Connecting Fluid Power to the Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0

The next industrial revolution has already begun. To remain a viable business, it’s time to invest in IIoT and Industry 4.0 applications, regardless of whether you are a “mechanical-only” company or not.Industry 4.0 & Industrial IoT

Industrial Internet of Things

IIoT is simply about connecting devices on the plant floor to a network. These connections provide new ways to generate and collect useful data. This network can provide visibility down into the machine, enabling predictive maintenance and big data analytics. With IIoT, we are able to improve overall equipment effectiveness and provide new insights into our business.

Industry 4.0

On a grander scale, Industry 4.0 is a blend of digitalization, new technology and practical decisions to improve manufacturing. Industry 4.0 aims to achieve unprecedented flexibility, efficient production and visibility at every level of production. Industry 4.0 has impact throughout our processes and across the supply chain. Its philosophy blends lean initiatives, automation, technology, materials, downtime reduction upgrades, and investments in overall equipment effectiveness. This philosophy keeps the current generation of manufacturers competitive in a global market. While the German government set this precedent for Industry 4.0, the entire manufacturing world must now take on this challenge.

Implementing IIoT and Industry 4.0

Standard systems like hydraulic power units (HPUs) are receiving a major boost by becoming IIoT-ready. Traditional on/off flow or pressure switches are upgrading to provide information beyond the simple switch points. In addition, analog devices like temperature, pressure, flow, and level transducers can become IIoT-ready through open standard technologies like IO-Link. These technologies add additional value by incorporating easy-to-report parameters, diagnostics, events and warnings. A standard HPU can become a smart power unit with minimal modification.

The value of IIoT increases with predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and ease of troubleshooting. Imagine not having to climb down into the oil-drenched pit of a stamping press to trouble shoot an issue. With IIoT-ready technologies, we can connect to the devices and know exactly what needs fixing. In addition, we can possibly predict the failure before it occurs. This can dramatically reduce machine downtime as well as the time spent in hazardous locations.

Selecting IIoT-ready technologies is only one step of the program to fully leverage the value of Industry 4.0. We must also analyze processes and determine how to implement flexibility into production. After that, we must then discuss where automation technology makes sense to support lean processes. Manufacturers can see into every aspect of their production while manufacturing hundreds of variations of product in the same line, all while assuring quality standards with virtually zero machine downtime.

The difference between Industry 4.0 and IIoT

Industry 4.0 is a cultural philosophy about how we can use increased visibility, flexibility and efficiency to be more competitive. IIoT’s connectivity is an enabling force for Industry 4.0. IIoT connects our devices, our data, our machines and our people to the advantage of our company and customers.  By embracing both, it is easier to achieve positive results and sustain global competitiveness.

Article originally posted on Hydraulics & Pneumatics.

Choosing the Best Position Sensor: Does Yours Measure Up?

Reliable electronic measurement is something that is always needed in industrial automation. Production interruptions and unexpected downtime will cripple even the best manufacturers if they do not have the appropriate measurement technology in place.

Whether it’s monitoring the position of a hydraulic jack or determining the proper position of a flood gate on a dam, be sure to choose the best option for precision, accuracy, and most importantly, reliability.

Strings Holding Down Production 

String potentiometers, also known as string pots, yo-yo sensors, cable-extension transducers, and a few other names, have been used for electronic measurement for the last 40 years.

These devices use braided steel wires (“strings”) wrapped around spools and require the release of the coiled string.

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In an industrial assembly application, a typical scenario might involve wire being integrated into a manufacturing platform that moves from one assembly station to the next. As the string pot’s spool extends or retracts, position is measured by a rotational sensor/potentiometer that rests outside the spool and will trigger based on the position of the metal wire.

