A Guide to Different Types of Optical Sensors!

Optical Sensors

Optical sensors play a key role in a range of business processes and operations, from counting and positioning to contactless detection. Essentially, sensor optics work by converting light rays into electronic signals, which are then codified by integrated measuring devices.

These days, you can find sensor optics being applied to a range of industries including healthcare, consumer electronics, commercial production, and manufacturing. 

Whatever your industry or business may be, chances are that the efficiency of your operations could be significantly improved through the use of optical sensors – but what are the most common types and how can they be applied in your workplace and everyday life?  

Through-Beam Sensors 

 Similarly to the safety light curtains found in much modern industrial machinery, through-beam sensors are composed of two main separate components, a transmitter, and a receiver.

Essentially, a through-beam sensor system works using light beams which are picked up by the receiver from the transmitter – if these light beams are obstructed, blocked, or interrupted, the receiver will interpret this as a switch signal, which can then be converted and read via an integrated measuring device.

Because these common optic sensors enable large objects to pass through and are capable of measuring the color, reflectivity, and surface structure of items, they are often used in commercial and industrial settings as a means of counting, checking, and organizing stock

Retro-Reflective Sensors 

Unlike through-beam sensors, retro-reflective sensors feature both a transmitter and receiver which are housed in a singular unit. The beam of light is directed from the transmitter to the receiver via a reflective screen, although the main principle remains the same: once the light beam is interrupted or disrupted by another object, a switch signal occurs and the user can read the relevant data from the unit’s integrated measuring device. 

The advantages of using retro-reflective sensors include stability and ease of reproduction – because the user does not have to worry about positioning the transmitter and receiver, it should be easy to achieve repeatable results without any variation; they’re also effective in picking up transparent materials like glass and objects of varying color, structure and size. 

Diffuse Reflective Sensors 

Diffuse reflective sensors also house both a transmitter and receiver in one single unit, although the transmitted light is reflected by the actual object being detected, rather than a separate screen or designated space.

Because the rear end of a diffuse reflective sensor unit tends to be more sensitive than the front, these units can be a little problematic when it comes to switching – regardless of the sensitivity settings you choose, you may find that these units are prone to unexpected switching and often confusing readings.

Nevertheless, diffuse reflective sensors are a popular choice in industrial settings due to their relative cost-efficiency and sensitivity. 

Optical Sensors article and permission to publish here provided by Alexis at Eleven-Tenths. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on January 19, 2023. 

One thought on “A Guide to Different Types of Optical Sensors!”

  1. As a logistics and supply chain management student, understanding the intricacies of optical sensors is crucial for optimizing various processes within supply chain operations. One question that arises from this guide is: How do the different types of optical sensors, such as through-beam, retro-reflective, and diffuse reflective, impact the reliability and accuracy of inventory management systems in warehouse environments, particularly considering factors like object size, material, and environmental conditions?

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