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 Technical Guide > Sensors

Photoelectric Sensors

 

Photoelectric Sensors detect photo-optical workpieces. OMRON provides many varieties of Sensor, including diffuse-reflective, through-beam, retro-reflective, and distance-settable Sensors, as well as Sensors with either built-in or separate amplifiers and Fiber Units.

 


What Are Photoelectric Sensors?


Photoelectric Sensors detect objects, changes in surface conditions, and other items through a variety of optical properties.


A Photoelectric Sensor consists primarily of an Emitter for emitting light and a Receiver for receiving light. When emitted light is interrupted or reflected by the sensing object, it changes the amount of light that arrives at the Receiver. The Receiver detects this change and converts it to an electrical output. The light source for the majority of Photoelectric Sensors is infrared or visible light (generally red, or green/blue for identifying colors).


Photoelectric Sensors are classified as shown in the figure below. (See Classification.)
 

Through-beam Sensors

Through-beam Sensors



Retro-reflective Sensors

Retro-reflective Sensors
 


Diffuse-reflective Sensors

Diffuse-reflective Sensors
 



Features of Photoelectric Sensors

 

(1) Long Sensing Distance


A Through-beam Sensor, for example, can detect objects more than 10 m away. This is impossible with magnetic, ultrasonic, or other sensing methods.

 

(2) Virtually No Sensing Object Restrictions

 

These Sensors operate on the principle that an object interrupts or reflects light, so they are not limited like Proximity Sensors to detecting metal objects. This means they can be used to detect virtually any object, including glass, plastic, wood, and liquid.


(3) Fast Response Time


The response time is extremely fast because light travels at high speed and the Sensor performs no mechanical operations because all circuits are comprised of electronic components.


(4) High Resolution


The incredibly high resolution achieved with these Sensors derives from advanced design technologies that yielded a very small spot beam and a unique optical system for receiving light.


These developments enable detecting very small objects, as well as precise position detection.


(5) Non-contact Sensing


There is little chance of damaging sensing objects or Sensors because objects can be detected without physical contact.


This ensures years of Sensor service.


(6) Color Identification


The rate at which an object reflects or absorbs light depends on both the wavelength of the emitted light and the color of the object.
This property can be used to detect colors.


(7) Easy Adjustment


Positioning the beam on an object is simple with models that emit visible light because the beam is visible.

 


 

Operating Principles

 

(1) Properties of Light


Rectilinear Propagation


When light travels through air or water, it always travels in a straight line. The slit on the outside of a Through-beam Sensor that is used to detect small objects is an example of how this principle is applied to practical use.

Rectilinear Propagation


Refraction


Refraction is the phenomenon of light being deflected as it passes obliquely through the boundary between two media with different refractive indices.

Refraction


Reflection (Regular Reflection, Retro-reflection, Diffuse Reflection)


A flat surface, such as glass or a mirror, reflects light at an angle equal to the incident angle of the light. This kind of reflection is called regular reflection. A corner cube takes advantage of this principle by arranging three flat surfaces perpendicular to each other. Light emitted toward a corner cube repeatedly propagates regular reflections and the reflected light ultimately moves straight back toward the emitted light. This is referred to as retro-reflection.


Most retro-reflectors are comprised of corner cubes that measure several square millimeters and are arranged in a precise configuration.


Matte surfaces, such as white paper, reflect light in all directions. This scattering of light is called diffuse reflection. This principle is the sensing method used by Diffuse-reflective Sensors.

Reflection (Regular Reflection, Retro-reflection, Diffuse Reflection)



Polarization of Light


Light can be represented as a wave that oscillates horizontally and vertically. Photoelectric Sensors almost always use LEDs as the light source. The light emitted from LEDs oscillates in the vertical and horizontal directions and is referred to as unpolarized light. There are optical filters that constrain the oscillations of unpolarized light to just one direction. These are known as polarizing filters. Light from an LED that passes through a polarizing filter oscillates in only one direction and is referred to as polarized light (or more precisely, linear polarized light). Polarized light oscillating in one direction (say the vertical direction) cannot pass through a polarizing filter that constrains oscillations to a perpendicular direction (e.g., the horizontal direction). The MSR function on Retro-reflective Sensors and the Mutual Interference Protection Filter accessory for Through-beam Sensors operate on this principle.



(2) Light Sources

 

Light Generation


<Pulse Modulated light>

 

The majority of Photoelectric Sensors use pulse modulated light that basically emits light repeatedly at fixed intervals. They can sense objects located some distance away because the effects of external light interference are easily removed with this system. In models equipped with mutual interference protection, the emission cycle is varied within a specified range to handle coherent light and external light interference.

<Pulse Modulated light>

<Non-modulated Light>

Non-modulated light refers to an uninterrupted beam of light at a specific intensity that is used with certain types of Sensors, such as Mark Sensors. Although these Sensors have fast response times, their drawbacks include short sensing distances and susceptibility to external light interference.

