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WORLD OF INDUSTRIES - Industrial Automation 4/2017

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WORLD OF INDUSTRIES - Industrial Automation 4/2017

Wireless networks mean

Wireless networks mean flexibility INDUSTRIAL COMMUNICATION Dynamic self-organisation and optimised routing: these are the essential features of the second generation of a new wireless network. New switching and command devices are also available, for example a compact and cable-free Andon terminal. ‘Flexibility’ has to be the best way to sum up in a single word the current trend in industrial automation technology. It is even a suitable epithet for the “massive topic” Internet of Things (IoT). After all, the goal of manufacturing in line with IoT is ultimately to be able to produce small batch sizes, all the way down to one-off pieces, just as efficiently as mass production has been to date. This means: more flexible automated industrial manufacturing. Similarly, work stations are also becoming more flexible, e.g. in assembly and consignment areas. Increasingly often, units are modular and mobile, providing more flexibility than permanently installed, e.g. phase-to-phase work stations. The current trends: flexibility and mobility A typical example of this is E-Kanban shelves at assembly points within the car production process. Position switches fitted to roller conveyor shelves register when replenishment is required – and if wireless switches are used, the shelves can be moved anywhere. Position switches transmit radio signals automatically and via Wi-Fi to a communication unit and in real time, triggering an order process in the superordinate ERP system. Alternatively, non-contact wireless light sensors can be used. Command devices can also be integrated in such networks, enabling staff to, for example, request materials or confirm their removal or replenishment. Such wireless systems are used in e.g. consignment and loading stations, as well as logistics centres. Other application examples are automated guided vehicles (AGV) and human-machine interfaces (HMI) operated from floor conveyors. From point-to-point system to network It would not be economical to implement each small or large system as a point-to-point connection between a wireless switching device and a receiver. For this reason, the steute business unit “Wireless” has developed a networked remote control system which facilitates the integration of several hundred wireless switching devices of different designs. The central function in the sWave.Net wireless sensor network is assumed by access points, which work like a network router. They receive signals from the wireless switching devices, bundle them and pass them on, via e.g. Ethernet or Wi-Fi, directly to the customer IT platform (ERP, production data acquisition/PDA, condition monitoring system/CMS, warehouse management system/ WMS...). Each access point can receive signals from around 100 wireless switching devices. Second generation wireless network Steute is currently launching its second sWave.Net generation, which essentially differs from its predecessor in its simplified structure. Users can now do without the previously required application server because the wireless signals are sent directly from the access points to an IP address, and from there to the customer IT infrastructure, where they can be processed. The wireless sensor network can be used all over the world, meeting the wireless standards in Europe, North America, Australia and Japan. Access points can also be integrated in an IP network via a web portal. Author: Andreas Schenk, Product Manager Wireless, steute Schaltgeräte GmbH & Co. KG, Löhne, Germany WORLD OF INDUSTRIES – INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION 4/2017

Dynamic self-organisation increases transmission reliability Another new feature is the dynamic self-organisation of wireless switching devices, meaning that they autonomously address whichever access point the radio-waves have easiest access to. If transmission should fail, that wireless switching device simply addresses other access points in turn, until the signal can be successfully transmitted. High transmission reliability is thus guaranteed. The network topology is designed to be so flexible that new participants can easily be integrated. The communication protocol has also been optimised: it works even more energy-efficiently, facilitating long battery lifespans. New network components The access points have been considerably improved. Their distinguishing features are more compact dimensions, additional functionality and increased convenience. For example, power consumption, at 2 W, is now lower, a Wi-Fi adapter has been integrated in the housing, and input voltage is variable from 12 to 24 V DC. External antennas mean that the wireless technology can be ideally adapted to the environment. New sWave.Net components can also be found at field level – for example Andon or material requisition devices. With these devices, users can, for example, transmit order information to their internal logistics control centre, receive information (via the display) or confirm processes (using the push buttons). Target market intralogistics – numerous projects Generally speaking, wireless networks of this kind, with their specific characteristics (range, reaction time,…), are particularly suited to material flow technology and other similar applications, such as the abovementioned E-Kanban systems for replenishing assembly work stations with parts. The steute business unit “Wireless” is currently involved in various development projects, including a network solution for conveyor routes for small AGV which collect parcels and other consignments and take them to their destination within the factory. Projects which About Steute For more than fifty years steute has been developing and manufacturing high-quality switchgear, sensors and control units for industrial automation, medical equipment and building automation. The focus is on the business fields Wireless, Automation, Extreme, Meditec. The company has more than 300 employees and achieves a turnover of about 40 million Euro (2016). have already been realised include a network of wireless command devices in the dispatch area of a renowned kitchen manufacturer, several E-Kanban solutions, as well as a monitoring system for the locking position of work-piece carriers in the automotive industry. A further application example is the control of docking stations in logistics and goods distribution centres. The positions of rolling gates and wheel chocks, and therefore of lorries on ramps, can all be monitored in this way. As well as, not instead of Steute estimates that the wireless switching devices used to date, which communicate via point-to-point connections, will remain in demand and continue to be used wherever low numbers are required. The previous solutions will also remain in place (for now) in connection with special requirements, such as safetyrelated systems and explosive environments. But the high demand for network solutions shows that the need is there, and that wireless networks of this kind will become standard in material flow technology – because they increase flexibility at shop-floor level, enabling valuable production and logistics data to be collected and transferred. Photographs: Steute Schaltgeräte GmbH & Co. KG 02 Latest generation of access points (left), wireless position switches and wireless sensors are now network-compatible (right) 01 Kanban shelves are a typical application for wireless networks. When a container is removed, a signal is sent to the control centre and replenishment is requested WORLD OF INDUSTRIES – INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION 4/2017