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Laser treatment

03 February 2021

Time-of-Flight laser sensors can reliably detect objects of various colours and materials, based on the time difference between the emission of light and its return to the sensor. Martin Wyatt, Business Development Manager at Carlo Gavazzi UK, outlines some of the benefits and applications for these compact devices.

Bats sense distance using sound. They emit sound waves and receive reflected waves. The time it takes for the wave to bounce back provides the bat with information on both an object's presence and its distance.

Laser Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensors work similarly. Instead of sound waves, Laser ToF sensors measure the actual time for a single laser pulse to leave the sensor and be reflected from an object back to the sensor's receiver. Because light travels at a constant speed, the time lapse between the emission of the light pulse and its return to the sensor enables both the presence of an object and its distance from the sensor to be detected and measured.

Laser ToF sensors work regardless of the object's colour or surface characteristics, and they are unaffected by humidity, air pressure and temperature. This makes them ideal for applications in food and beverage production facilities where ToF sensors can provide a low-cost and contactless means of detecting objects of varying sizes and colours on a conveyor, for example, or measuring liquid levels in a flask.

Laser ToF sensors can also be used as a cost-effective alternative to ultrasonic devices on automated guided vehicles (AGVs), or service robots, where they can detect objects in the vehicle's path. Similarly, they can be used for automatic door control and other proximity sensing applications. 

Read the full article in the February issue of DPA.

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