Pepperl+Fuchs Blog

When Would I Need an Optical Data Coupler?

Posted by Zach Steck on Wed, Jul 10, 2013

Optical data couplers provide a wireless data transfer over long distances using light.  These data transmission systems allow bidirectional communication through pulse-modulated light beams.  The modulated light transfers digital signals that are monitored by a receiver that outputs the data accordingly. 

Data couplers are used to replace complex or problematic cables, slip rings, and other transmission methods.  Optical data transmission technology works with parallel, serial, and various bus protocols such as industrial Ethernet or PROFIBUS.

Optical data couplers are constructed of two stations, both containing an emitter and receiver aimed at one another.  For our long-range models, an F1 housing and an F2 housing are needed to create the system.  The model numbers would appear as:

You must have one F1 and one F2 model for this system to operate.  You cannot pair two F1s or two F2s because of cross-talk. To prevent cross-talk between the two stations, the emitter of the F1 model will have an infrared light source while the F2 emitter is visible red light. Some of the short-range models use varying frequencies of light to solve any cross-talk issues.  Optical data couplers are capable of functioning over very long ranges and the transfer rate stays constant regardless of distance. They can also operate problem-free in environments with ambient light or high levels of electrical noise. In order to make the setup of a data transmission system quick and easy, the housings feature signal strength LEDs in a bar graph display to ensure proper alignment. Mounting brackets are also available that allow slight adjustments to further aid the user with alignment at long distances.

So what type of applications would need an optical data coupler?  Data couplers are commonly used in applications where communication data is being sent between moving objects. Having to run various cables to a moving vehicle can create a big challenge when designing an application. Optical data couplers eliminate the need for extra cabling in these mobile applications by replacing the communication bus line. As the object moves, information is transferred through the data coupler via the light beams to provide an output to the control system. Some typical applications that would employ optical data transmissions devices would be:

Storage and retrieval systems

A computer-controlled method for automatically placing and retrieving product from specified locations.  These systems are often used in applications where a very high volume of items must be moved in and out of storage.

Transfer cars

Rail-mounted carts that are used to move heavy material across factory floors.  These carts can handle capacities up to 100 tons and are commonly used to move material between crane bays.

Automated guided vehicles

An AGV is a mobile robot used in industrial applications to move materials around a manufacturing facility or warehouse.  These vehicles are guided by either a floor marking system or advanced navigation system, such as laser target or gyroscopic.  There are numerous models available that can be used to complete many different tasks.  AGVs have become very popular because they increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Monorail conveyors

An overhead conveyor system that is a simple, low-maintenance, cost-effective solution for material handling applications. These conveyor systems are very popular in the automotive industry due to their flexibility and resistance to harsh environments such as paint booths.


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Topics: Applications, Photoelectric Sensors

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