The Latest Advancements in ToF, Thermal & Touchless Sensors

The Latest Advancements in ToF, Thermal & Touchless Sensors

As sensors evolve to become more stable and easier to use, they’re driving business possibilities forward, and workforce-saving solutions are just part of the new applications.

Omron’s advancements in time-of-flight sensors include longer life, increased accuracy, smaller footprints and ease of implementation, impacting uses for autonomous robots. At the same time, Omron is improving accuracy, calibration and ease of use of thermal sensors, expanding possibilities well beyond human temperature measurement. Omron has also made touchless sensors that more reliably detect objects, no matter the background, enabling new possibilities in analytical instruments, food manufacturing and much more. Discover the next generation in Omron sensors.

Innovations in time-of-flight sensors

Improvements in time-of-flight (ToF) sensors advance the possibilities for autonomous mobile robots (AMR). AMRs often require multiple, high-accuracy sensors that can maintain a long life in a range of environments. Omron’s latest optical sensing technology provides real-time 3D vision for obstacle detection, enabling AMRs for uses in delivery, logistics, fulfillment, and moving, sorting and picking goods.

Previously, using 3D sensors in outdoor or ambient light environments could be difficult, as interfering light wavelengths can impede the sensor’s ability to detect the environment. Other challenges included edge noise leading to false detection, object reflectivity causing accuracy issues or missed detection, and short sensor lifetime.

Omron’s new B5L Series ToF sensor module is designed to solve these challenges in detection, accuracy, and lifespan, as well as empower clients to easily integrate the module into their designs. Explore a video of AMR applications in action.

B5L 3D ToF Sensor Module

To provide high-accuracy readings, Omron built a high-dynamic range (HDR) function into the B5L Series. This controls the shutter speed to perform the measurement multiple times for both near and far objects. The HDR function can be turned off for high-speed operation, which uses a single measurement to calculate distance.

The ToF sensor also has a built-in edge noise reduction (ENR) function that determines edge location and reduces the noise associated with these edges. With this function enabled, the sensor can realize crisp image capture to detect objects at any distance or reflectivity.

To ensure stable detection even in direct sunlight, Omron incorporated a lens design that corresponds to the wavelength of the emitter LEDs and arranged emitters and receivers to minimize the effect of sunlight, among other optical design technology. This created a ToF module with high ambient light immunity—up to 100,000 lx—and high output accuracy of ±2% at 2 m.

Comparison of three images of a person's legs in a warehouse: a 3D image from Omron B5L series, a distance data image, and a live view.

Users can also control the emitted LED frequency to prevent frequency interferences between units—the B5L ToF sensor allows for the operation of up to 17 units simultaneously. The sensor also has a long life of approximately five years under continuous driving, due to Omron’s unique circuit and heat emission design.

Omron’s B5L 3D sensor allows for simple design integration as well, with selectable outputs in the Cartesian, Cartesian Rotation, or Polar coordinate format. Omron provides a free software development kit (SDK) to evaluate the ToF sensor and recently completed a sample robot operation system 2.0 (ROS2) code to make integration even easier.

Advancements in thermal sensors

Micro-electrical-mechanical systems, or MEMS, now have a smaller footprint and higher accuracy while they are also becoming easier to use. These advancements mean new applications for temperature sensors, including to save energy in homes, buildings and factories, sense motion with vending machines and food and beverage uses, identify fevers and even monitor fluid levels in machines.

A new application for the Omron D6T Thermal Sensor is monitoring sensitive fluid levels. Here the sensor is positioned to observe levels.

Omron’s D6T MEMS Thermal Sensors provide the highest signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) in the world to guarantee temperature output stability of ±1.5°C, and with 2-point calibration, users can increase accuracy up to ±0.1°C. Omron recommends the matrix type 4x4, instead of single pixel, for fever detection. View details of the D6T thermal IR sensor.

Omron has also made these sensors “plug and play” for users. Mounted with a connector and cable, the sensors allow users to be flexible with their design, instead of being limited by surface mount types.

The microcontroller is also easier to implement since Omron included software in the PCB module type that converts the signal to digital temperature output. This makes the sensors ready to use after quick installation.

Next steps in touchless sensors

Advancements in touchless sensors impact delicate analytical instruments, such as detecting test tubes and controlling rotation. They also improve uses in automatic handwashing and touchless soap dispensers and hand dryers, dental equipment, and coffee and vending machines. Reliable detection of objects—regardless of backgrounds, colors and lighting, or shifting objects—and direct connections make these applications possible.

Omron’s B5W-LB Series Light Convergent Reflective Sensor is unaffected by backgrounds and allows a wide sensing range for object shifting. Suitable for embedding in commercial equipment, the miniature type B5W-LB2 has a sensing distance of 10 to 55 mm, and the super miniature type B5W-LB1 offers a sensing distance of 2 to 10 mm.

The miniature type and super miniature type of B5W-LB sensors next to each other with sensing distances listed.

The limited projection beam and light sensing area enable better sending of shiny, black or transparent objects. Even at minimal light levels, the B5W-LB sensor allows users to sense when objects shift by using four types of toroidal lenses. All of these advancements from Omron reduce the work hour requirements for development and production processes.

The series is available with analog voltage output and digital output models. The digital output model has an on/off output that enables direct connections to control equipment, as well as an IP50 so it can be used in a wide range of applications. Discover uses of the Omron B5W-LB sensor.

Explore the next generation with Omron

Staying on top of emerging innovations empowers you to take advantage of new applications for your company. Get in touch with Omron today to learn more about the sensors you need to increase your business’s capabilities.