft 302 and to validate the sensed data against the data from the other LDC sensor 202. In some embodiments, the two or more LDC sensors 202 may be utilized to compensate for or detect variations in or deviations from known or expected positions of the shaft 302 (e.g., to detect deformation in components of the valve system caused, for example, by torsion). For example, one LDC sensor 202 may be utilized to sense a known position of the shaft 302 that is then compared to an expected position for a second LDC sensor 202. Thus, if the sensed value for the second LDC sensor 202 deviates from the expected valve, the LDC sensors may indicate such a deviation (e.g., caused by a deformation in the shaft 302 or an error in the sensing system. In some

embodiments, two or more LDC sensors 202 and two or more conductive materials 304 may be utilized to compensate for variability in the target position of the conductive materials 304. For example, if both conductive materials 304 are on a common rotating shaft, which has a common variation in radius (e.g., the shaft is not concentric around the spinning axis, i.e., run-out), then the signals from the conductive materials 304 can be averaged to remove the variation in the shaft from the signal.

While the conductive material 304 shown in FIG. 4 is configured primarily for measuring angular position and other related values (e.g., angular velocity), similar or other configurations of conductive material may be utilized to measure other characteristics of the shaft 302 (e.g., linear position and related values).

FIG. 5 shows a conductive material 400 for use with a valve system (e.g., valve actuators 100, 140 and/or valve systems 200, 300 shown and described above with reference to FIGS. 1 through 4). The conductive material 400 may be applied to one or more components of a valve system (e.g., with an interposing insulative material, where applicable). In other embodiments, at least a conductive portion of one or more components of a valve system may be formed to exhibit a shape similar to conductive material 400.

As depicted, conductive material 400 may be useful in monitoring, in unison with LDC sensors 202 (FIG. 3), the angular position and/or related values (e.g., angular velocity) of rotating component. For example, conductive material 400 may be applied or otherwise positioned on an axial end of a rotating component proximate one or more LDC sensors 202 (FIG. 3) to monitor the rotational positioning of the component with the conductive material 400. In some embodiments, the conductive material 400 may be positioned on (e.g., applied to, formed on) a worm shaft 103 (FIG. 1), an actuator stem 122 (FIG. 2), a valve stem 129 (FIG. 2)), input devices 1 16 (e.g., knobs) of a control system 106 (FIG. 2), and/or rotary wheels 1 17 of an encoder 109 (FIG. 1).

FIG. 6 shows another conductive material (e.g., a conductive wheel 500) for use with a valve system (e.g., valve actuators 100, 140 and/or valve systems 200, 300 shown and described above with reference to FIGS. 1 through 4). The conductive material may be applied to one or more components of a valve system (e.g., with an interposing insulative material, where applicable). As depicted, the component of the valve system itself (e.g., the conductive wheel 500 formed as, for example, a rotary-toothed wheel) may form the conductive material. In other words, the conductive material is formed with the conductive wheel 500 (e.g., a gear). In other embodiments, conductive material may be applied to a rotatory-toothed wheel to achieve the same or similar shape.

LDC sensors 202 (FIG. 3) may monitor the position (e.g., angular position) and/or related values (e.g., angular velocity, tooth frequency, tooth positioning, etc.) of at least a portion of the conductive wheel 500. For example, at least a portion of the conductive wheel 500 may be positioned proximate one or more LDC sensors 202 (FIG. 3) to monitor the positioning of the conductive wheel 500. In some embodiments, the LDC sensor 202 may be utilized to detect the position (e.g., proximity) of each gear tooth of the conductive wheel 500 in order to monitor the position of one or more portions the conductive wheel 500. In other embodiments, various shapes of conductive material may be applied radially inward of the gear teeth of the conductive wheel 500 to monitor the position of the conductive wheel 500.

In some embodiments, the conductive wheel 500 may comprise an encoder wheel of an encoder 109 (FIG. 1) and/or various other wheels of gears utilized in a valve system.

FIG. 7 shows a conductive material 600 for use with a valve system (e.g., valve actuators 100, 140 and/or valve systems 200, 300 shown and described above with reference to FIGS. 1 through 4). The conductive material 600 may be applied to one or more components of a valve system (e.g., with an interposing insulative material, where applicable). In other embodiments, at least a conductive portion of one or more components of a valve system may be formed to exhibit a shape similar to conductive material 600.

As depicted, conductive material 600 may be useful in monitoring, in unison with LDC sensors 202 (FIG. 3), the linear and/or angular position and/or related values (e.g., velocity) of a linearly moving component (e.g., a translating component). For example, conductive material 600 may be applied or otherwise positioned along a linear moving component (e.g., positioned along the component is a direction parallel to the intended direction of movement of the component) proximate one or more LDC sensors 202 (FIG. 3) to monitor the linear positioning (e.g., translation) of the component with the conductive material 600. In some embodiments, conductive material 600 may be positioned about a rotating component (e.g., radially positioned about a centerline of the component) to monitor angular positioning of the component.

