22 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

New-generation photo sensors are ‘the first with Bluetooth’

The German sensor-maker Sick has launched a new generation of “smart” photoelectric sensors designed to be easy to use and to detect objects reliably. The W16 and W26 proximity, reflex and through-beam sensors incorporate several new technologies including an alignment assistant called BluePilot which uses a line of five LEDs on top of the sensor for quick, easy and accurate alignment of the light spot, even over long distances.

In what is claimed to be an industry first, a built-in Bluetooth option allows easy monitoring and commissioning from smartphones or tablets.

The new sensors, which are being manufactured at a purpose-built, automated production facility in Germany, are the result of a two-year research and development project costing millions of euros, which included extensive consultation with Sick customers worldwide.

“When we asked our customers what was most important for future development of photoelectric object detection, they put usability top of the list,” says David Hannaby, Sick’s UK product manager for presence detection. “They already expected our sensors to be robust, 100% reliable and always available. So, we set out on a journey to achieve the best of all worlds in one family. We developed the new operating technologies our customers wanted, as well as bringing together all of Sick’s leading optical sensing capabilities.”

The BluePilot alignment technology combines: a potentiometer and teach-in button to simplify set-ups; range assessment; and application mode selection. It also provides a real-time on-sensor status display.

Other technologies in the new sensors include:

•  A patented technology called Twin-Eye that provides reliable detection of reflective materials such as films, foils, contrast-rich or uneven surfaces. A second receiving channel reduces the risk of false or missed signals caused by deflections of the light beam.

•  Linear optics called LineSpot, which provide reliable detection of objects containing meshes, perforations, gaps or breaks.

•  An optical filter technology called ClearSens, designed to handle semi-transparent and transparent objects, such as bottles and plastic trays. “Intuitive” mode selection on the device makes it easy to set up the sensor to suit the characteristics of the object.

•  A technology called OptoFilter that makes the sensors immune to interference from unwanted light sources and reflections, such as LED lighting, high-vis safety workwear, or reflections from machinery.

•  A function called AutoAdapt that adjusts the sensor’s switching thresholds if a reflector or the front of the sensor become contaminated.

IO-Link communications is standard, allowing easy set-up and parameter cloning of replacement sensors. It also provides addressability and diagnostic functions, and supports sensor-level tasks such as counting and time measurement. 

The sensors have robust Vistal housings to withstand adverse chemical, thermal and mechanical environmental conditions, as well shocks and vibrations. The housings are laser-etched with the product’s details so that it can be identified easily even after years of service. A 2D barcode enables easy identification and access to product manuals via a smartphone.