Using LoRaWan in Industrial Environments?

What are LoRa and LoRaWan? How are they used and are they beneficial in industrial environments?

LoRa vs LoRaWan 

LoRa, which stands for “long range,” is the physical communication layer used by many devices. Although it has a long range, its bandwidth is minuscule compared to a WIFI network. It’s been used to collect weather data from multiple weather stations simultaneously from kilometers away and with minimal battery power.

LoRaWan, which stands for “long range wide area network,” is a protocol that runs on the LoRa communication layer. When a location has no cellphone reception or WIFI/Internet access, LoRaWan can travel kilometers with packets of data consistently with minimal investment.

Benefits of LoRa and LoRaWan

LoRa and LoRaWan technology make it possible to add hundreds of non-timed critical sensors to one LoRaWan gateway. Due to the bandwidth limitations, packets of data need to be sent routinely. A good example of differentiation is sending an instant text message with your phone versus sending a picture that might take more time.

Using LoRaWan serves as a perfect solution for the instantaneous inventory of bulk and measurable stock. Being able to do this will drastically enhance purchasing power and improve overhead reduction. It also eliminates the cost and troubleshooting of wiring, in addition to avoiding cellphone service charges.

3 Easy Options to Get Started With IIoT in 2022

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) may seem large, intimidating, and challenging to implement; however, new systems and solutions will eliminate the perceived barriers for entry. As we wrap up the year and make plans for 2022, now is a great time to resolve to modernize your facility.

Do you have a process, system or machine that has outlived its life expectancy for many years or even decades and isn’t up to current IIoT standards? Great news: you have several options for updating.

Traditional approach

The traditional approach allows you to use your current controller to output your information to your existing database. If you want to try IIoT on your current setup and your controller cannot be modified, a self-contained system will allow for ultimate flexibility. It will provide you with access to the data based off an extra layer of sensing with a focus on condition monitoring. This approach is the least expensive route, however, if database access is restricted the following options may be better choices.

Cloud-based current industry standard

A second option is to use a portable monitoring system that has a condition monitoring sensor. It is essentially five sensors in one package that can hook up to a system using the cellular network to report data to a secure cloud database. This approach is useful in remote locations or where local network access is limited. If you have a problem area, you can apply this temporarily to collect enough data, enabling you to implement predictive maintenance.

Local-based current industry standard

A local self-contained system is a great solution if a cloud database is not desired or allowed. Systems such as a Condition Monitoring Toolkit allow for recording of devices onto the local memory or USB drive. Additionally, multiple alarm set points can be emailed or extracted locally. This approach is best for testing existing machines to help with predictive maintenance, to improve a process, or even to prevent a failure.

All three of these options require data management and analysis to improve your processor and to remedy problematic areas. Using any of them is an opportunity to test the IIoT waters before fully diving in. Extrapolating the results into problem-solving solutions can allow you to expand IIoT to the rest of your facilities in a cost-effective manner.

Continuous and Exacting Measurements Deliver New Levels of Quality Control

Quality control has always been a challenge. Going back centuries, the human eye was the only form of quality verification. Hundreds of years ago metal tools like calipers were introduced to allow for higher repeatability compared to the human eye. This method is very cumbersome and is only an approximation based off a sample of the production, potentially allowing faulty products to be used or shipped to the customer.

What is the best solution by today’s standards? By scanning the product at all times! Using continuous measurements reduces or even eliminates the production of faulty products and allows for consistent and repeatable production. This used to be an impossible task for small products, but with the invention of the laser and CMOS(Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) imaging sensors, extremely small measurements can be achieved. How small? In an industrial environment, measuring 0.3 mm components with a resolution of 10 micrometers is absolutely attainable. Using special optics to spread the beam across a window will allow for 105 mm of measuring range and up to 2 meters distance between the transmitter (laser spread light) and receiver (CMOS sensor).

Traditionally these sensor systems have one or two analog outputs and have to be scaled in the control system to be usable. These values are repeatable and accurate once scaled but there has to be a better way. IO-Link to the rescue!

