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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.

 

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.

Transforming Mid-Sized Manufacturing Companies

How four automation technologies, with lower price points today, can dramatically change your manufacturing game.

From a birds-eye view of the industry, automation seems so pervasive. Yet even today, a surprisingly high number of companies still haven’t made the investment to streamline their production lines with modern automation technologies. This is especially true of mid-sized companies who have been waiting for hardware prices to decline. Many of these companies are now seeing their competitors implement automation solutions and gaining a significant advantage in the marketplace.

If this scenario sounds like your company, here are four applications to seriously consider that can springboard you to the front of the pack in 2016.

Vision Systems. Advanced laser scanning and other vision technologies, such as thermal imaging, near IR, and millimeter wave cameras, offer clear advantages because of their ability to see the environment beyond what the capabilities of the human eye and make real time decisions. Coupling this technology with robotics provides the ultimate in manufacturing flexibility, reliability, and efficiency and represents the current vanguard in manufacturing automation. Continue Reading →

Our mission statement guides our automation solutions

I was talking to a friend the other day, and the topic of mission statements came up. “What’s your mission statement?” he blurted out, expecting to catch me off guard and stumble over my own company’s mission. Well, I didn’t stumble, reciting it right back to him. He was impressed, and admitted that he didn’t know his own company’s mission statement.

I don’t expect our team to recite our company’s mission statement from memory. What I do expect, however, is that we live the spirit of our mission statement as we develop and implement automation solutions. Everything we want to be for our customers is captured in that one sentence.

When we put our mission statement together a few years ago, we purposely chose every word we used. We were not trying to redefine ourselves; rather, we were trying to capture – simply and clearly – who we are.

The Concept Systems mission statement:

Team with our customers to achieve manufacturing excellence by delivering the right automation solutions. Continue Reading →

Concept Systems Celebrates 15 Years!

The Concept team before the Team Building Regatta. Front Row (from right to left) Donovan Moore, Ed Diehl, Daniel Miller, Kelsea Fowler, Terry Kingry, Kyle Butler, Bob O’Brien, Brent Rutter Second Row: Cory Tomford, Eli Girod, Abram Smith, Jim Erickson, Mark Seymour, Seth Drebick, Ron Schiedler, Jenny Johnston, Jack Gourley, Patrick Cross Third Row: Craig Hartwick, Michael Lindley, Michael Gurney, Joan Rose, Michelle Johnston, Jerry Buthmann, Sey Roomiany, Kristyne Smith, Bob Zapalski, ? Anthony Johnson, Zach Hibberd, Jerry Flynn, Mike Dodds, Tracy Brandt, Maria Zaharko Last row: Goktug Dazkir, Justin Richter, Ben Burton, Megan VanDelinder Sergei Furduy, Scott VanDelinder, Jim Ford, Keith Marler, Doug Taylor, Brian Edwards, David Skidmore, Shun Yamamoto, J.J. Arthur, Michael Maas, LaVonne Walters, Tyler Parmelee, Steve Karter, Chandler Gehlhausen, Chad McDowell, Brian Foster

The Concept team before Front Row (from right to left) Donovan Moore, Ed Diehl, Daniel Miller, Kelsea Fowler, Terry Kingry, Kyle Butler, Bob O’Brien, Brent Rutter
Second Row: Cory Tomford, Eli Girod, Abram Smith, Jim Erickson, Mark Seymour, Seth Drebick, Ron Schiedler, Jenny Johnston, Jack Gourley, Patrick Cross
Third Row: Craig Hartwick, Michael Lindley, Michael Gurney, Joan Rose, Michelle Johnston, Jerry Buthmann, Sey Roomiany, Kristyne Smith, Bob Zapalski, ? Anthony Johnson, Zach Hibberd, Jerry Flynn, Mike Dodds, Tracy Brandt, Maria Zaharko
Last row: Goktug Dazkir, Justin Richter, Ben Burton, Megan VanDelinder Sergei Furduy, Scott VanDelinder, Jim Ford, Keith Marler, Doug Taylor, Brian Edwards, David Skidmore, Shun Yamamoto, J.J. Arthur, Michael Maas, LaVonne Walters, Tyler Parmelee, Steve Karter, Chandler Gehlhausen, Chad McDowell, Brian Foster

“Only one in four start-ups make it to 15 years,” noted Ed Diehl, our president and co-founder. That’s reason to celebrate. So, we did! Concept Systems’ employees and their families spent a weekend in Sunriver–team building, white water rafting, horseback riding, kayaking, biking, and enjoying great food, s’mores, dancing, and a band. What memories we created!

A much anticipated activity was our Team Building Regatta, which challenged us to build boats and sail them. Our team building guides divided us into random teams, so we worked with people we often don’t interact with on the job. Each team received cardboard, duct tape, and a plastic bag. Then, a whole lot of creativity ensued. Continue Reading →