Picture of Laser Sensor Timer
In this instructable I'll show you how to make a very accurate laser sensor timer. The timer latches the time automatically, making it easier to record. The latch has to be reseted before the sensors are ready to use again.

This was originally used for my science project, where I had to test the time it takes for my parachutes to land. They fell at about the same speed so I had to come up with something to time them accurately, and I came up with this. It worked out very well and I like to share it with all of you.  
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Step 1: Basic idea

Picture of Basic idea
The lasers are going to act as the transmitters and the light sensing sensors are the receivers. When the laser beam is broken, the receivers loose connection with the transmitters and they send out a signal that starts/stops the timer. The first set of sensors start the timer and the second set stops the timer. The second sensor latches the timer

Step 5: Laser sensor schematic

Follow the schematic. After soldering everything in place, cut it out.

First picture= first sensor
Second picture= second sensor

hi is it possible to make one for racing and get it sync with my laptop so i can get to know the exact timing sitting in the pit

hi is it possible to make one for racing and get it sync with my laptop so i can get to know the exact timing sitting in the pit

JCondor2 months ago

My son wants to try to build this for school project. What are the specific form factors required for the resistors, capacitors and relays?

ernie666 (author)  JCondor1 month ago

all parts are fairly generic not special at all. resistors are 1/4W.

tconner854 months ago

I want to make one of these, but for running laps around a track. If I make two of the first circuit and put one of them on the lap button, and one of the on the Start/Stop button and not make the third circuit, it should work right? My hand would trigger the start stop and every time i run through the lap sensor, it would do my laps if i'm not mistaken.

ernie666 (author)  tconner854 months ago

that sounds like it would work! :)

Hi, I'm doing this for a project but it doesn't work well, I have connected the entire system but it works reversely, the transmitters send out a signal when I put the laser beam instead doing it when it's broken.

I changed the reed relays position (first I connected normally open all the reed relays) and now the second sensor doesn't do what I want, I mean It doesn't stops the stopwatch. I have tried many combinations to make the second sensor works but I didn't succeed in that task.

Can you tell me what I'm doing wrong? Is it related with the reed relays position? How did you connect them?

I'll be grateful if you could answer me as soon as possible.

ernie666 (author)  Anallely Tonks Doors4 months ago

The relays are normally opened. My only guess here is that you might have made a mistake when you connected the photoresistor. If you had swapped the positions of R1's and the photoresistors, then you would get a signal when light is shine upon and not when no light is shine upon, like what you had described. I hope this answers your questions, but if not, message me again.

mwagner633 years ago
Could you use this as a measure for speed? You could place them a foot apart and figure out feet per second

Actually seconds per foot

Yolo19278 months ago

Could I stick the ground for the sensor onto the positive terminal of the battery using an LED without messing up the circuit?

ernie666 (author)  Yolo19278 months ago

I'm quite confused, could you explain what you are trying to do a little better. (maybe with pictures?)

Yolo1927 ernie6667 months ago
(removed by author or community request)
ernie666 (author)  Yolo19277 months ago


Yolo1927 ernie6667 months ago

If the object hits the laser twice using the second circuit for the first sensor too would make it work, right?

hbrar17 months ago

I think it will not work in sunlight as photocell will be receiving light from sun. can u please explain??

Yolo1927 hbrar17 months ago

Simply wrap black electrical tape around a straw and stick it on the photocell. It should make it dark enough, and leave a straight path for your laser.

kd31277 months ago

I have tried to make this sensor. I am not savvy enough in electronics to put it together. I have all the parts and was wondering if you could assemble it for me. I'd ship you the parts and be willing to pay. if you would do this let me know how to get in touch.

mmac23 years ago
what is the resistor like with circle in it? thanks
Yolo1927 mmac27 months ago

A photoresistor

mraymo21 year ago
Do you know if there is a complete system that is commercially available? I would like to include a cost comparison in a write up on this project and am having trouble finding anything.
dbug101 year ago
I am wanting to do something similar to this we drag race boats and want to set up some kind of photocell in each lane to trigger a light to show the winner how would I do this ?
Mattdad11 year ago
How far apart can the sensors be? I'd like to build an electronic timing system to measure a 40 yard dash for the football team. Would you anticipate any problems from wire resistance or inductance from a long wire run between sensors?
fu12cme1 year ago
Has anybody tried to make this? I would like to try because i have a specific use for it. Unfortunatly, I know very little about building circuts.
samurai72 years ago
buddy, it doesn't work at all, can you explain the circuit of the second sensor, why the 555Timer???
ernie666 (author)  samurai72 years ago
If you look closely at the two circuits, you would find that the second circuit contains the first circuit, which is a light sensing circuit. The rest of the circuit with the 555 timer is a latching circuit. The latching circuit latches onto the time onto the recorded time on the stop watch so that you will not accidentally restart the timer and ruin your data in an experiment if you break the laser beams again on accident.
Could you share the model/stock no. for the photocells you used?

uaaero2 years ago
I am awful with electronics but I am making this for some research I am doing and i need to time things. But if you don't mind me asking what are the ratings on the laser and the reed relays. I do not know what amp relays to buy or if it even matters. Also, photocells have a rating, as long as you have a wavelength above that rating are you good?
ernie666 (author)  uaaero2 years ago
lasers are 5mw, relays are 5v reed relays, photocells are ordinary ones that you could find in solar garden lights, night lights, etc
vidura233 years ago
Hi mate Im trying to build this but im struggling to understand how the first circuit works. Please help me!

My understanding is that the stopwatch requries one impulse to start it and one impulse to stop it.

So the first circuit as the light shines on the photocell it generates current which is amplified by the transistor and delivered to the relay reed. This turn on the reed relay. When the light beam is cut it stops the current flow there by turning off the reed relay. Now what happens when then light beam comes back on after the object has gone through? This will cause more impulses to be sent to the stop watch so how does it work? a beginner so id really appreciate your help.
ernie666 (author)  vidura232 years ago
sorry for replying so late.
The photocell is a photo-variable-resistor. In other words, when light is shined upon it, the resistance in it decreases. When light is shined upon the photocell, it allows more current to flow between the positive side and ground (negative). This creates a "short" (in a way), preventing the transistor from receiving enough current to turn on. On the other hand, when less light is shined onto the photocell (laser beam cut off), the resistance of the photocell increases, stopping current from flowing to ground and forming a "short"; current now flows only to the base of the transistor and turning the transistor on. Once the transistor is turned "on", current flows from the positive, through the relay, through the transistor, and then to ground. The contacts in the relay closes as current flows through it, sending a impulse to the stopwatch, telling it to START.

When the light beam comes back on, it simply re-opens the contacts in the relay; it doesn't send another impulse.
mwagner633 years ago
What is the dotted square with the squiggle in it? Is it the relay?
ernie666 (author)  mwagner633 years ago
If you're talking about the box in the schematic, yes it is a relay.
birdo3 years ago
howd u get the laser beam 2 show up on ur pic?
ernie666 (author)  birdo3 years ago
I used smoke :)
birdo3 years ago
wow this is very cool. I always wanted something like this. oh and ur drawings make things so much easier to understand.