Many manufacturers I talk to are excited about the possibilities that our new Smart Light technology, used in level mode, brings to their production or machines. Here’s a video if you havent seen it yet:
It works over virtually any industrial network with an open standard called IO-Link, which I’ve discussed many times in previous posts.
What I’m really impressed with is the number of people integrating the level mode as a quick and easy way to give instantaneous feedback to an operator on their performance to a quota or as a count-down timer. Here you can see in the middle of the right photo a bright green bar light just to the left of the red kanban rack. There are multiple of these lights in this image.
This light is a five zone Smart Light operating in level mode. As the cycle time winds down, the light decreases in value until there is no more time, at that point it flashes bright red to notify the operator to cycle to the next vehicle. It keeps the production on track and helps operators know quickly and easily how much time remains. What I’ve been told is nice about this is how bright the light is and that it is easily install-able without a controls cabinet or slice i/o j-box like you can see in the photo. Others like it because it makes the data visual from all over, where HMIs require you to stand right in front of them for information.
So if you are trying to think about ways to visualize data in your process or production to operators or managers, there are many others out there already using Smart Light for that application. Check it out.
It’s the worst when a network goes down on a piece of equipment. No diagnostics are available to help troubleshooting and all communication is dead. The only way to find the problem is to physically and visually inspect the hardware on the network until you can find the culprit. Many manufacturers have told me over the past few months about experiences they’ve had with down networks and how a simple cable or connector is to blame for hours of downtime.
By utilizing IO-Link, which has been discussed in these earlier blogs, and by changing the physical routing of the network hardware, you can now eliminate the loss of communication. The expandable architecture of IO-Link allows the master to communicate over the industrial network and be mounted in a “worry-free” zone away from any hostile environments. Then the IO-Link device is mounted in the hostile environment like a weld cell and it is exposed to the slag debris and damage. If the IO-Link device fails due to damage, the network remains connected and the IO-Link master reports detailed diagnostics on the failure and which device to replace. This can dramatically reduce the amount of time production is down. In addition the IO-Link device utilizes a simple sensor cable for communication and can use protection devices designed for these types of cables. The best part of this is that the network keeps communicating the whole time.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits that IO-Link can provide to manufacturers visit www.balluff.us.
I am seriously excited about the new Smart Light. It will revolutionize how we automate and interface with people working in the manufacturing environment. If you didnt watch this video… you need to watch this video.
Even if you don’t know what a stack light is, you will want one of these for your discotec to light it up!
Operating on the open communication protocol IO-Link that I have discussed in previous posts, I think this single part number will improve the factory for:
an operator wanting to know when to refill a feederbowl, position a part, or empty a full output bin
a maintenance guy needing to know what cell is causing the machine downtime
a plant manager wanting to know the machine output, speed, productivity
If you are a manager at any level of a manufacturing facility, I hope you are aware of the dangers of arc flash. For those who are not aware, “an arc flash, also called arc blast or arc fault is a type of electrical explosion that results from a low-impedance connection to ground or another voltage phase in an electrical system.” Typically this does not occur in 120V situations, but can occur in 480V+ installations if proper precautions are not taken. Employees can be severely injured or even killed when an accident occurs while working with these kinds of electrical systems. There are many standards like OSHA, IEEE and NFPA that regulate these types of situations to provide a safe working environment for the employee. In addition to those standards, I would propose two simple changes to controls architecture and design to help limit the exposure to working inside an electrical cabinet.
I’ve recently heard this comparison used a number of times and the parallels are quite interesting. USB was designed to help standardize a dizzying array of connectors and configurations of supplementary devices that developed during the age of the Compaq vs IBM. It always took days to configure and establish communication between devices and then finally you could never get all the functionality that the device promised because of your PC’s specific configuration. USB revolutionized the personal computer by allowing for a standard interface for simple devices from hard-drives to keyboard lights, and best of all by offering a device drivers the functionality promised could be delivered. If the device broke, you bought a new one, plugged it in and it worked.
Everyone likes things on demand right? Movies, TV shows, chocolate, you name it. My good friend, John Harmon, has prepared a YouTube video so that you have at your fingertips an on-demand presentation on Distributed Modular I/O. It is a great overview of the available functionality of Distributed Modular I/O and what kinds of control products that are available utilizing this technology. I realize the video is seven and a half minutes, which is pretty long for a web video, but I think he does an excellent job of keeping your attention and demonstrating the value of this technology. Grab a soda and your favorite chocolate bar, put your phone on silent, and hit play on this excellent presentation.
I’ve been talking pneumatic systems (valves, cylinders, actuators, etc.) recently with my customers and I’m finding among these engineers some common pains coming out of the system design. It seems that many people are researching networked valve islands with I/O built-in. These seem to be a great way to consolidate lots of I/O into one IP address, but there are some new issues cropping up similar to the above photo:
When assembling these at a machine builder the routing of cables with piping is more cumbersome with cables hanging off the valves, larger cable tray installations and large amounts of piping all running to the same spot.
For machine builders, with all of the valves centralized in one place, the pneumatic lines have to be longer. This causes many issues such as slower responsiveness due to air volume, air inertia, and lower air quality.
When trying to perform maintenance at an end-user, it becomes a nightmare to troubleshoot with a cluster of cables and pipes. The zip-tied and clean runs installed by the machine builder are cut, tangled and re-routed as the machine ages and becomes more difficult to troubleshoot.
Also at end users, if the manifold needs to be expanded, updated, retrofitted with new valves or I/O, there are big hurdles to jump when doing this: re-piping the valve due to mounting position shifting or even having to edit and repair code in the PLC to adapt to new bitmaps generated by the new valve manifold configuration.
When closing the loop with magnetic field sensors mounted on the cylinders, typically reed switches are used which are prone to failure. In addition, these switches typically have two sensors & cables per actuator to give extend or retract position, these cables cause larger cable trays and long cable runs back to the centralized manifold and I/O.
In April, Jim Montague of Control Design wrote an interesting article on Machine Mount I/O entitled “Machine-Mount I/O Go Everywhere.” I think the article makes some very good points as to the value of why someone wants to move from inside an enclosure, or controls cabinet, to mounting I/O products directly on the machine.
He summarizes, with the help of a number of industry experts, the below points:
I recently had the opportunity to attend Hannover Fair in Germany and was blown away by the experience… buildings upon buildings of automation companies doing amazing things and helping us build our products faster, smarter and cheaper. One shining topic for me at the fair was the continued growth of new products being developed with IO-Link communications in them.
All in all, the growth of IO-Link products is being driven by the need of customers to know more about their facility, their process and their production. IO-Link devices are intelligent and utilize a master device to communicate their specific information over an industrial network back to the controller. To learn more about IO-Link, read my previous entry, 5 Things You Need to Know about IO-Link.
Valve manifolds, or islands or banks, are used by many automation engineers in their machine design. They are a great way to easily implement a large number of pneumatic motion applications while keeping the air infrastructure minimal. Recent demand in the market has driven manifold manufacturers to reluctantly embed network interfaces and remote I/O into their products. Customers tell me while manufacturer’s expertise may lie with the pneumatic side of the product; there is usually less knowledge with-in their organizations to work on the Ethernet side of the product.