While string pots are often used in many sectors (heavy industry, crude oil processing, waste water treatment, etc.), they come with potential issues that make then unsuitable for others:

  • The wire will eventually jam from rust, mechanical glitches, or other environmental factors
  • The springs in the reel often fail over time
  • The high contact nature of the devices causes friction among the components, which leads to excessive wear and failure after a few thousand rotations

Combined, these things lead to expensive downtime/loss of production and costly repairs. A measurement system should not be a consumable item or an item with an expected but unpredictable maintenance interval. A measurement system should be designed with longevity and reliability in mind.

Right Solution for Your Industry

The assembly industry is not the only one that benefits from highly accurate position measurement. Whether it’s metallurgy, plastics and rubber, energy, or woodwork —­  the advanced, versatile, and resilient technology is required to thrive in high speed and demanding applications.

Fortunately, magnetostrictive linear transducers were developed to provide the kind of reliable position measurement that industry demands.

Instead of a trouble-prone mechanism, magnetostrictive non-contact linear transducers work with a movable free-floating or captive magnet that rides the length of a sensing rod as it follows the target object.

During operation, a very short-duration pulse is generated along the sensing element. This is known as the waveguide. The resulting magnetic field interacts with the magnetic field of the position magnet and generates a mechanical force on the sensing element. This force ripples along the waveguide at a faster-than-sound velocity that is detected by the sensor electronics, and is converted into an electrical pulse.

Using a very accurate high-speed clock, the time interval between the initial current pulse and return pulse is measured and converted into an absolute position value.

The end result is constant, precise, accurate, and smooth position measurement.

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As an example: A high speed punch press requires position monitoring down to the millisecond. The punch press is designed to move very quickly back and forth in rows, punching holes in precise locations. When one row is finished, the unit moves forward and does the next. As the punch continues back and forth and up the rows, the sensor follows the position of the press, transmitting position feedback to the control system. This ensures the press stays on the appropriate track and punches where it should.

A contact device would not be suitable for this kind of operation, as the amount of friction caused from the speed and repetition would wear the sensor down too quickly and cause failure.

Fortunately, magnetostrictive linear sensors are widely available, come in a variety of form factors, and are truly non-contact, with some “floating” versions riding as much as 15mm off the surface of the transducer body. No contact means no wire binding issues and the lack of contact also means a lack of impact damage, which will help the sensor survive longer than a string potentiometer.

A measuring distance from 1 to 300 inches, offers short and long range capabilities.

Moreover, compared to string pots, magnetostrictive linear sensors, require fewer components. This means fewer parts to replace and maintain, which results in a reduction in overall equipment and maintenance costs.

Adaptable to nearly any industrial control system, these sensors are available in common analog (0….10V or 4….20 mA), as well as a variety of digital interfaces. This includes digital start/stop, synchronous serial interface, as well as network interfaces (IO-Link, Ethernet/IP, Profinet).

Tying it All Together

Though both string pots and magnetostrictive linear transducers are employed for electronic measurement, selecting the one that is best for your application will maximize manufacturing efficiency, increase machine uptime, and cut costs. All while ensuring your process keeps running smoothly and your customers get the parts and products they need on time.

Traceability of production material with RFID

As we progress toward a more automated factory, the need to more efficiently manage what happens prior to the production process has become apparent. Tracking of raw material and production components from the dock door to the warehouse is quickly evolving from a best guess estimate to real-time inventory levels driven by production. Essentially, we are moving from a practice of holding just-in-case inventory to Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory. The JIT concept helps to optimize the amount of in-house inventory based on production. In addition, the entire supply chain benefits because the levels of raw goods inventory upstream can be managed more efficiently and forecasted with more accuracy.

RFID and barcode technology have played a critical role in the actual production process for decades, but its benefits are currently being leveraged in other areas of the plant as well. Whether its tracking every item or every pallet that comes into the receiving dock, ID traceability provides visibility where it did not exist before.

Traceability of production material 

Upon receiving a pallet with raw material, the 2D matrix code on the shipping label is read by a barcode scanner. The relevant data needed for the further traceability process is transferred onto the stack of trays which contain UHF carriers. The number of carriers is saved together with the traceability data in a database. This process takes place at one single station and the data is updated immediately to represent the inventory level.

