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Mark Zabawa

By: Mark Zabawa on May 10th, 2021

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How Much Do Pressure Transducers Cost? (6 Factors Impacting Price)

pressure transducers

There is a wide range of pressure transducers on the market today, with a range of costs to match. I’ve been in the pressure sensor/transducer industry for over 20 years in various product management and sales roles, and in that time I have learned first-hand the many factors that influence price. This article provides insight into the cost drivers for the Industrial User & Industrial OEM market to help you understand how much your transducer will cost.

Notice that we are excluding automotive/appliance and process type transducers/transmitters, as that market and cost structure are unique. Also, we will use the phrase “pressure transducer” to refer to the complete pressure sensor and output board assembly, which may also be referred to in some industries as a pressure sensor or transmitter. In this article, the term pressure sensor will refer to the sensing element (technology) itself, which is incorporated into the complete pressure transducer product.

It is hard to determine the specific cost of a transducer until you can determine what elements are important (see the six categories presented in Figure 1 below). However, as a general sample, here are price ranges for a few select markets:

  • OHV/mobile hydraulic equipment transducers range from $25 to >$100 per unit
  • HVAC market range from $15 to >$700 per unit
  • Industrial Oil & Gas, Energy or Hazardous Area range from $75 to >$500 per unit
  • General Industrial range from $200 to $800 per unit
  • Submersible Type Transducers range from $400 to >$1,000 per unit
  • Semiconductor pressure transducers range from $250 to >$800 per unit

What Does a Transducer Cost?

The easiest answer for what determines cost is volume.

How many pressure transducers will you require in a given period of time? The more you purchase at one time, the lower your cost is likely to be. However, there are more factors to consider when specifying a pressure transducer for your application.

The elements in Figure 1 directly impact the price you will pay. Note that Pressure Reference/Range, Media Compatibility and Accuracy/Performance will play the biggest part in cost variations. These factors are followed by Power/Output, Environment and Design/Configuration.

Figure 1. Pressure Transducer Cost Drivers
pressure-transducer-cost-drivers-chart

1. Pressure Reference/Range

 The pressure range and reference (gauge/vacuum, absolute or differential), is the first step in determining which transducer technologies can be used in a design. What pressure do you want to measure? Once your Pressure Reference/Range is known, you need to look at Media Compatibility.

2. Media Compatibility

 The media you choose to match your sensor material will often reduce the technology options available. As an example, technologies suitable for low-flow DP air are very different than those for high-pressure hydrogen.

 It is very difficult to specifically attach media to a true impact in cost, unless you are considering media that is not compatible with most of the common transducer wetted materials used at the sensor technology level. This section is driven by the application media, which directs the technology used and influences the cost.

From here we move to the third most important factor in the design process. Once you determine the pressure range and media compatibility requirements, you will see clearly how accuracy can directly impact your transducer price.

3. Accuracy/Performance

As a general rule in the Industrial Transducer market, a 0.25% accuracy will cost more than a 1.0% accuracy transducer. If the application and transducer design specifications are very similar, this statement is more relative, but there are more factors that define accuracy.

Accuracy has several important elements. For example, how important is stability (long-term drift or long-term repeatability of the output reading) in a pharmaceutical cleanroom application requiring regular validation? How about in an OEM railway with a 20+-year service life or an OHV application, where all three can require regular calibration intervals to remain relevant?

Is it important that Zero and Span Output Offsets be included in accuracy as the two can add up to an additional +/- 2% FS error in some products? This may be very beneficial when Field Interchangeability and Out-of-the-Box Accuracy matters. In some cases, if an accuracy statement is typical then the question becomes: is it important that a specific accuracy be met or is typical good enough?

How a pressure transducer manufacturer publishes accuracy and performance specifications is often referred to as “Specmanship.”   Without agreed-upon industry standards in many regions of the world, accuracy can be defined as BFSL, RSS, Terminal or End Point, Total Error Band, or Typical. With each of the above terms, a stated accuracy of 0.25% can translate differently in many ways.

The bigger question is knowing the real performance values that add up to the above accuracy terms. Some of these options are non-linearity, hysteresis, repeatability, Zero errors, Span errors, thermal performance, long term stability/drift and warm-up time. These options will determine how precisely your transducer performs. Understanding what accuracy and real performance values are needed for your application can have a big impact on success or failure in an application, as well as determining cost. To learn more about the importance of accuracy for transducers, download this whitepaper: How Accurate is Your Accuracy Statement

The following elements within accuracy have the greatest impact on cost: 

Zero and Span Offset Errors can have the largest influence on how accurately your transducer performs. Often not included in the typical accuracy statement, a product that is set at Zero and Span often has a higher performance, value and cost. This value can directly impact a transducer’s installation, setup, field interchangeability and overall cost of ownership.

