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Sensors ‘can detect any object on a high-speed line’

11 February, 2016

The German sensor-maker Sick says it has achieved a step change in sensing performance and value with a range of distance sensing, proximity and object detection sensors that, it claims, can detect any object on a high-speed production line. The family of four PowerProx sensors, which are based on laser time-of-flight (ToF) technology, cover a distance range from 50mm to 3.8m and can replace most distance and proximity sensors in a production plant. The family includes what is claimed to be the world’s smallest ToF sensor.

“Nothing gets by the Sick PowerProx,” declares David Hannaby, Sick’s product manager for presence detection in the UK. “It has overtaken other market offerings to deliver a multi-tasking series of sensors with outstanding performance at a competitive price, achieving consistent results where a number of different specialised sensors would otherwise need to be used.

“Even objects being conveyed at high speed, small and flat objects, and products with jet-black or shiny finishes, can now be reliably detected over its extensive sensing distances,” he adds.

The sensors can communicate their results to factory networks or be monitored, re-set or taught to perform new sensing tasks remotely.

The precision of the ToF technology, combined with advanced background suppression, also means the sensors offer a high degree of angular tolerance and are not affected by ambient light, dust, spray or particles. There is no need for reflectors or receivers.

The multitasking sensors are adjusted via a potentiometer or a teach-in button. There are versions available with one or two separately adjustable switching thresholds. In packaging, warehousing and logistics applications, the two switching points can be used to set distance quickly, while the angular tolerance and background suppression will allow different sized packages to be recognised and sorted.

The sensors incorporate IO-Link communications which can be used to teach up to eight switching points remotely, and to output accurate measurements for determining range, position, height or size.

Because of their low hysteresis and minimal colour shift, the sensors can detect extremely small parts. They can also detect flat objects, no matter what the surface finish, and could be used, for example, to check a robot's gripping points.

Sick's PowerProx family includes the world's tiniest time-of-flight sensor (right)

Three of the sensor types come in the same compact housing, while the fourth is described as “probably the smallest sensor currently available at its performance level”. They are:

PowerProx Distance With a sensing range up to 3.8m and two separately adjustable switching points, these are suitable for storage, handling, warehousing and logistics applications – for example, for occupied bay and clearance detection, automated pallet handling, and collision protection in storage and conveyor systems.

PowerProx Speed With quick response times, high switching frequencies and object detection ranges of up to 2.5m, these are suitable for packaging and component collation, or for high-speed applications.

PowerProx Precision These can be used to detect small objects from a distance of up to 1.8 metres.

PowerProx Small This is said to offer time-of-flight technology in the world’s smallest housing (46 x 34 x 17.6mm), with sensing ranges of up to 2.5m and switching frequencies up to 1kHz for high-speed applications.

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