In some embodiments, the conductive material 600 may be positioned along (e.g., applied to, formed on) a worm shaft 103 (FIG. 1), an actuator stem 122 (FIG. 2), a valve stem 129 (FIG. 2)), input devices 116 (e.g., switches or other linear moving input devices) of a control system 106 (FIG. 2), and/or rotary wheels 1 17 of an encoder 109 (FIG. 1).

FIG. 8 is a partial cross-sectional perspective schematic view of a valve system 700 including a component of the valve system 700 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 302) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft 302. In some embodiments, the shaft 302 may be a rotating and/or linear displacing shaft, such as, for example, the worm shaft 103 (FIG. 1), actuator stem 122 (FIG. 2), or the valve stem 129 (FIG. 2)). As depicted, the shaft 302 may comprise one or more conductive materials 704. For example, the conductive material 704 may be applied to an outer surface (e.g., outer circumference) of the shaft 302 to detect at least one characteristic of the shaft 302 (e.g., linear position, linear or translational velocity, etc.). As discussed above, where the shaft 302 is also formed of a conductive material, an insulative material 706 may be utilized to separate the conductive material 304 of the shaft 302 from the conductive material 704 applied to the shaft 302 to at least partially isolate the conductive material 704 of shaft from the LDC sensors 202. In order to determine the linear position of the shaft 302 (or to further determine a characteristic of the shaft 302 or another portion of the valve system based at least in part on the position of the shaft 302), the conductive material 704 may be designed to vary in thickness along the length of the shaft 302 (e.g., along a longitudinal axis or centerline of the shaft 302). For example, the conductive material 704 may be formed to exhibit a gradated thickness with one or more peaks 708 having an increased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 302 separated by valleys 710 having a decreased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 302 (e.g., two peaks 708 separated by a single valley 710). In other words, one or more portions of the conductive material 704 are formed to have a thickness greater than a thickness of one or more adjacent portions of the conductive material 704 with gradated thicknesses extending therebetween. Such a configuration may enable the sensor 202 to detect linear position (e.g., translation) of the shaft 302 as the shape (e.g., thickness) of the conductive material 704 varies the portion (e.g., area, volume) of conductive material 704 that is positioned proximate and sensed by LDC sensor 202 in order to correlate the data sensed by the LDC sensor 202 with known or expected positions of the shaft 302 and conductive material 704 utilizing the LDC sensors 202.

FIG. 9 is a partial cross-sectional perspective schematic view of a valve system 800 including a component of the valve system 800 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 302) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft 302. As depicted, the shaft 302 may comprise one or more conductive materials 804. For example, the conductive material 804 may be applied to an outer surface (e.g., outer circumference) of the shaft 302 to detect at least one

characteristic of the shaft 302 (e.g., linear position, linear or translational velocity, etc.). As discussed above, where the shaft 302 is also formed of a conductive material, an insulative material 806 may be utilized to separate the conductive material 304 of the shaft 302 from the conductive material 804 applied to the shaft 302 to at least partially isolate the conductive material 804 of shaft 302 from the LDC sensors 202.

In order to determine the linear position of the shaft 302 (or to further determine a characteristic of the shaft 302 or another portion of the valve system based at least in part on the position of the shaft 302), the conductive material 804 may be designed to vary in thickness along the length of the shaft 302 (e.g., along a longitudinal axis or centerline of the shaft 302). For example, the conductive material 804 may be formed to exhibit a gradated thickness with one or more peaks 808 having an increased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 302 alternating with valleys 810 having a decreased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 302 (e.g., one peak 808 having valleys 810 on either side of the peak 810). In other words, one or more portions of the conductive material 804 are formed to have a thickness greater than a thickness of one or more adjacent portions of the conductive material 804 with gradated thicknesses extending therebetween. Such a

configuration may enable the sensor 202 to detect linear position (e.g., translation) of the shaft 302 as the shape (e.g., thickness) of the conductive material 804 varies the portion (e.g., area, volume) of conductive material 804 that is positioned proximate and sensed by LDC sensor 202 in order to correlate the data sensed by the LDC sensor 202 with known or expected positions of the shaft 302 and portions of the conductive material 804 utilizing the LDC sensors 202.

