Top

Archive | Blog

Control Design I/O Basics

Concept Systems Lead Designer, Donavan Moore, takes you through the basics of control design. 

Using a distributed I/O system has many benefits but before you start designing, consider the following factors:

  1. Proximity of the devices to the local rack
  2. Quantity of items
  3. Shipping breaks
  4. Voltage drops
  5. Speed of communications

Of these factors, the most important to consider is distance between the devices and the local rack, AND whether there are enough points of I/O in the same vicinity to warrant:

  1. The added cost of a communication module
  2. The added cost of a new enclosure
  3. The design time to develop a separate I/O control enclosure or distributed I/O scheme

A specific distance and exact number of QTY alone will not determine the need for distributed I/O. However, in general once equipment is 50-75 feet from the local rack and there are 8-12 individual connection points, consider a distributed I/O solution. At that point, the savings in wire and routing simplification begins to offset the additional hardware and design costs incurred.

If the machine requires a shipping break (meaning the machine is modular for shipping purposes), a distributed I/O structure is fantastic advantage over home runs back to the local rack. The reduced time to break down the machine, setup the machine onsite, and debug on startup typically justifies the additional cost of the distributed I/O system. Reduced documentation and lower hardware costs also add to the appeal of distributed I/O.

Another reason for using a distributed I/O scheme would be to mitigate the risk of voltage drop. Our designers get nervous anytime you have low voltage (24VDC) connections more than 200 feet away from the source. At that distance, we start watching our device loads like a hawk knowing that we’re in the range where voltage drop can start to make things stop working. If we have only one or two sensors out there, we may just make sure we’re within tolerance, but if we have enough out there to fill an I/O module, or a brick of I/O, we’re going to recommend distributed I/O so that our reliability and predictability will increase.

Regarding communication speed, you need to make sure that your I/O update time is less than your fastest signal. There are several factors that we watch when determining which signals to take to the distributed I/O:

  1. What type of network are we using?
  2. How many devices are we communicating to?
  3. What are the run lengths of the communication cables?
  4. What speeds can our network switches and other network infrastructure support?

Newer ethernet networks with 5 or 6 communication modules attached to a switch and with home run lengths around 100 feet can usually handle 20ms I/O update speeds. If you add more wire length, and devices to the network, then 50ms is considered a best practice. If your system has signals that need to be faster than this, those would need to go to the local rack.

Determining what model of distributed I/O to use comes down to the types of signals we’re dealing with and what makes the most sense for the application. At Concept Systems we use Allen-Bradley Flex I/O remote racks, and Allen-Bradley Point I/O mounted in remote enclosures. We do this because the number and type of signals we’re dealing with are varied, and we like the flexibility of Allen-Bradley platforms. The Allen-Bradley ArmorBlock style of distributed I/O also works great in a conveyor type application where you have fewer points per group, and simple devices like limit switches, proximity switches, and solenoid valves.  These kinds of devices typically require one cable to connect and don’t have complicated power and wiring needs. This is mentioned because the block style I/O doesn’t allow a lot of flexibility in separating power for the devices, so if you need something more complicated than just power for outputs, and power for inputs, an ArmorBlock setup may not be what works best for you.

There is a lot to consider when determining whether a distributed I/O system is right for your application.  The factors listed above provide what we consider to be “best practices”, but there can be additional details when determining the final design.

The staff at Concept Systems is always ready to help – we are your Automation Solutions Partner.

 

0

Preventing Extensive Downtime From Equipment Failure

When updating or maintaining older equipment, it’s important to have maximum visibility into plant operations and make every investment dollar count.

As a company that specializes in automation controls, we field a lot of different requests from clients who want a quick budgetary quote to retrofit an older piece of equipment. These requests usually come in after a piece of machinery has failed and the company has encountered one of three scenarios: 1) The company doesn’t have any documentation. 2) The last person to work on this machine has retired, and no one has been trained. 3) Replacement parts have finally become too difficult to find, even on eBay. There are other reasons, of course, but most often a client is responding to some situation that has left the company exposed to a much larger downtime risk than previously thought.

I want to discuss two different prevention techniques in hopes of providing some insight for companies to consider as they wrestle with keeping equipment current—and we all do! First, don’t be caught off guard with not knowing how and when a piece of equipment is likely to fail. There are several software options available today that provide performance data and maintenance scheduling, helping companies avoid unplanned downtime. Second, consider a machine retrofit as a way of preparing for tomorrow’s manufacturing instead of just reacting to a problem with a rush to update the machine.