 

<Non-modulated Light>

Light Source Color and Type

 

Light Source Color and Type



(3) Optical Fiber Sensors


Structure


With no electrical components in the sensing section (fiber), the Optical Fiber Sensor is highly resistant to noise and other environmental influences.

 

Optical Fiber Amplifier Structure


E3X-DA-S Digital Amplifier

E3X-DA-S Digital Amplifier Nomeclature

 


Detection Principles


Optical fiber is comprised of a central core with a high refractive index surrounded by cladding with a low refractive index. When light enters the core, repetitive total internal reflection at the boundary of the less refractive cladding guides the light down the optical fiber. The angle of the light traveling through the optical fiber increases to about 60° by the time the light exits the fiber and strikes a sensing object.

 

Detection Principles



Optical Fiber Types and Characteristics

 

Cross section

Structure

Characteristics

Effective applications

Typical models

Flexible type
(Multi-core)

Flexible type structure (new standard)

• Bending does not almost affect light intensity.

• Allowable bend radius:1 mm

Compared to conventional Fibers:

 

• As easy to install as soft electrical wiring.

• Never have to worry about the bending radius.

• Touching fibers does not affect light intensity.

E32-T11R
E32-D11R
 

(Bundled individual fibers)



(Bundled individual fibers)
 

Standard type
(single core)

Standard type structure

• Efficient light transmission at relatively long sensing distances

• Allowable bend radius: 10 or 25 mm

 

E32-TC200
E32-DC200

Standard type

Robot type
(bundled)

Robot type structure

• Excellent bending-resistance characteristics
Repeated bending: 1,000,000 times min. (typical example)

• Allowable bending radius: 4 mm

• Resists damage when attached to moving parts, such as robot hands.

E32-T11
E32-D11

Robot type

(Loose individual fibers)

 

 

(4) Triangulation


Distance-settable Sensors generally operate on the principle of triangulation. This principle is illustrated in the following diagram.


Light from the Emitter strikes the sensing object and reflects diffused light. The Receiver lens concentrates the reflected light on the position detector (a semiconductor that outputs a signal according to where the light strikes it). When the sensing object is located at A near the optical system, then the light is concentrated at point a on the position detector. When the sensing object is located at B away from the optical system, then the light is concentrated at point b on the position detector.


Triangulation


 

Classification

 

(1) Classification by Sensing Method


1) Through-beam Sensors

 

Sensing Method

The Emitter and Receiver are installed opposite each other to enable the light from the Emitter to enter the Receiver. When a sensing object passing between the Emitter and Receiver interrupts the emitted light, it reduces the amount of light that enters the Receiver. This reduction in light intensity is used to detect an object.

 

Through-beam Sensor Sensing Method


The sensing method is identical to that of Through-beam Sensors and some models called Slot Sensors are configured with an integrated Emitter and Receiver.

 

Slot Sensor Sensing Method
 


Features

  • Stable operation and long sensing distances ranging from several centimeters to several tens of meters.

  • Sensing position unaffected by changes in the sensing object path.

  • Operation not greatly affected by sensing object gloss, color, or inclination.

2) Diffuse-reflective Sensors


Sensing Method


The Emitter and Receiver are installed in the same housing and light normally does not return to the Receiver. When light from the Emitter strikes the sensing object, the object reflects the light and it enters the Receiver where the intensity of light is increased. This increase in light intensity is used to detect the object.

Diffuse-reflective Sensor Sensing Method



Features

  • Sensing distance ranging from several centimeters to several meters.

  • Easy mounting adjustment.

  • The intensity of reflected light and operating stability vary with the conditions (e.g., color and smoothness) on the surface of the sensing object.

 

3) Retro-reflective Sensors


Sensing Method


The Emitter and Receiver are installed in the same housing and light from the Emitter is normally reflected back to the Receiver by a Reflector installed on the opposite side. When the sensing object interrupts the light, it reduces the amount of light received. This reduction in light intensity is used to detect the object.

 

Retro-reflective Sensor Sensing Method



Features

  • Sensing distance ranges from several centimeters to several meters.

  • Simple wiring and optical axis adjustment (labor saving).

  • Operation not greatly affected by the color or angle of sensing objects.

  • Light passes through the sensing object twice, making these Sensors suitable for sensing transparent objects.

  • Sensing objects with a mirrored finish may not be detected because the amount of light reflected back to the Receiver from such shiny surfaces makes it appear as though no sensing object is present.
    This problem can be overcome using the MSR function.

4) Distance-settable Sensors


Sensing Method


The Receiver in the Sensor is either a 2-part photodiode or a position detector. The light reflected from the sensing object is concentrated on the Receiver. Sensing is based on the principle of triangulation, which states that where the beam is concentrated depends on the distance to the sensing object.