Transmission of incoming goods data on the transponder

Automated review of loaded pallets

Based on the material number, the system contains a standard load for the number of trays on the pallet. An automatic screening takes place to determine if all transponders on the pallet are registered. In case of a difference between the registered data and the expected data, an error message pops up to indicate the need for manual intervention. This process allows for proactive management of inventory to prevent false inventory levels or goods that cannot be accounted for.

Key Features of a traceability solution:

  • Corresponds to the global ISO standard
  • Suitable for attachment to major control systems via bus interfaces and higher level IT systems
  • Variety of accessories available for easy integration into different applications

To learn more about RFID technology, visit www.balluff.com.

Five things to consider before selecting an RFID system

So, you have reached a point where you believe RFID is going to be the best solution. Now what? One of the most critical phases of a RFID project is deciding which product is going to address the application. While the planning stage can be highly conceptual, the hardware selection is truly a close-up inspection. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Here are the top five things, in no specific order, to consider after you have determined RFID is the appropriate technology for your application:

  1. Throughput

How much and how fast? How much data will be written to the tag and how much data will be read from the tag at each read point? Will the tag be moving during the read/write or will it stop in front of the antenna? Some RFID systems are capable of handling a large amount of data, while others are designed to read only small amounts of data. It is also important to consider if your data requirements will change in the near future.

  1. Read/Write Range

What is the required distance from the antenna to the tag? Will the tag be presented to the antenna at the same distance every time? Multiple frequency ranges can limit some systems to a few millimeters, while others are capable of communicating up to six or seven meters.

  1. Form factor

How much space do you have to mount both the reader and the tag? If space is limited, you can choose a system in which the antenna and the processor are combined in one housing. As for the tags, they can be as small as a grain of rice or as large as a license plate. The key is to make sure the equipment will not interfere with your process.

  1. Communication Protocol

How will the RFID processor “talk” to the control system? This is critical in a mixed control environment where multiple brands of PLCs or servers are present. What communication protocol do your controls engineers prefer — Ethernet/IP, Profinet, CC-Link, TCP/IP, etc?

  1. Environment

Where will the equipment actually be mounted? Does anything stand in the way of getting a clear read? Are there metal beams, tanks of liquid, or even operators walking in between the tag and antenna? This is probably the most critical of all the considerations because constant interference will block the antenna from reading or writing to the tag. While RFID technology has come a long way in recent years, metal and liquid can still affect the RF waves.

Keep these five things in mind and your RFID implementation will go a lot smoother!

To learn more about RFID solutions visit www.balluff.com.

Installation and device replacement – easy and safe

The development and design of a machine is followed by the assembly and commissioning phase. Commissioning is especially time consuming, but the replacement of components or devices can be so as well.

This often raises the question of how to simplify commissioning and optimize component replacement.

The answer is provided by the IO-Link communication interface. IO-Link is the first globally standardized IO technology (IEC 61131-9) that communicates from the controller down to the lowest level.

But how exactly does this help with commissioning and component replacement? This is very simple and will be explained now. Let’s start first with the assembly, installation and commissioning phase.

Easy installation

During installation, the individual components must be electrically connected to each other. While fieldbus use has simplified the installation process, generally speaking, fieldbus cables have a low signal level, are susceptible to interference, have little flexibility, and are expensive due to their shielding. This is where IO-Link comes into play. Because the weaknesses of a fieldbus protocol are negligible with IO-Link.

Included in an IO-Link system are an IO-Link master and one or several IO-Link devices such as sensors or actuators. The IO-Link master is the interface to the controller (PLC) and takes over communication with connected IO-Link devices. The interface uses unshielded, three- or four-conductor standard industrial cables. Therefore the standard communication interface can be integrated into the fieldbus world without effort. Even complex components can be easily connected in this way. In addition, the standard industrial cables are highly flexible and suitable for many bending cycles. Three wires are the standard for the communication between the devices and the IO-Link master and for the power supply voltage. These are easy to connect, extremely cost-effective and their connection is standardized with M5, M8 or M12 connectors.