Software solutions for machine monitoring have come a long way in the past five years. I don’t know if it can be considered a “mature” market, but there are many established providers that have proven their solutions. Conveniently for users, there are several options available from complete software platforms that monitor everything from CNCs, robots, PLCs and test stands to simple offerings that are designed to provide real-time monitoring per single device. Regardless of your specific needs, be assured that you have options that can be found with some basic Google searching. To make matters easier, a lot of these software providers offer their solutions via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, which reduces the risk of overcommitting and lowers upfront costs.

All this to say that it is wise to seriously consider employing a machine monitoring software tool of some sort sooner rather than later. The advantages of doing so far outweigh the risk. Consider some of the benefits: scheduled maintenance events based on known wear, use or observed conditions; dashboard monitoring and/or reporting available via desktop computer or mobile devices; uptime and throughput reports to monitor trends; and automated alarming provides alerts that will send alert condition messages to supervisory personnel to facilitate an immediate response. With so many software solutions available provided as flexible options like SaaS, it is a good time to develop and implement a strategy that takes the guessing out of machine monitoring.

The second key aspect to keep in mind when maintaining or updating older equipment is when you evaluate a retrofit investment, consider what you can do to make that piece of machinery or that production line ready for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In the not so distant future, experts predict whole manufacturing floors will be populated by intelligent machines that are able to monitor themselves, schedule their own maintenance and provide constant monitoring. This future state will allow machines to interoperate and create dramatic efficiencies not possible today. Machines will do this by dynamically adjusting to manufacturing conditions to ensure maximum efficiency. Although all of what is predicted is very exciting, we won’t get there overnight. The clear majority of manufacturers will use a phased approach to slowly migrate equipment to Industry 4.0 requirements over the next decade, since very few companies have the luxury of starting their production strategies from scratch.

Companies can prepare for the future by utilizing their automation roadmap, or 3- to 5-year manufacturing plan, to ensure that any investment made in a machine retrofit will not only be applicable in the future, but will also be an advantage as they phase in more Industry 4.0 equipment. Learn why an automation roadmap is essential to remaining competitive. Not sure how to get started? Learn how to get started on an automation roadmap.

There are several software options available today that provide performance data and maintenance scheduling, helping companies avoid unplanned downtime.

Here are some important things to consider with a retrofit: network compatibility, whether wired or wireless; security protocols to ensure all data is protected; virtualization (consider server consolidation and thin client architecture); and an interface that provides operators and decision-makers with valuable information to make appropriate, timely decisions.

In today’s world, the information coming at us is unlimited and it can feel like we are constantly reacting to issues and scenarios. When updating or maintaining older equipment, it is crucial that we take a proactive approach. To do this, ensure you have maximum visibility into plant operations as described above and make every investment dollar count when you retrofit equipment to be fully prepared for tomorrow’s manufacturing.

As a final comment, integrators certified by the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) can be an invaluable resource whether you are considering manufacturing software or creating an automation roadmap. Often, integrators have worked in a vast range of manufacturing scenarios and they can leverage that knowledge to the benefit of the client.

Michael Lindley is vice president of business development and marketing at Concept Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association. See Concept Systems’ profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

0

Standards revisions: robots and robotic systems

Automation standards update: The current version of the Industrial Robot Safety Standard, ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012, is a U.S. national adoption of the ISO 10218-2011, Part 1, Robots, and Part 2, Robotic Systems. Look for new versions of these documents in the 2020 or 2021 timeframe. Also see information on collaborative robots, loading and unloading stations, end-effectors, and lockout and tagout.

Author: Carole Franklin

Various standards and guidance documents govern and help those working with robotics and motion control. The current version of the Industrial Robot Safety Standard, ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012, is a U.S. national adoption of the ISO 10218-2011, Part 1, Robots, and Part 2, Robotic Systems. Those in compliance with the R15.06, 2012 version also are in compliance with the 10218, 2011 version. These standards will continue to be the current versions at least through 2020. Look for new versions of these documents in the 2020 or 2021 timeframe.

The ISO (international standards) group will begin updating the 10218 standard later this year; the revision process is expected to take about three years, which gives us the 2020 target publication date. Following that revision of the 10218, our standards committees in the U.S. will revise the R15.06 as well. In both the ISO and ANSI (U.S.) robotics communities, we currently are working on supplemental documents to help people apply these standards.