The following figure shows a detection system that uses a 2-part photodiode. The end of the photodiode nearest the case is called the N (near) end and the other end is called the F (far) end. When a sensing object reaches the preset position, the reflected light is concentrated midway between the N end and the F end and the photodiodes at both ends receive an equal amount of light. If the sensing object is closer to the Sensor, then the reflected light is concentrated at the N end. Conversely, the reflected light is concentrated at the F end when the sensing object is located farther than the preset distance. The Sensor calculates the difference between the light intensity at the N end and F end to determine the position of the sensing object.

 

Distance-settable Sensor Sensing Method


 

Features of Distance-settable Sensors

  • Operation not greatly affected by sensing object surface conditions or color.

  • Operation not greatly affected by the background.

BGS (Background Suppression) and FGS (Foreground Suppression)


When using the E3Z-LS61, E3Z-LS66, E3Z-LS81, or E3Z-LS86, select the BGS or FGS function to detect objects on a conveyor belt.


The BGS function prevents any background object (i.e., the conveyor) beyond the set distance from being detected.


The FGS function prevents objects closer than the set distance or objects that reflect less than a specified amount of light to the Receiver from being detected. Objects that reflect less than a specified amount of light are as follows:

  1. Objects with extremely low reflectance and objects that are darker than black paper.

  2. Objects like mirrors that return virtually all light back to the Emitter.

  3. Uneven, glossy surfaces that reflect a lot of light but disperse the light in random directions.

Reflected light may return to the Receiver momentarily for item (3) due to sensing object movement. In that case, an OFF delay timer or some other means may need to be employed to prevent chattering.

 


Features

  • Small differences in height can be detected (BGS and FGS).

  • The effects of sensing object color are minimized (BGS and FGS).

  • The effects of background objects are minimized (BGS).

  • Sensing object irregularities may affect operation (BGS and FGS).

BGS and FGS

 

 

5) Limited-reflective Sensors


Sensing Method


In the same way as for Diffuse-reflective Sensors, Limited-reflective Sensors receive light reflected from the sensing object to detect it. The Emitter and Receiver are installed to receive only regular-reflection light, so only objects that are a specific distance (area where light emission and reception overlap) from the Sensor can be detected. In the figure on the right, the sensing object at (A) can be detected while the object at (B) cannot.

 

Limited-reflective Sensor Sensing Method



Features

  • Small differences in height can be detected.

  • The distance from the Sensor can be limited to detect only objects in a specific area.

  • Operation is not greatly affected by sensing object colors.

  • Operation is greatly affected by the glossiness or inclination of the sensing object.

 

(2) Selection Points by Sensing Method


Checkpoints for Through-beam and Retro-reflective Sensors Sensing object


1. Size and shape (vertical x horizontal x height)
2. Transparency (opaque, semi-transparent, transparent)
3. Velocity V (m/s or units/min.)

 

Sensor


1. Sensing distance (L)
2. Restrictions on size and shape

a) Sensor
b) Retro-reflector (for Retro-reflective Sensors)

3. Need for side-by-side mounting

a) No. of units
b) Mounting pitch
c) Need for staggered mounting

4. Mounting restrictions (angling, etc.)


Environment


1. Ambient temperature
2. Presence of splashing water, oil, or chemicals
3. Others

Selection Method by Environment


Checkpoints for Diffusion-reflective, Distance-settable, and Limited-reflective Sensors


Sensing object


1. Size and shape (vertical x horizontal x height)
2. Color
3. Material (steel, SUS, wood, paper, etc.)
4. Surface conditions (textured or glossy)
5. Velocity V (m/s or units/min.)


Sensor


1. Sensing distance (distance to the workpiece) (L)
2. Restrictions on size and shape
3. Need for side-by-side mounting

a) No. of units
b) Mounting pitch

4. Mounting restrictions (angling, etc.)

 

Background


1. Color
2. Material (steel, SUS, wood, paper, etc.)
3. Surface conditions (textured, glossy, etc.)


Environment


1. Ambient temperature
2. Presence of splashing water, oil, or chemicals
3. Others

Selection Method by Environment
 

(3) Classification by Configuration


Photoelectric Sensors are generally comprised of an Emitter, Receiver, Amplifier, Controller, and Power Supply. They are classified as shown below according to how the components are configured.


1) Sensors with Separate Amplifiers


Through-beam Sensors have a separate Emitter and Receiver while Reflective Sensors have an integrated Emitter and Receiver.
The Amplifier and Controller are housed in a single Amplifier Unit.


Features

  • Compact size because the integrated Emitter-Receiver is comprised simply of an Emitter, Receiver, and optical system.

  • Sensitivity can be adjusted remotely if the Emitter and Receiver are installed in a narrow space.

