I Can Do Quick Recipe Changes on the Fly, Can You?

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In my recent travels of the east coast from Boston to Tampa, customers have been looking for quality solutions to be able to run:

multiple products,

and multiple sizes,

and multiple form-factors,

all on one production line.

Two things about this seem to be in every application:

  1. Change-over needs to be simple for the operators.
  2. Management needs to see the cost/time savings, be it planned or unplanned downtime.

But how can I do multiple recipes or multiple jobs on one machine?  I have to reprogram/reposition sensors, move guide rails, swap out components, etc…

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IP67 Network I/O Islands: Why? Are there other options?

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Typical IP67 network topologies involve stand-alone I/O modules, providing 8 to 16 points of I/O per module.  In some applications multiple stand-alone modules could be mounted within inches of each other.  Thus was introduced the IP67 Network I/O Island, a modular IP67 I/O solution that allowed 8 to 60 plus I/O points to be connected to only one network node.  This solution provided initial costs savings by reducing the number of network nodes used in an application, but brought along some new problems.  One problem involved exceeding long sensor /actuator cordsets, with a centralized I/O solution remote sensors needed cordsets of 5, 10, or even 15 plus meters in length.  The second issue was cordset management; imagine tracing a suspect cordset to the network I/O island with 60 plus connectors hanging off of the front of the unit.

IP67 Network I/O Island
IP67 Network I/O Island

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The Basics of Profibus and ProfiNet, Revealed!


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Regularly I attended free one day seminars on Profibus & Profinet put on by the PI Organization.   They have two different classes that they offer in cities all over the US and Canada.  There are usually about 50-100 attendees and it is a great opportunity to network with local engineers from and around the area in a wide variety of industries.

In the seminars they cover these topics in general:

  • The history and breadth of the PI Organization
  • Different ways to build I/O architectures and how to integrate them
  • Why networks are important and how to select a network

And they cover in detail (using vendor products and Siemens PLCs):

  • How to design a network
  • Configuration of a network using the PLC
  • Installation considerations, cabling & hardware
  • Commissioning a system
  • Long term maintenance and troubleshooting
  • Plantwide Energy Conservation

During breaks, multiple vendors of Profibus & ProfiNet related products were available to discuss applications and projects with the attendees and provide valuable resources for industrial network design.

We (Balluff) are a sponsoring member of the seminars and I was attending to discuss IO-Link, Profinet and Profibus industrial network applications with potential and current customers.

If you are unfamiliar with Profibus, ProfiNet or IO-Link I recommend you attend one of these seminars to learn about how it can help your machine design.

I updated the text in this entry on 3/8/2011.

Get Rid of Remote I/O Cabinets Once and For All

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Every time I travel, customers tell me, “we just wire everything into a box.”  Every equipment designer goes through a phase of their design process where they need to decide how their I/O gets from their sensors and their valves to their controller.  Some people use I/O cards on their PLC, or networks with IP20 solutions inside remote I/O cabinets.

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That 1 Channel of Analog!

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In most industrial applications 80-90% of the I/O going back to the PLC is discrete points.  Multiple times I have been asked, “How can I easily, quickly, and cost effectively get one channel of analog back to my PLC”.  The solutions in the past have either involved an IP20 slice I/O solution in a J-box, which is expensive and labor intensive, or an IP67 network module, which reduces labor costs but still carries a high cost.  A common drawback to these solutions is that you have to pay for 2, 4, or even 8 channels when only one is required.

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5 Things You Need to Know about IO-Link

Industrial networks are nothing new; ASi, CANbus, DeviceNet, Profibus (to name a few) have all been around for years.  Designers of production equipment use networks for a variety of reasons: simplified machine mount I/O, motor starters, valve bank control, etc.  Each network has a limited number of devices that can be connected and each device is designated a node address or IP address.  IO-Link takes a standard network and expands it beyond its current capacity through flexibility and expansion.

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