Some key things to know about robots and robotic systems:

  • For the purpose of ISO 10218 and ANSI/RIA R15.06, it’s important to distinguish between the terms “robot” and “robot system.”
  • “Robot” includes the robot arm and controller; “robot system” includes the robot, the end-effector (end-of-arm tooling or EOAT), and any other machinery, equipment, devices, etc., supporting the robot in performing its task.
  • The ISO 10218:1,2-2011 and ANSI/RIA R15.06:2012 require that a risk assessment be conducted for each integrated robot application. It is the integrator’s responsibility to ensure that this required risk assessment is completed.
  • RIA TR R15.306:2016 describes one task-based risk assessment method that meets the requirements of the standard.

Collaborative robotics, safety

In the U.S., these supplemental documents are registered with ANSI and are known as Technical Reports, or TRs. We are just about to publish a U.S. version of the ISO TS 15066:2016, the RIA TR R15.606-2016, on safety of collaborative robot systems. We also are starting work on two new TRs in the U.S., one of which is on guidance for users, which we hope to complete by the end of 2017; the other is on testing methods for power and force limiting for collaborative robot systems, which will likely be published in 2018.

In the ISO world, supplemental documents can be either Technical Reports (TRs), similar to the ANSI-registered TRs, or Technical Specifications (TSs). The difference is that the ISO TS describes requirements that are expected to mature to an International Standard (IS) level in the future. In the standards world, this means a TS is a “normative” document and can contain normative requirements. On the other hand, the TR is an “informative” document—that is, it cannot contain requirements but can only inform. The recently-published ISO TS 15066:2016 on collaborative robot safety is an example of a normative document. Because it is so recently published, it will not be revised for several years.

Some key things to know about collaborative robot safety include:

  • The application is key. There are some tasks which are simply not well suited to collaborative operation, even if the robot that is performing the task is power- and force-limited and called a “collaborative” robot.
  • The concept of a robot system is also important. The robot is not working in isolation. The workstation, the end-effector, the workpiece itself, the potential presence of multiple robots and other equipment in a cell are just some of the many factors that also must be taken into account when planning for a safe robotic installation. This is still the case even when using robots designed for collaboration.
  • A risk assessment of the collaborative robot system is also important. Even when using a robot designed for collaborative use, it’s really important to assess and mitigate any risks of the system—precisely because we anticipate people and robots working in close proximity.
  • It’s important to understand the foundational standard in addition to the collaborative supplement. TS 15066 builds upon the 10218 standard. That is, effective use of TS 15066 assumes that the robot system under consideration is in compliance with Part 1 and Part 2 of ISO 10218:2011.

Loading, unloading; end-effectors

The ISO group also is working on two TRs, both of which are expected to be completed in 2017. One is on the safety of manual load/unload stations, and the other is on end-effector safety.

Those with interest in robotics in food and beverage applications may be interested in a non-RIA standard.

The “3-A Sanitary Standard 3-A 103-00, Robot-based Automation Systems,” for use in the food industry, was published in September 2016, by 3-A Sanitary Standards Inc.

Outside the robot-specific world, there are some other standards on industrial safety that RIA members may want to know. These are the recently updated ANSI/ASSE Z244.1 on Lockout, Tagout and Alternative Methods, published in late 2016.

B11.20 on Safety Requirements for Integrated Manufacturing Systems is being updated right now, with an anticipated publication date in 2017.

Carole Franklin is director of standards development, Robotic Industries Association (RIA), part of Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

MORE ADVICE

Key concepts

  • ISO 10218-2011, Part 1, Robots, and Part 2, Robotic Systems, and the U.S. adoption of it, R15.06, will likely be revised in the 2020-2021 timeframe.
  • ISO TS 15066:2016 on collaborative robot safety was published in February 2016. The U.S. adoption of this, RIA TR R15.606-2016, will be published soon.
  • Standards covering lockout/tagout and safety of integrated manufacturing systems also are important.

 

View the original article and related content on Control Engineering

Copyright: Copyright 2017 CFE Media LLC

The internet of services in Industrie 4.0

Manufacturers need to think through their business model with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industrie 4.0 and ask how can a product become a service with a long-term revenue stream.

Author: Mike James

There is much talk about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, ‘things’ are just part of the plumbing. We connect devices, giving them, no more than, nominal intelligence. The real innovation is the internet of services. Manufacturers need to think through their business model and ask how can a product become a service with a long-term revenue stream. Many manufacturers, however, recognize this and are exploiting the opportunity to improve their operations. For example,

Tesla is delivering vehicles with hardware and software which can be upgraded, their cars are sensor ready and software upgrades will provide extra intelligence, delivered via the internet. The customer could pay for the upgrades which then generates extra revenue for Tesla.

Otis is supplying elevators/lifts with sensors which send data into their cloud. The data is analyzed and Otis sells a predictive maintenance services package, again adding a long-term revenue stream.

