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Laser and radar solve long distance challenges

Laser and radar solve long distance challenges

Long distance sensing in demanding applications – including outdoors – brings a whole host of challenges in accuracy, performance and environmental protection. Now Turck Banner says the experience gained in 50 years of addressing the most demanding automation applications has enabled it to build on laser and radar techniques to develop a new range of long distance sensing products.

Mention Turck Banner with regard to sensing, and most likely you’ll be thinking of photoelectric devices offering high precision measurement in factory automation applications. But the company says its customers are always pushing for solutions that will work in more specific and often more challenging applications, with long distance sensing being a good example. Offering alternatives to LED-based photoelectrics for long distances, the company has developed ranges of laser and radar products to meet these needs.

Laser sensors offer key advantages over LED sensors in long distance applications. While both laser and LED sensors use a diode to generate the light, in laser technology the laser then bounces this light back and forth within its housing to generate more of the same wavelength of light (monochromatic, single colour), and more critically all the waves are in line with each other (coherent). LEDs also generate near monochromatic light, and have a broader spectrum of wavelengths than lasers but the critical feature is that the light is incoherent, with the wavelengths randomly produced.

All natural light and most man-made light is incoherent and has many wavelengths which is why it spreads out from its point source as it travels. Laser light, however, remains in a tightly focused beam over great distances. It is this coherence of laser light that gives laser sensors their unique property of a very narrow beam that can travel great distances without spreading out, making them especially suited for certain types of application and a very poor choice for others.

The newly launched LTF Series of laser distance sensors, from Banner, are designed to accurately measure targets at distances up to 12m. They provide reliable detection regardless of colour or material. The dynamically adjusted laser power increases output for dark targets or objects at steep angles while reducing power for shiny ones, providing accurate measurements across a wide range of challenging targets. Features include a two line text display to make adjustments and menu navigation simple and easy to read. Set-up and alignment is a quick and easy process.

LTF sensors use time of flight principles to provide a best-in-class combination of range, repeatability and accuracy, with an IP67 housing, high ambient light immunity and stable performance across temperatures. The result is reliable performance in a host of challenging environments. Designed to solve demanding industrial measurement applications, Turck Banner says the LTF is ideal for part-in-place verification, roll diameter web tension control, part profiling and positioning, and many more. The company has already highlighted a number of application examples in specific industries, such as part presence and position verification on a car door from a distance, monitoring content levels inside a high volume hopper and loop control of shiny black tread rubber during tyre production. 

The success that Turck Banner has had within factory environments has also prompted customers to approach the company about even more demanding outdoor applications, and here radar sensors have been developed, addressing the Achilles heels of technologies such as ultrasonic sensing and photoelectric sensors. For example, ultrasonic devices struggle to operate correctly in high winds as the sound wave emitted and received back to the unit can literally be blown off course, resulting in poor response. 

Similarly, most photoelectric sensors when used outside can suffer the effects of adverse weather – snow, fog, heavy rain and humidity. Even good weather can present problems as bright sunlight can affect correct operation. In addition a build- up of dust and dirt on the lens will impede accurate sensing. Radar sensors are unaffected by wind, rain, fog, light, humidity or air temperatures, with operating temperatures are between –40 and +65°C.

Radar sensors use frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) radar to reliably detect moving or stationary targets. Their reliability over long distances in extreme weather conditions make radar sensors the ideal choice for collision avoidance on-board mobile equipment such as reach stackers, forklifts, and mining vehicles.

To meet the needs of such applications, Turck Banner offer a full range of radar-based devices. The Q120RA range from Banner has a narrow beam pattern and will detect objects from 1-40m. It has two independently adjustable sensing zones and its robust construction make it an ideal choice for port crane anti-collision and train detection applications. By contrast the QT50RAFQ is a wide angle device with a total beam angle of 90 degrees, used extensively in traffic monitoring, car parking and road toll applications.

These new laser and radar devices show that, whatever the industry, distance is no object. Turck Banner reports that in the UK some 20% of its business is now outside of the traditional industrial automation markets, and that this is the company’s fastest area of growth.

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