I4.0 Compatible Optical Sensors

| Information and Communication Technology

Time-Of-Flight detectors can reliably detect different objects regardless of shape, colour, material or reflectivity

Optical Sensors with 1500mm detection range and anti-fouling technology bring greater scope to industrial environments.

Global automation and control specialist, Omron has launched its E3AS Series reflective-type photoelectric sensors with the smallest body and longest sensing distance of 1,500 mm in their class, comprising similar style reflective sensors with a 25.4mm (1 inch) mounting pitch.

Photoelectric sensors detect either the presence of objects or the passing of objects using optical properties and are therefore a key element of industrial automation systems. When emitted light is interrupted or reflected by the sensing object, the amount of light that arrives at the receiver changes, and the presence or passing of an object is detected.

The Omron E3AS sensors provide stable detection without being influenced by sensing distances or different colours, materials and surfaces of the objects. This makes selection, adjustment and maintenance of sensors easier, and improves system commissioning and operation rates. E3AS Sensors can be used, for example, in high-mix conveyor lines carrying products of various colours and shapes, and assembly lines with restricted space for sensor installation.

Manufacturing environments

Fast commissioning and stable operation are critical at manufacturing sites. To meet this need, Omron has increased the sensing distance with the E3AS Series to five times longer than in the previous models, such as the company’s earlier E3Z-LL range of products.

The detection principle of the E3AS Series is Time of Flight (TOF) that enables high detection stability regardless of the characteristics of sensing objects. With TOF, the distance to a sensing object is calculated by measuring the time in which a pulsed laser passes from the emitter to reach the object and return to the sensor. It is less influenced by the characteristics of the object, dramatically increases the stability of presence detection and reduces the time for selection and adjustment.

This makes it easier to select and adjust the sensors. In addition, the industry’s first antifouling coating on the sensing surface reduces false detection and maintenance frequency in environments where oil or dust scatters, or steam generates. The E3AS Series helps improve system commissioning and operation rates in the conveyance and assembling processes.

Digital Enterprises

Sensor manufacturers are increasingly becoming more compliant with the concept of digital industry, including Industry 4.0 (I4.0) for manufacturing and distribution organisations.

Omron is catering for the needs of the latest generation of enterprises by ensuring its sensors are subject to constant innovation to improve connectivity, interoperability and interaction capabilities with engineers and technicians.

To this end, Omron developed and embarked upon a strategic concept called “Innovative-Automation” consisting of three innovations or “i’s”–“integrated” (control evolution), “intelligent” (development of intelligence by ICT), and “interactive” (new harmonisation between humans and machines).

By improving system commissioning and stable operation using the E3AS Series, Omron is continuing to solve problems at manufacturing sites including labour shortages, and accelerates the materialisation of “innovative-Automation” together with its customers.

Innovative Features

Sensing distance – With its small body size and wide sensing range of between 50 and 1500mm, the E3AS Series eliminates the need to select different sensors based on application. In manufacturing and distribution environments, where distances to the sensing object can vary based on actuator position or conveyor width, one sensor can be used for reliable and repeatable detection.

Construction material – Users can select either a model with a metal or a plastic case to meet their installation environment requirements. In addition, their small size enables installation in confined spaces.

Depending on the material used, the sensor construction technology uses a variety of innovative techniques to ensure it can cope with the harsh conditions of different manufacturing and distribution environments. Patented laser welding technologies for different materials and metals ensure sealing to avoid sensor failures.

The E3AS Sensor case is made of stainless steel (SUS316L). Omron’s laser welding technology enhances the sealing and adhesion between the parts of the case, reducing failures in water (IP69K) and oil (IP67G) environments.

The “weld” can either join different materials, such as the lens and indicator covers, or to join metal to metal. For joining different materials, the technology involves the use of laser melted resins to seal joining apertures. For metal to metal joining, laser beam welding is used as a more secure alternative to adhesives.

Anti-fouling – Similar to the techniques used in the security camera industry, Omron has deployed special anti-fouling coatings for the sensing surface. Despite its use in other industries, this is the first time this patented coating has been used in sensor manufacturing to prevent contamination.

The antifouling coating on the E3AS Series sensing surface prevents water droplets, oil, dirt and dust from sticking to the sensor lens cover. In addition to this, it keeps the lens from fogging as well so a clear line of sight is maintained. This reduces false detection as well as the frequency of maintenance and cleaning.

Detection Flexibility

The ability of the sensor to detect objects of a variety of colours and made from a range of materials enables fast evaluation and adjustment to be performed.

With conventional photoelectric sensors, prior evaluation or positioning was required for each sensing object. The E3AS Series detects sensing objects which vary in colour and material by the set distance, enabling less evaluation and adjustment time.

This flexibility of detection comes directly from the TOF method used by the E3AS. Alternative sensors that use triangulation methods will receive different signal strengths or positions depending on colour, material or reflectivity of the object being detected.

With TOF technology, objects made of such materials as black rubber and stainless steel can be detected equally reliably.

Sensing for manufacturing

The new Omron sensor has been designed from the start to meet the needs of modern manufacturing companies. It has the flexibility to detect a wide range of objects and at different distances without complex setting up.

In addition, it can be used with palletised objects or as a sensor on manufacturing robots or warehouse automatically guided vehicles.

Jonathan Newell
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