Additionally, a catering company in The Netherlands is supplying custom meals to hospitals. Each meal is prepared for the patient based upon data received from the hospital about the patient’s needs. The meals are prepared in an automated plant.

The individualization of mass production and the internet of services add additional revenue. The smart manufacturing plant needs to be flexible and deliver intelligent products. A major misunderstanding is that this is not a cost saving exercise; it’s a new business model to increase revenue and profitability.

It’s important to map out opportunities and match them against the realities of today’s technology. A manufacturer who was heavily investing in a factory of the future did not build this type of strategy. Enthusiastic engineers ordered additive manufacturing (3-D printing machines only to learn they could not connect them to their network using international standards. They paid a heavy price for this error and damaged the initiative’s reputation. It’s worth taking independent advice before completing a company’s manufacturing strategy.

The best way to avoid these mistakes and build a successful strategy is to learn from other manufacturers in a safe space. MESA is a safe harbor to share best practices and lessons learned so that the industry can collectively rise to Industrie 4.0.

Mike James is chairman for MESA International Board of Directors. This article originally appeared on MESA International’s blog. MESA International is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

 

View the original article and related content on Control Engineering

Copyright: Copyright 2017 CFE Media LLC

Automate Showcases Future of Industrial Robotics, And It’s Remarkable

Attending the recent Automate Show in Chicago was an extraordinary experience that allowed me and more than 20,000 other attendees an opportunity to peer into the future of industrial robotics. Being part of a company that is at the forefront of the industrial robotics and manufacturing automation industries still provides only one perspective, and Automate brought together leaders from all corners of the industry, such as Fanuc, ABB, Kuka, Keyence and Cognex, to showcase advances and share insights. The range of technologies on display that were designed to enhance processes, improve product quality and lower manufacturing costs was astonishing. I walked away from the show with a deeper sense of awareness of two notions: the rise of robots is upon us, and machine vision provides robots with the artificial intelligence that will forge the future of robotics in our increasingly globalized society.

The Rise of Robots

Material removal, end-of-arm tooling by Concept Systems

As many in automation are aware, robots are becoming an increasingly popular answer to completing dangerous or repetitive tasks: grinding, deburring, bin-picking, part inspections, etc. Several manufacturers and esteemed integrators assembled elaborate booths displaying various robot capabilities, many currently in use and others as possible future applications. This alone is indicative of the rise of robots, but it is only the beginning. The leading robot manufacturers all appear to be focused on making robots simpler to program/configure and easier to integrate with technologies that create incredible functionality. The result: collaborative robots.

The show floor featured a number of collaborative robots performing a wide variety of tasks from part handling to packaging, some even bagged candy to hand out or served ice cream in a cone. Using various sensing technologies, the applications for collaborative robots to work with human counterparts are infinite. Long gone seem to be the days of robots in hard guarding and being tucked away in the corner, wrapped in ominous metal fencing. Today’s robots are becoming more flexible in their range of applications, friendly in their interface, and free to be placed anywhere on the manufacturing floor.

Forging the Future

machine vision, part inspection, Concept SystemsAfter seeing the surprising versatility of machine vision applications on display at Automate, it became clear that machine vision is the technological advancement that will launch industrial robotics into the future. When combined with the interconnectivity of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and other smart tools such as mobile analytics, machines equipped with technologies like 3D embedded vision, multispectral and hyperspectral imaging, and deep learning will possess a primitive form of artificial intelligence that allows greater flexibility in application and the ability to actively learn processes without programming.

For example, Cognex and Keyence both have solutions that can compare 8-10 different part characteristics in a fraction of a second. These are designed to be mounted on the end of a robot so you have a complete solution that is capable of part picking and inspection. Part picking and part inspection are tasks that are often hard to fill and results can vary widely as operators tire throughout long shifts.

In another instance, Fanuc is working on developing the ability to configure a robot through learning instead of programming, specifically the capability to give a robot a task, like picking objects out of a bin and putting them into another container. In this scenario, once the robot it is configured it will spend some amount of time figuring out how to complete the task via trial and error, and within a short time the robot will have mastered the task as well as if it had been programmed by an engineer. It seems apparent that as we continue to combine advancing vision technologies with low cost, power processing abilities the future is endless as to what can be accomplished.

Although the next Automate isn’t until April of 2019, I highly recommend that you get this event on your calendar early and plan to attend. The Automate show attracts more than 20,000 visitors, all looking for new ways to enhance their manufacturing processes, lower production costs, and increase their competitive edges.