The commissioning will also be supported by IO-Link. The devices can be parameterized quickly and easily through parameter maintenance or duplication. Annoying manual adjustment of the sensors and actuators is no longer necessary. This saves money and avoids errors. The parameters of the individual devices are stored in the PLC or directly in the IO-Link master and can, therefore, be written directly to the sensor.

Now that we have clarified the advantages of IO-Link during commissioning, we will take a look at the replacement of components.

Communication with IO-Link

Save device replacement during operation

A sensor replacement directly leads to machine downtime. IO-Link enables quick and error-free replacement of sensors. The parameters of a replaced IO-Link sensor are automatically written from the IO-Link master or the PLC to the new sensor. The accessibility of the sensor does not play a major role anymore. In addition, IO-Link devices cannot be mixed up, since they are automatically identifiable via IO-Link.

Efficient format and recipe changes

IO-Link offers ideal properties that are predestined for format adjustment: sufficient speed, full access to all parameters, automatic configuration, and absolute transmission of the measured values. This eliminates the need for time-consuming reference runs. Since the machine control remains permanently traceable, the effort required for error-prone written paper documentation is also saved. Format changes and recipe changes can be carried out centrally via the function blocks of the PLC.

To learn more about the advantages of IO-Link, visit balluff.us/io-link.

 

Everything You Need to Know to be Successful at IIoT

Do you need to quickly ramp up your IIoT knowledge? Do you want to know why manufacturers are investing in IIoT? For years this blog has shared many of the individual values that smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things can bring to manufacturers. I am going to quickly summarize the key findings and provide links to the full entries so you can easily have at your fingertips all of the advice you need to be successful at IIoT.

  • Industry 4.0 & IIoT, who cares?!?! You should. Even in 2016, IIoT investments were rapidly growing and more than a fifth of technology budgets were being invested in data analytics, IIoT and Industry 4.0. This has not slowed down in 2018!
  • 5 Common IIoT Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. The first point is the best point, every IIoT project that ignores the IT department is doomed for failure. IT & OT must work closely together for a successful data project in the factory.
  • Capture vs Control – The Hidden Value of True IIoT Solutions. In automation, everything seems to revolve around the PLC. This is very much an Industry 3.0 way of thinking. As we take on the next industrial revolution, devices can talk to each other in new and incredible ways, and we can capture data without impacting a working production line or modifying PLC code.
  • JSON Objects and How They Can Streamline an IIoT Application. How the data is captured is important to understand when you are ready to take action and implement your first project. By utilizing web tools like JSON, we can effectively capture data for IIoT applications.
  • What does that “Ready for IIoT” tag really mean? But how do I select a device that is going to be actually ready for IIoT? Features like condition monitoring, automatic configuration and scalability make for robust IIoT projects that can stand the test of time.

When you are convinced and ready to take action on an IIoT project kickoff for an Industry 4.0 team, take a look at the blogs below which can help you make an action plan for success and get buy-in from management.

  • How to Balance the IIoT Success Equation. What should you and your team be focusing on? How do we set a strategy, manage data, and take action to run a successful project? All of these need to be in balance and planned for to have long term vitality in your IIoT investments.
  • How do I justify an IIoT investment to my boss? We can show ROI through reduced downtime, by tying our project to corporate goals of productivity or utilization and you can point out that your competitors are heavily investing in this topic.
  • Enabling the Visibility Provided by the Industrial Internet of Things. And last but not least, there is a seriously strong technology available on the market from virtually every automation vendor that enables and scales IIoT like no other. That technology is IO-Link. With IO-Link you can create visibility down to every sensor in the plant and gain the flexibility and reliability that you need for sustainable competitiveness in the global market.

To learn more about IO-Link and how it enables machine builders and manufacturers to be successful with IIoT, check out this interactive infographic.

