Editor's Choice


Do all wireless solutions solve real industry problems?

Third Quarter 2020 Editor's Choice Pneumatic systems & components

Wireless technology makes use of devices that allow us to communicate without using cables or wires and it plays a role in solving complex engineering problems. With this platform machines can communicate over long distances, with benefits such as cost-effectiveness, freedom from wires and easy setup. By using modern, standards-driven wireless technologies, designers and machine users have access to new tools that can help transform and simplify their working lives. Brett Binnekade, Festo South Africa applications engineer, talks to us about wireless technology in the automation industry.

The benefits of wireless over long distances

Despite the many benefits that wireless technology can claim, distance is a factor that should be considered when machine users purchase wireless solutions. At long distances, the cost and simplicity benefits trump their counterparts by negating cost and sometimes impossible cable runs. When used at a short distance, for example 10 to 15 metres, the benefits of wireless usually do not outweigh the challenges. The cost and complexity of a short distance wireless solution are often much higher than the short cable in its place, even for difficult applications such as a continuously rotating indexing table, where the use of a slip ring has proven to be more robust.

Are wireless solutions part of Industry 4.0?

Wireless solutions play a significant role in Industry 4.0, contributing to improved adaptability, resource efficiency and integration of supply and demand processes between factories. When deciding whether a wireless solution is part of Industry 4.0, factors to consider are interoperability of products from different suppliers, transparency and easy connection of network participants. Another possibility is to check whether the device can move diagnosis and big data from the shop floor level to the cloud via standardised protocols like MQTT and OPC UA or AMQP.

IO-Link for wireless technology

Wireless solutions must not only conform to a specific company’s IO-Link standards but also international standards. IO-Link for wireless technology defines wireless communication between sensors and controllers. It can be integrated into a range of products to avoid cabling. When incorporating wireless technology, it is vital to adhere to a standard that does not lock you in and prevent communication between brands, types and models.

Dangers of using 2,4 GHz

The 2,4 GHz band found in most wireless devices provides coverage at an extended range. Many WiFi-enabled technologies in the automation industry, as well as in household devices, use the 2,4 GHz band. These include microwaves, Bluetooth, garage door openers and many others. Due to the large bandwidth consumed by WiFi devices nowadays, as little as three Wi-Fi hotspots in an area can completely consume the 2,4 GHz band. This is a problem because when multiple devices attempt to use the band at the same time overcrowding occurs, resulting in system faults and downtime.

Frequency blacklisting and adaptive frequency hopping

With more wireless products becoming available, existing frequency channels are becoming more congested. All the wireless devices Festo uses operate within frequencies that have been set aside for free use and are called ISM bands. These are heavily congested, especially the 2,4 GHz one. Devices fight for channels to communicate over. Binnekade adds that most devices use a shotgun approach and transmit on randomly selected channels. If the transmission does not get through, they try again and again, which causes more delays and congestion.

This phenomenon is known as noise or interference. This is where frequency blacklisting and adaptive frequency hopping come in. A device must have the intelligence to check which frequencies are being used and select available channels in every transmission cycle. The lack of these features can heavily impact the performance and stability of a machine or plant.

In the automation industry, reliable and effective solutions are required to keep production moving. However, it is of utmost importance to identify your machine requirements and do the research to make an informed decision. With wireless solutions, always consider how interference will affect the process. Besides wireless technologies, you can also explore digital solutions such as the Festo Motion Terminal VTEM, which solves real industry challenges.

“These are some of the critical points that you need to be aware of before making a purchase. It is also important to understand that when a device is deemed wireless, this is for data communication. The device will still require electrical power and if the device incorporates pneumatics, it will require an air supply line,” concludes Binnekade.


Credit(s)



Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

The top three reasons cylinders fail
Parker Hannifin - Sales Company South Africa Editor's Choice
Cylinder operation requires precise fluid pressure on both sides of the piston. If a seal breaks down and allows fluid to leak from one side of the piston to the other or out of the cylinder altogether, ...

Read more...
Rugged, reliable electro-hydraulics
Axiom Hydraulics Editor's Choice
From simple switching valves to sophisticated closed-loop control, Sun’s line of E-H products powers your most demanding applications.

Read more...
What you should know about air preparation
Editor's Choice
Compressed air quality has three potential problem areas to consider: particles, water and oil.    • Dust and other airborne particles: The compressed air leaving the compressor room, which has already ...

Read more...
Superconductivity for aircraft
Editor's Choice Other technologies
In 1911, Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes found himself preoccupied with one question: what happens to the electrical conductivity of pure metals at very low temperatures? During an experiment, ...

Read more...
Yaskawa steps into the future
Editor's Choice Robotics & Mechatronics
Crackett says that Yaskawa Southern Africa has installed more than 2500 Motoman robots. The company’s main target market is automotive, having cut its teeth here when Terry Rosenberg first started up ...

Read more...
Reliable preconfigured fail-safe circuit from Festo
Festo South Africa Other technologies
The preconfigured Festo fail-safe circuit in the ready-to-install control cabinet is a safe and low-cost alternative when it comes to fail-safe technology. It replaces a single-acting actuator and guarantees ...

Read more...
Cool move for rotor hubs
Editor's Choice Electrical switching & drive systems & components
At the company’s new Mechatronic Competence centre, machine houses and rotor hubs are produced for the entire Enercon range of products. After painting, the large volume cast bodies of the rotor ...

Read more...
Festo solenoid valves for everyday tasks
Festo South Africa Electrical switching & drive systems & components
In the automation industry, machine users are continually confronted with new challenges. The only way to achieve lasting success is by selecting the perfect components. Festo offers over 2200 Core Product ...

Read more...
How to embrace the benefits of smart pneumatics
Emerson Automation Solutions Editor's Choice Pneumatic systems & components
Understand how this challenge creates opportunities It is important to consider how insights from data can help end-users react to real-time events or even predict the future. For example, the Emerson ...

Read more...
PC-based control runs the stage machinery for Rigoletto
Beckhoff Automation Editor's Choice Electrical switching & drive systems & components
In the production, the court jester Rigoletto becomes a clown. Only the head, encircled by a wide collar, and the hands of the gigantic clown protrude from the lake. Eventually the clown becomes the victim ...

Read more...