Photoelectric sensors have been around for a long time and have made huge advancements in technology since the 1970’s. We have gone from incandescent bulbs to modulated LED’s in red light, infrared and laser outputs. Today we have multiple sensing modes like through-beam, diffuse, background suppression, retroreflective, luminescence, distance measuring and the list goes on and on. The outputs of the sensors have made leaps from relays to PNP, NPN, PNP/NPN, analog, push/pull, triac, to having timers and counters and now they can communicate on networks.
The ability of the sensor to communicate on a network such as IO-Link is now enabling sensors to be smarter and provide more and more information. The information provided can tell us the health of the sensor, for example, whether it needs re-alignment to provide us better diagnostics information to make troubleshooting faster thus reducing downtimes. In addition, we can now distribute I/O over longer distances and configure just the right amount of IO in the required space on the machine reducing installation time.
IO-Link networks enable quick error free replacement of sensors that have failed or have been damaged. If a sensor fails, the network has the ability to download the operating parameters to the sensor without the need of a programming device.
With all of these advancements in sensor technology why do we still have different sensors for each sensing mode? Why can’t we have one sensor with one part number that would be completely configurable?
Just think of the possibilities of a single part number that could be configured for any of the basic sensing modes of through-beam, retroreflective, background suppression and diffuse. To be able to go from 30 or more part numbers to one part would save OEM’s end users a tremendous amount of money in spares. To be able to change the sensing mode on the fly and download the required parameters for a changing process or format change. Even the ability to teach the sensing switch points on the fly, change the hysteresis, have variable counter and time delays. Just imagine the ability to get more advanced diagnostics like stress level (I would like that myself), lifetime, operating hours, LED power and so much more.
Obviously we could not have one sensor part number with all of the different light sources but to have a sensor with a light source that could be completely configurable would be phenomenal. Just think of the applications. Just think outside the box. Just imagine the possibilities. Let us know what your thoughts are.
To learn more about photoelectric sensors, visit www.balluff.com.