Maintain Machine Up-Time with Application-Specific Cables

Using high-durability cables in application environments with high temperatures, weld spatter, or washdown areas improves manufacturing machine up-time.

It is important to choose a cable that matches your specific application requirements.

Washdown Applications

When a food and beverage customer needs to wash down their equipment after a production shift, a standard cable is likely to become a point of failure. A washdown-specific cable with an IP68/IP69 rating is designed to withstand high-pressure cleaning. It’s special components, such as an internal O-ring and stainless-steel connection nut, keep water and cleaners from leaking.

Welding Applications

Welding environments require application-specific cables to deal with elevated temperatures, tight bend radiuses and weld spatter. Cables with a full silicone jacket prevent the build-up of debris, which can cause shorts and failures over time.

High Temperature cables

Applications with high temperatures require sensors that can operate reliably in their environment. The same goes for the cables. High temperature cables include added features such as a high temperature jacket and insulation materials specifically designed to perform in these applications.

Cables

Selecting the correct cable for a specific application area is not difficult when you know the requirements the application environment demands and incorporate those demands into your choice. It’s no different than selecting the best sensor for the job. The phrase to remember is “application specificity.”

For more information on standard and high-durability cables, please visit www.balluff.com.

 

Back to the Basics: IO-Link

In the last post about the Basics of Automation, we learned how distances, travel, angles and pressures can be measured contactlessly, whether linear or rotary. In this blog, let’s take a closer look at IO-Link technology.

Throughout the history of manufacturing, as the level of automation increased, the demand for intelligent field devices grew. A variety of interfaces with different mechanical and electrical characteristics were created, and the need for standardization grew. The cooperative work of several companies developed the viable solution. Like  USB in the PC world, IO-Link in automation leads to a considerable simplification of installation with simultaneously extended diagnostics and parameterization capability.

IO-Link 1

It’s a worldwide standardized I/O technology according to IEC 61131-9, in order to communicate from the control to the lowest level of automation. The universal interface is a fieldbus independent point-to-point connection that works with an unshielded industrial cable. The IO-Link Community founded in 2006, consisting of leading automation manufacturers, promotes IO-Link with the acronym “”USE””:

  • Universal – IO-Link is an international standard (IEC 61131-9)
  • Smart – IO-Link enables diagnostics and parameter-setting of devices
  • Easy – IO-Link provides great simplification and cost reduction

System Components

IO-Link master
Also mentioned as the heart of the IO-Link installation, it communicates with the controller via the respective fieldbus as well as downward using IO-Link to the sensor/actuator level.

Sensors and Actuators
The IO-Link capable intelligent sensors and actuators are connected directly to the IO-Link master via IO-Link. This enables the simplest installation, the best signal quality, parameterization and diagnostics.

Hubs
The sensor/actuator hub exchanges signals with the binary and/or analog sensors and actuators and communicates with the IO-Link master.

IO-Link 2

To learn more about the Basics of Automation, visit www.balluff.com.

IO-Link vs. Analog in Measurement Applications

IO-Link is well-suited for use in measurement applications that have traditionally used analog (0…10V or 4…20mA) signals. This is thanks in large part to the implementation of IO-Link v1.1, which provides faster data transmission and increased bandwidth compared to v1.0. Here are three areas where IO-Link v1.1 excels in comparison to analog.

1

Fewer data errors, at lower cost

By nature, analog signals are susceptible to interference caused by other electronics in and around the equipment, including motors, pumps, relays, and drives. Because of this, it’s almost always necessary to use high-quality, shielded cables to transmit the signals back to the controller. Shielded cables are expensive and can be difficult to work with. And even with them in place, signal interference is a common issue that is difficult to troubleshoot and resolve.

2

With IO-Link, measurements are converted into digital values at the sensor, before transmission. Compared to analog signals, these digital signals are far less susceptible to interference, even when using unshielded 4-wire cables which cost about half as much as equivalent shielded cables. The sensor and network master block (Ethernet/IP, for example) can be up to 20 meters apart. Using industry-standard connectors, the possibility for wiring errors is virtually eliminated.

