Light curtain

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Light curtains are opto-electronic devices that are used to safeguard personnel in the vicinity of moving machinery with the potential to cause harm such as presses, winders and palletisers. Light curtains can be used as an alternative to mechanical barriers and other forms of traditional machine guarding. By reducing the need for physical guards and barriers, light curtains can increase the maintainability of the equipment they are guarding. The operability and efficiency of machinery can also be improved by the use of light curtains by, for example, allowing easier access for semi-automatic procedures.


Light curtains fall into a category of equipment known as presence detection devices. Other common presence detection devices are pressure-sensitive safety mats and laser scanners (often used on Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) when in industrial settings). Most important applications of safety relays are in automation industries dealing with robotic cell setup.

Light curtains are supplied as a pair with a transmitter and receiver. The transmitter projects an array of parallel infrared light beams to the receiver which consists of a number of photoelectric cells. When an object breaks one or more of the beams a stop signal is sent to the guarded equipment machine.

The light beams emitted from the transmitter are sequenced, one after the other, and pulsed at a specific frequency. The receiver is designed to only accept the specific pulse and frequency from its dedicated transmitter. This enables the rejection of spurious infrared light and thus enhances their suitability as components within a safety system.

Typically, light curtains are connected to a safety relay which will remove motive power from the hazard in the event that an object is detected. Safety relays can be provided with muting functionality which enables the temporary disabling of the safety function to allow objects to pass through the light curtains without tripping the safety relay. This is particularly useful for machinery which has some semi-automatic procedures.


The following partial list of standards should be used for guidance when implementing light curtains:

  • ANSI B11.19
  • IEC61496-1/-2
  • IEC/TS 62046;
  • ISO13855 (EN 999);