Temperature Effects are often stated as a separate influencing factor on a transducer’s overall performance statement, and can add additional error into the statement. Usually, this equates to a larger error in the output signal as temperature decreases or increases from an ambient temperature point.

While some manufacturers may show a total error statement that would include these errors in the overall specification (often referred to as Total Error Band), what happens to output and accuracy over a particular Operating Temperature Range is important (commonly referred to as Thermal Performance).

Taking time to correct the transducer’s output over temperature can be done in a product’s manufacturing and calibration process. The better the accuracy requirement over the operating temperature range, the higher the transducer cost.

Long-Term Stability (Drift) in pressure sensors is defined by the maximum acceptable change in zero and span values under normal conditions, and typically as a percentage of full scale over 12 months.  This is the final piece in determining which technologies can be incorporated. Stability is inherent to the technology and the associated control over the production processes. Put simply, the better the long-term stability of a pressure sensor, the better the product’s Accuracy/Performance and the potential for a higher transducer cost.

4. Power Supply/Output

Output requirements when discussing pressure transducers are becoming less of a cost factor with the incorporation of ASIC/digital technology by most manufacturers for the internal linearization/compensation circuitry. However, certain outputs such as IO-Link or J1939 may require additional circuitry, or even printed circuit boards and may add cost to the product.

Traditional analog compensation circuitry adds cost, but can have benefits in the nuclear, military, high-resolution and/or ultra-fast response time applications. Determine what is best in your application and do not expect the cost impact to be very significant if it is common to the industry.

Most often, once you define your output requirement, it will lead you to your power supply and input choices.

 5. Environment

Three aspects of the external environment to be considered when selecting the proper pressure transducer can also impact cost: 

    • IP Rating: This basically comes down to indoor vs. outdoor, and how much water or moisture the transducer will be exposed to over a given The questions are: what IP rating is required for the application and what is the required lifespan? The methods used to vent a transducer (for gauge reference applications) and the transducer housing sealing mechanisms for applications in IP 67, IP69k, or Submersible, will determine how well the transducer will perform over time in those specified environments.

    • Hazardous Area: If required, consider the approach to be used - Intrinsically Safe, Non-Incendive (Non-Sparking), or Explosion Proof/Flameproof. In general, Intrinsically Safe and Non-Incendive approved designs incorporate additional circuitry, component spacing and encapsulation, which increases costs when compared to general-purpose industrial transducers.

      Explosion Proof/Flameproof designs have higher costs due to the mechanical requirements to meet approval agency requirements, such as conduit connections with internal wiring isolation, non-flame path venting (for gauge reference) and more robust housing designs.
    • EMI/RFI: EM/RFI (electromagnetic radio frequency interference) are a result of the general standard of protection being met by most Industrial type transducers bearing the CE Mark. However, there are many environments where users wish to incorporate pressure transducers, and the EMI/RFI levels (whether conducted or radiated) exceed those levels.

                    These environments include, within proximity to some VFDs (variable frequency drives), systems where                                    grounding may not be consistent, railway applications, lightning-related, etc. This requires added cost as a                              result of additional electronics or construction techniques to shield the internal electronics and maintain                                  output integrity. 

  • 6. Design/Product Configuration

Incorporating a display or a military type connector will typically add cost. One area that may be overlooked is integral cable vs. integral connector. For many manufacturers, an integral cable will cost more to produce vs. an integral connector. However, this would need to be weighed against the cost of the mating cable assembly, or whether an integral cable will be a benefit in the environment (IP67+).

Even though some of the Design/Product Configuration elements are inherent in many designs, as you start to add many of the listed options, you will most often see the price increase at the same time.

For other Design/Product Configuration factors that can influence cost, please refer back to the items in Figure 1 above. The initial three base elements will define the available technologies and help establish a base transducer design and starting cost in the market. Following this, and depending on your design, the options chosen can often add to the cost.

We don’t like to pressure you, but we have more information. 

To help explore various options available for pressure transducers, visit a manufacturer’s website. On our website, we offer product information pages, white papers, specification sheets, material selection guides, videos, and many other tools.

For more information, explore pressure sensors or ask us a question. You can also download our whitepaper, How Accurate Is Your Accuracy Statement?

Download Whitepaper

About Mark Zabawa

Mark Zabawa is the Director of North America OEM/Direct Sales here at Ashcroft. He has spent the past 25+ years in the pressure sensor/transducer industry, with 15 of those years at Ashcroft. Mark has been in roles ranging from Technical Support and Product Management to Regional and National Sales, and his current role is focused on OEM Direct Sales.