3

Less sensor programming required

An analog position sensor expresses a change in position by changing its analog voltage or current output. However, a change of voltage or current does not directly represent a unit of measurement. Additional programming is required to apply a scaling factor to convert the change in voltage or current to a meaningful engineering unit like millimeters or feet.

It is often necessary to configure analog sensors when they are being installed, changing the default characteristics to suit the application. This is typically performed at the sensor itself and can be fairly cumbersome. When a sensor needs to be replaced, the custom configuration needs to be repeated for the replacement unit, which can prolong expensive machine downtime.

IO-Link sensors can also be custom configured. Like analog sensors, this can be done at the sensor, but configuration and parameterization can also be performed remotely, through the network. After configuration, these custom parameters are stored in the network master block and/or offline. When an IO-Link sensor is replaced, the custom parameter data can be automatically downloaded to the replacement sensor, maximizing machine uptime.

Diagnostic data included

A major limitation of traditional analog signals is that they provide process data (position, distance, pressure, etc.) without much detail about the device, the revision, the manufacturer, or fault codes. In fact, a reading of 0 volts in a 0-10VDC interface could mean zero position, or it could mean that the sensor has ceased to function. If a sensor has in fact failed, finding the source of the problem can be difficult.

With IO-Link, diagnostic information is available that can help resolve issues quickly. As an example, the following diagnostics are available in an IO-Link magnetostrictive linear position sensor: process variable range overrun, measurement range overrun, process variable range underrun, magnet number change, temperature (min and max), and more.

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This sensor level diagnostic information is automatically transmitted and available to the network, allowing immediate identification of sensor faults without the need for time-consuming troubleshooting to identify the source of the problem.

To learn about the variety of IO-Link measurement sensors available, read the Automation Insights post about ways measurement sensors solve common application challenges. For more information about IO-Link and measurement sensors, visit www.balluff.com.

A Gap Opens for Magnetic Linear Encoders

Innovation sometimes explodes onto the scene as a disruptive technology. More often, though, it arrives quietly in the form of continuous improvement that enhances performance and expands the scope of application capabilities. Sometimes evolutionary improvements are subtle, but once in a while they are game-changing.

When it comes to magnetic linear encoders, there have been steady improvements over the years in terms of resolution and linearity, enabling them to replace optical linear encoders in many applications at a fraction of the cost. One stubborn limitation, however, has been the trade-off between measuring performance and tape-to-sensor gap distance, sometimes called simply the gap distance or the ride height. Generally speaking, the higher the resolution and/or linearity specification, the smaller the allowable gap distance or ride height becomes. This reduction in ride height requires a corresponding tightening of machine tolerances in order to ensure that the maximum allowable gap distance is not exceeded.

Magnetic linear encoder

Recent breakthroughs in magnetic encoder design and technology have resulted in a new class of linear encoder systems that offer greatly expanded ride height. For example, an incremental system with 1 μm resolution and a system accuracy of ± 10 μm required a typical maximum tape-to-sensor gap distance of 0.35 mm. Now, the new generation of encoder technology can deliver the same 1 μm resolution and a similar ± 12 μm system accuracy, but with a maximum gap distance of 1.0 mm, nearly a threefold increase in ride height. That means far better tolerance of variability in the gap distance as the machine goes through its motions.

What’s more, encoder functionality can be assured even when the gap distance increases to as much as 1.8 mm, albeit with some loss of accuracy at these extreme distances. The ability to tolerate expanded variation in ride height ensures that machine operation will not be disrupted by loss of the encoder signal, even when gap tolerances occasionally exceed design maximums. That translates directly into greater design freedom for the engineer, and more machine uptime with fewer nuisance stoppages for the end user.

To learn more about the new generation of magnetic linear encoders, visit www.balluff.com.