FIG. 10 is a partial cross-sectional perspective schematic view of a valve system 900 including a component of the valve system 900 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 302) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft 302. As depicted, the shaft 302 may comprise one or more conductive materials 904. For example, the conductive material 904 may be applied to an outer surface (e.g., outer circumference) of the shaft 302 to detect at least one

characteristic of the shaft 302 (e.g., linear position, linear or translational velocity, etc.). As discussed above, where the shaft 302 is also formed of a conductive material, an insulative material 906 may be utilized to separate the conductive material 304 of the shaft 302 from the conductive material 904 applied to the shaft 302 to at least partially isolate the conductive material 904 of shaft from the LDC sensors 202.

In order to determine the linear position of the shaft 302 (or to further determine a characteristic of the shaft 302 or another portion of the valve system based at least in part on the position of the shaft 302), the conductive material 904 may be designed to vary in thickness along the length of the shaft 302 (e.g., along a longitudinal axis or centerline of the shaft 302). For example, the conductive material 904 may be formed to exhibit a gradated thickness with one or more peaks 908 having an increased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 302 alternating with valleys 910 having a decreased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 302 (e.g., a gradated thickness extending between one peak 908 and one valley 910). In other words, one or more portions of the conductive material 904 are formed to have a thickness greater than a thickness of one or more adjacent portions of the conductive material 904 with gradated thicknesses extending therebetween. Such a configuration may enable the sensor 202 to detect linear position (e.g., translation) of the shaft 302 as the shape (e.g., thickness) of the conductive material 904 varies the portion (e.g., area, volume) of conductive material 904 that is positioned proximate and sensed by LDC sensor 202 in order to correlate the data sensed by the LDC sensor 202 with known or expected positions of the shaft 302 and portions of the conductive material 904 utilizing the LDC sensors 202.

FIG. 1 1 is a partial view of a valve system 1200 including a component of the valve system 1200 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 1202) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft 1202. In some embodiments, the shaft 1202 may be a rotating and/or linear displacing shaft, such as, for example, the worm shaft 103 (FIG. 1), actuator stem 122 (FIG. 2), or the valve stem 129 (FIG. 2)). As depicted, the shaft 1202 may comprise one or more conductive materials or portions 1204 (e.g., formed at least partially within a diameter of the shaft 1204).

In order to determine the linear position of the shaft 1202 (or to further determine a characteristic of the shaft 1202 based at least in part on the position of the shaft 1202), the conductive material 1204 may be designed to vary in thickness along the length of the shaft 1202 (e.g., along a longitudinal axis or centerline of the shaft 1202). For example, the conductive material 1204 may be formed to exhibit a gradated thickness with one or more peaks having an increased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1202 separated by valleys having a decreased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1202 (e.g., two peaks separated by a single valley). Such a configuration may enable the sensor 202 to detect linear position (e.g., translation) of the shaft 1202 as the shape (e.g., thickness) of the conductive material 1204 varies the portion (e.g., area, volume) of conductive material 1204 that is positioned proximate and sensed by LDC sensor 202 in order to correlate the data sensed by the LDC sensor 202 with known or expected positions of the shaft 1202 and conductive material 1204 utilizing the LDC sensors 202.

FIG. 12 is a partial view of a valve system 1300 including a component of the valve system 1300 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 1302) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft. In some embodiments, the shaft 1302 may be a rotating and/or linear displacing shaft, such as, for example, the worm shaft 103 (FIG. 1), actuator stem 122 (FIG. 2), or the valve stem 129 (FIG. 2)). As depicted, the shaft 1302 may comprise one or more conductive materials or portions 1304 (e.g., formed at least partially within a diameter of the shaft 1204).

In order to determine the linear position of the shaft 1302 (or to further determine a characteristic of the shaft 1302 based at least in part on the position of the shaft 1302), the conductive material 1304 may be designed to vary in thickness along the length of the shaft 1302 (e.g., along a longitudinal axis or centerline of the shaft 1302). For example, the conductive material 1304 may be formed to exhibit a gradated thickness with one or more peaks having an increased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1302 separated by valleys having a decreased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1302 (e.g., two valleys separated by a single peak). Such a configuration may enable the sensor 1302 to detect linear position (e.g., translation) of the shaft 1302 as the shape (e.g., thickness) of the conductive material 1304 varies the portion (e.g., area, volume) of conductive material 1304 that is positioned proximate and sensed by LDC sensor 202 in order to correlate the data sensed by the LDC sensor 202 with known or expected positions of the shaft 1302 and conductive material 1304 utilizing the LDC sensors 202.

FIG. 13 is a partial view of a valve system 1400 including a component of the valve system 1400 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 1402) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft 1402. In some embodiments, the shaft 1402 may be a rotating and/or linear displacing shaft, such as, for example, the worm shaft 103 (FIG. 1), actuator stem 122 (FIG. 2), or the valve stem 129 (FIG. 2)). As depicted, the shaft 1402 may comprise one or more conductive materials or portions 1404 (e.g., formed at least partially within a diameter of the shaft 1204).

