When your mechanical systems rely on liquid flow as part of their operation, one of the most crucial aspects of the system design is having a way to reliably measure that flow. This is particularly important when implementing automated systems, which will need to monitor the liquid flow carefully for any signs of problems.
Fortunately, there are multiple kinds of water flow meters on the market, with different designs to meet different needs. In this article, we’ll briefly cover the most common types seen in automated flow systems today.
The Four Most Common Kinds of Water Flow Meters
These are the most common, basic, and affordable types of flow meters. They simply utilize a propeller or paddle wheel which is turned by the flow of the liquid within the meter. Their simple design and construction make them easy to implement, but they can likewise be prone to blockage or other mechanical failures. Also, they can be inaccurate in situations where low flows are typical.
Ultrasonic flow meters, as the name suggests, use sound waves to measure the flow. In short, they send an ultrasonic burst first in the direction of the current, then in the direction opposite the current. Comparing the speeds of the two bursts yields a calculation of the overall flow. Some variations even exist which can be clamped onto the exterior of pipes, allowing for flow measurement without a dedicated hardware meter attached to the system.
Magnetic water flow meters utilize Faraday’s Law of Electromagnetic Induction, which shows that most liquids generate voltage as they pass through a magnetic field. The faster the flow, the more voltage is generated, which makes it simple to measure. However, these meters cannot work with all liquids, such as pure water, which lacks any ions to measure.
Vortex meters utilize sensors which deliberately disrupt the flow of water as it passes through, creating vortexes. The speed and rotation of those vortexes can be measured as an indication of the overall flow. While somewhat complex in design, these can measure a wide variety of factors (including speed, density, temperature, and pressure) and are well-suited for very wide pipes.
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