  • The signal wire from the Amplifier Unit to the Emitter and Receiver is susceptible to noise.

  • Typical Models (Amplifier Unit): E3C-LDA and E3C

 

2) Sensors with Built-in Amplifiers


Everything except the power supply is integrated in these Sensors.
(Through-beam Sensors are divided into the Emitter comprised solely of the Emitter and the Receiver comprised of the Receiver, Amplifier, and Controller.) The power supply is a standalone unit.


Features

  • The Receiver, Amplifier, and Controller are integrated to eliminate the need for weak signal wiring. This makes the Sensor less susceptible to noise.

  • Requires less wiring than Sensors with separate Amplifiers.

  • Although these Sensors are generally larger than those with separate Amplifiers, those with non-adjustable sensitivity are just as small.

  • Typical Models: E3Z, E3T, and E3S-C

 

3) Sensors with Built-in Power Supplies


The Power Supply, Emitter, and Receiver are all installed in the same housing with these Sensors.


Features

  • Sensors can be connected directly to a commercial power supply to provide a large control output directly from the Receiver.

  • These Sensors are much larger than those with other configurations because the Emitter and Receiver contain additional components, such as power supply transformers.

  • Typical Models: E3G, E3JK, and E3JM

 

4) Optical Fiber Sensors


The Emitter and Receiver are connected by optical fiber.
These Sensors are comprised of a Fiber Unit and an Amplifier Unit, but the OMRON product line does not include an Amplifier Unit with a built-in power supply.


Features

  • Simply add a Fiber Head (end section) to make a Through-beam or Reflective Sensor.

  • Ideally suited to detecting very small objects.

  • Fiber Units are not susceptible to noise.

  • Typical Models (Amplifier Unit): E3X-DA-S, E3X-MDA, and E3X-NA
     


 

Interpreting Engineering Data

 

Through-beam Sensors and Retro-reflective Sensors

 

Parallel Operating Range

 

E3Z-T[]1(T[]6) Characteristics

 

Parallel Operating Range

 

• Through-beam Sensors: Indicates the sensing position limit for the Receiver with the Emitter at a fixed position.

• Retro-reflective Sensors: Indicates the sensing position limit for the Retro-reflector when the Sensor is at a fixed position.

• Sensitivity is set to the maximum value in both cases and the area between the top and bottom lines is the detectable area.

• An area 1.5 times the area shown in the diagram is required to prevent mutual interference with more than one Through-beam Sensor installed.

 

Excess Gain Ratio vs. Set Distance

 

E3Z-T[]1(T[]6) Characteristics

 

Excess Gain Ratio vs. Set Distance

 

The Excess Gain Ratio shown here is the value with the sensitivity set to the maximum value.

• The rated sensing distance above is for a 15-m model. The graph shows that the Excess Gain Ratio is approximately 6 at the rated sensing distance.

 

 

Diffuse-reflective Sensors

 

Operating Range

 

E3Z-D[]1(D[]6) Characteristics

 

Operating Range

 

• Indicates the sensing start position when a standard sensing object is moved in the Y direction (vertically along the optical axis). The bottom curve in the diagram is for when the sensing object is moved from the bottom.

 

Note: These values are for the standard sensing object. The operating area and sensing distance will change for a different object.

 

 

Size of Sensing Object vs. Sensing Distance

 

E3Z-D[]1(D[]6) Characteristics

 

Size of Sensing Object vs. Sensing Distance

 

Indicates how the sensing distance varies with the size and surface color of the sensing object.

 

Note: These values are for the standard sensing object. The operating area and sensing distance will change for a different object.

 

 

Diffuse-reflective and Retro-reflective Sensors

 

Size of Sensing Object vs. Operating Range

 

The width and the operating range of E3X-DA-S+E32-DC200 (example) sensing object

 

Size of Sensing Object vs. Operating Range

 

• Indicates how the operating range of the Sensor varies with the width of the sensing object.

• Each enclosed area indicates the operating area of the respective sensing object width.

 

 

Object Surface Color vs. Sensing Distance

 

The surface color and the sensing distance of E3X-DA-S+E32-DC200 (example) sensing object

 

Object Surface Color vs. Sensing Distance

 

When using a Reflective Photoelectric Sensor, the surface color and gloss of the object will affect the sensing distance and the operating area.

• Indicates that the sensing distance lengthens as the reflectance of the object surface increases.

 

 

Surface Color of Object, Gloss, and Operating Range

 

The surface color and the operating range of E3X-DA-S+E32-DC200 (example) sensing object

 

Surface Color of Object, Gloss, and Operating Range

 

Indicates that a black object with the lowest reflectance has the smallest operating (sensing) area.

• SUS and aluminum foil are glossy and will enable a longer sensing distance. The reflection of the light by the surface, however, will only be regular reflection, not diffuse reflection, and thus the operating area will be smaller than with white paper.



 

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