In order to determine the linear position of the shaft 1402 (or to further determine a characteristic of the shaft 1402 based at least in part on the position of the shaft 1402), the conductive material 1404 may be designed to vary in thickness along the length of the shaft 1402 (e.g., along a longitudinal axis or centerline of the shaft 1402). For example, the conductive material 1404 may be formed to exhibit a gradated thickness with one or more peaks having an increased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1402 separated by valleys having a decreased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1402 (e.g., a gradated thickness extending between one peak and one valley). Such a configuration may enable the sensor 1402 to detect linear position (e.g., translation) of the shaft 1402 as the shape (e.g., thickness) of the conductive material 1404 varies the portion (e.g., area, volume) of conductive material 1404 that is positioned proximate and sensed by LDC sensor 202 in order to correlate the data sensed by the LDC sensor 202 with known or expected positions of the shaft 1402 and conductive material 1404 utilizing the LDC sensors 202.

FIG. 14 is a partial view of a valve system 1500 including a component of the valve system 1500 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 1502) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft 1502. Valve system 1500 may be substantially similar to valve system 1200 discussed above with reference to FIG. 11. For example, conductive material 1504 of the shaft 1502 may be formed to exhibit a gradated thickness with one or more peaks having an increased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1502 separated by valleys having a decreased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1502 (e.g., two peaks separated by a single valley). Conductive material 1504 may further include at least one flat (e.g., formed at the bottom of the valley) to enable compensation (e.g., play, backlash) between the various components of the valve system 1500 without substantially detecting such compensation (e.g., movement of the shaft 1502) with the LDC sensor 202.

FIG. 15 is a partial view of a valve system 1600 including a component of the valve system 1600 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 1602) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft 1602. Valve system 1600 may be substantially similar to valve system 1300 discussed above with reference to FIG. 12. For example, conductive material 1604 of the shaft 1602 may be formed to exhibit a gradated thickness with one or more peaks having an increased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1602 separated by valleys having a decreased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1602 (e.g., two valleys separated by a single peak). Conductive material 1604 may further include at least one flat (e.g., formed at the apex of the peak) to enable compensation (e.g., play, backlash) between the various components of the valve system 1600 without substantially detecting such compensation with the LDC sensor 202.

FIG. 16 is a partial view of a valve system 1700 including a component of the valve system 1700 (e.g., a portion of a shaft 1702) and one or more LDC sensors 202 utilized to sense one or more characteristics of the shaft 1702 (e.g., in order to determine a force associated with the shaft 1702 and/or another component of the valve system 1700). Valve system 1700 may be substantially similar to valve system 1400 discussed above with reference to FIG. 13. For example, conductive material 1704 of the shaft 1702 may be formed to exhibit a gradated thickness with one or more peaks having an increased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1702 separated by valleys having a decreased thickness in a radial direction of the shaft 1702 (e.g., a gradated thickness extending between one peak and one valley). Conductive material 1704 may further include at least one flat (e.g., formed at the apex of the peak) to enable compensation (e.g., play, backlash) between the various components of the valve system 1700 without substantially detecting such compensation with the LDC sensor 202.

Embodiments of the present disclosure may be particularly useful in providing relatively low cost sensors that do not require the use of magnets or other relatively more expensive sensing technology. The electronic components of such LDC sensors, which enable remote, wireless sensing, such as the coil and LDC converter electronics, may be housed in isolation from working environments of the various components of the valve system. Such environment may comprise wet or otherwise caustic environments where fluid or other contaminants may access the internal components of the electronics. Embodiments of the present disclosure enable detection of the relatively lower cost conductive materials that may be exposed to such working environments with the LDC sensors. For example, when implemented in input devices for a control system of a valve actuator, the electronics of the LDC sensor may be positioned and sealed within the valve actuator housing while the conductive materials are positioned external to the housing of the valve actuator on the input devices exposed to an exterior environment. By way of further example, when implemented with internal valve stem components such as a shaft, the electronics of the LDC sensor may be spaced and sealed from the working environment of the shaft while the conductive materials are positioned on or integral with the shaft and exposed to the working environment of the shaft.

While certain embodiments have been described and shown in the accompanying drawings, such embodiments are merely illustrative and not restrictive of the scope of the disclosure, and this disclosure is not limited to the specific constructions and arrangements shown and described, since various other additions and modifications to, and deletions from, the described embodiments will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art. Thus, the scope of the disclosure is only limited by the literal language, and legal equivalents, of the claims that follow.