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Revolutionary Thickness Gauge Uses Lasers Instead of Radioactive Isotopes

Advanced Gauging Technologies (A.G.T.) newest gauge, the AGT800 is revolutionizing the way companies measure material by using patent pending laser triangulation technology instead of radioactive isotopes. Elimination of the radioactive source allows companies to achieve accurate thickness measurements without the hassle of licensing and leak test requirements, shipping issues and radioactive source disposal fees.

Steel service centers use thickness gauges throughout their various processing operations for many different reasons. One is that service centers want to make sure they are meeting their customers' thickness specifications. This is especially important as tolerances are becoming more and more critical in industries such as automotive, aerospace and electronics.

Another reason is that the reports generated by the gauges provide accurate documentation for a customer's quality control records and ISO certifications. Some companies also want to measure incoming material thickness to make sure they are receiving exactly what they ordered from their suppliers.

Thickness gauges are essentially two-part systems. An electronics cabinet contains the "brains" of the system that includes a computer, software, monitor and keyboard -- all of which pairs up with a C-frame that contains the measuring heads. A traditional isotope gauge incorporates a C-frame with a detector head at the top and a radiation source head on the bottom. As the material passes between the two heads, a shutter opens on the source head releasing a small amount of gamma radiation. The detector head measures how much radiation passes through the metal being processed. The system then converts the radiation into electrical signals that are sent to the computer and translated into measurement data using special proprietary software and A.G.T. in-house developed algorithms.

In response to some customers' dissatisfaction with the issues and requirements involved with radiation, the A.G.T. team focused its attention on developing a laser sensor gauge to give their customers a viable alternative.

The company's AGT800 Laser Thickness Measurement Gauge is an optical based measuring system that relies on two non-contact, high-precision semi-conductor Keyence LK-G Series laser sensors to provide continuous, high speed, accurate and reliable thickness measurements.

The sensors are mounted above and below the strip of material to be measured and take the place of the isotope source head and the detector head on the C-frame. Each sensor emits a Class II laser beam and receives the beam back on an RS-CMOS pixel array. The gauge then determines the distance to the target material and calculates the precise material thickness.

"When developing the laser measurement gauge, we compared 13 sensor models from eight different companies, located in five countries," explained Venters. "Our decision to go with Keyence was easy. Their sensor was the best, and the support, warranties pricing and terms they offered were unmatched in the industry."

Like most systems, there are pros and cons to both types of gauges. Isotope gauges are ideal for measuring metals (primarily steel alloys) with a thickness range of 0.007" up to 0.250". However, they are not as effective when measuring aluminum and non-ferrous materials. On the plus side, isotope gauges are not adversely affected by dust, scale and oil mist. They are based on proven technology that has been in use for decades.

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