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How to Use a Solderless Breadboard
Written By: John R. Sewell

Every now and again we come upon the need to know the “speed” of something. In the electro-mechanical field we usually want to know the Revolutions per unit of time, usually in minutes; which gives us the term; RPM or Revolutions per Minute. At real slow speeds we can put a mark on the shaft and count the marks for a minute. Simple enough but above 60/sec it can get real tedious to count. The advent of the LASER/LED Photo Tachometers the need for speed became much easier. Basic aim, press the trigger, hold for a few seconds and read the display; Laser Tachometer BUT here again there are a few basic things to understand about LASER Tachometer operation. They are a light source, light detector, a counter and an accurate time gate. The LASER/LED provides a light source, the detector receives the reflected light and the time gate enables the counter for a precise amount of time. How we get these light pulses back to the detector can be a challenge. If the moving surface is too uniform in contrast and reflectance, we get no pulse to count, so we need to make part of shaft a non reflecting, or contrasting surface. If the shaft is readily available say sitting on the bench, you just color part of the shaft an even, contrasting color. We use a black marker to color half or more of the shaft. Now we have an On/Off reflectance of the LASER/LED light that can be counted. As long as you can get a uniform reflectance sequence, the LASER Tachometer will read it. With a small Axial fan, we just stick a piece of aluminum foil on the edge of the rotating motor hub. If the hub is not reachable then stick foil to a blade. Sometimes sticking something is not possible, so then we put something reflective or contrasting behind the blades. We just divide the displayed RPM by the number of blades.

Be sure that you have enough contrasting surface so that most of the light spot from the LASER Tachometer is within the area of the contrasting mark(s) or space on the rotating part. Be sure the light beam is at its most focused point on the rotating object. With most of today’s economical LASER Tachometers this focus distance is around 6-12 inches. Remember that the LASER/LED Photo tachometer must be able to “See” the rotating object. It can’t read through a opaque cover or around a corner! Flickering ambient AC Powered lights can have an affect so less interfering light the better.
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