IO-Link brings an enormous amount of information and flexibility to configuration. Using IO-Link will also reduce the amount of wiring and analog input cards/hubs required. The serial communications of IO-Link also reduce overall costs thanks to its use of standard cables, as opposed to shielded cables. This allows for 20 meter runs over a standard double ended M12 cables without information loss or noise injection. Another benefit to going with IO-Link is the drastic increase in bits of resolution. Analog input cards and analog input hubs tend to provide between 10-16 bits of resolution, whereas IO-Link has the ability to pass two measurements via process data in the form of dual 32 bit resolution arrays as well as more information about the status of the sensors.

With IO-Link, you also gain the ability to use system commands like restarting the device, factory reset, signal normalization, reset maintenance interval, and device discovery. With this level of technology and resolution, quality control can be taken to down to the finest details.

Use IODD Files with IO-Link for Faster, Easier Parameterization

Using IO-Link allows you to get as much data as possible from only three wires. IO-Link communicates four types of data: device data, event data, value status, and process data. Value status data and process data are constantly sent together at a known rate that is documented in each device’s manual and/or data sheet. Device and event data stores your device parameters and allow for the ultimate flexibility of IO-Link devices. Since the IO Device Description (IODD) files contain each device’s full set of parameters, using them saves you from the need to regularly refer to the manual.

Commissioning IO-Link devices

When first using an IO-Link device, the standard process data will be displayed. To maximize the functionality of the device, parameters can be accessed and, in some cases, changed.  The available parameters for any IO-Link device are located in at least two places: the device’s manual and the device’s IODD file.  The manual will display the required hexadecimal-based index and sub-index addresses to point your controller’s logic, which will allow the user to change/monitor parameters of the device during operation.  This is great for utilizing one or two parameters.

However, some devices require a large number of parameter adjustments to optimize each device per application.  Using IODD files to commission devices can be faster and make it easier to select and change parameters, because all available parameters are included in the XML based file.  Certain masters and controllers have the ability to store these IODD files, further improving the integration process.  Once the IODD files are stored and the device is plugged into an IO-Link port, you can choose, change, and monitor every parameter possible.

Where can I find IODD files?

The IO-Link consortium requires all IO-Link device manufacturers to produce and post the files to the IODD finder located on io-link.com.  Most IO-Link device manufacturers also provide a link to the IODD file on the product’s web page as well as the IO-Link.com site.

IO-Link Parameterization Maximizes Functionality, Reduces Expenses

Parameters are the key to maximizing performance and stretching sensor functionality on machines through IO-Link. They are typically addressed during set up and then often underutilized because they are misunderstood. Even users familiar with IO-Link parameters often don’t know the best method for adjustment in their systems and how to benefit from using them.

Using parameters reduces setup time
During standard installation, users must acquire all manuals for each IO-Link device and then hope that all manufactures provided detailed information for parameter setting. All IO-Link device manufacturers are required to produce an IODD file, which can be accessed through the IODD Finder. This IODD file provides a list of available parameters for an IO-Link device which will save the user time by eliminating the need for manuals. Some IO-Link masters can permanently store IODD files for rapid IO-Link parameterization. This feature brings the parameters into an online webpage and gives drop down menus with all available options along with buttons for reading and writing the parameters.

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Maximize functionality of the device
Setpoints can be changed on the fly during normal operation of the machine which will allow a device to expand to the actual range and resolution of each device. Multiple pieces of information can be extracted through IO-Link parameters that are not typically available in process data. One example being an IO-Link pressure sensor with a thermistor included so that temperature can be recorded in the parameters while sending normal pressure values. This allows the user to understand the health of their devices and gather optimal information for more visibility into their processes.

Allows for backup and recovery
IO-Link parameterization allows the user to read and write ALL parameters of IO-Link Data of the device. For example, a two-set point sensor will typically have a teach button/potentiometer that technically limits adjustment for only two parameters and cannot be backed up. This method leaves devices vulnerable to extended downtime from loss of setpoints as well as adding complex teach functions that are not precise. IO-Link parameterization on the other hand pulls teach buttons/potentiometers into the digital world with precision and repeatability. Some IO-Link master blocks have a parameter server function that backs up device parameters in case a sensor needs to be replaced, ultimately providing predictive maintenance, reduced downtime, and easy recipe changes quickly throughout the process.

Using IO Link parameterization is highly important because it reduces setup time, maximizes the functionality of the IO-Link device, and allows for backup and recovery of the parameters. Implementing parameters results in being more cost effective and decreases frustration during the installation process and required maintenance. These parameter functions are just one of the many benefits of using IO Link.