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Laser scanning enters the multiple zone

01 November, 2001

Laser scanning enters the multiple zone

A laser scanner which can detect objects in up to eight user-defined zones up to 15m from it, and react differently to each zone, has been developed by the German sensing specialist Leuze Mayser. Terry Boughton, the company`s UK managing director, believes that the Rotoscan RS4 scanner is "four years ahead of the competition".

The scanner can be used for stationary duties, such as machine protection or security, or for mobile applications on vehicles such as AGVs (automatic guided vehicles). It scans a 190-degree field 25 times a second and if it senses any reflections of its infrared laser beam, it calculates the position of the reflecting object.

Four outer "sensing" zones can be set up so that any object entering them triggers an "alert" reaction. If the object continues to move into one of four inner "safety" zones, within 4m of the scanner, a shutdown occurs. In the case of a scanner mounted on an AGV, the alert signal could be used to make the vehicle slow down or turn, while a safety signal would make it stop. The zones can be programmed to have irregular shapes.

Different zone configurations can be set up to suit different operations, avoiding the expense of having to change safety set-ups for each process. "At long last, we have a safety product that can produce a saving," says Barry Goodwin, field sales manager for Leuze Mayser`s safety division.

On AGVs, the zoning system can allow the vehicle look around a corner before it turns. It can even be used to guide an AGV safely around a plant without having to rely on conventional techniques such as location beacons.

The scanner is suitable for use up to safety category Type 3, as defined in IEC 61496-3. It is not suitable for installations where flying debris might be a hazard.

Future versions of the scanner could have longer ranges and could scan in three dimensions. They will also be able to learn the zone perimeters automatically.

At present, Leuze Mayser has about 5% of the UK scanner market, which is worth around £9m a year. Goodwin is confident that the RS4, which costs around £2,400, will help the company to boost its share to around 30% within two years.

But Leuze Mayser will face competition from Siemens which has a 25% stake in the company and its also selling the scanner (as its LS4 model).

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