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.

For more information contact Festo South Africa, 27 11 971 5585, marketing.za@festo.com, www.festo.co.za


Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

maxon drives are heading to the Red Planet
Third Quarter 2020, DNH Tradeserve , Editor's Choice
NASA is sending its fifth rover to Mars. Its main mission is to collect soil samples that will be analysed on Earth at a later time. The rover will also carry a helicopter that will perform the first flights on the Red Planet. maxon’s precision DC and BLDC motors will be used for numerous mission-critical tasks.

The new mobility: how sensors control the cobots of the future
Third Quarter 2020, SICK Automation Southern Africa , Editor's Choice
The ongoing development of small, powerful and flexibly positionable robots that can collaborate with humans is progressing in leaps and bounds. Sensors from SICK Automation are an important component. ...

Innovative mobile robots
Third Quarter 2020, Omron Electronics , Editor's Choice
Tailor-made mobile robotics revolutionise human-machine collaboration in the automotive industry.

From the editor's desk: The future is calling
Third Quarter 2020, Technews Publishing , Editor's Choice
The move to level 2 has brought a feeling of renewal. At last we can start thinking ahead and contemplating the future in this new digital world. SAFPA for one has taken the leap, and has engaged an association ...

Milling machines for the aircraft industry
Third Quarter 2020, Beckhoff Automation , Editor's Choice, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
In aircraft construction, exceptional component quality and precision are crucial. However sheet-metal aircraft parts are often very large, making machining and handling problematic. Harmuth CNC-Frästechnik ...

The role of hydraulics and pneumatics in smart mining technologies
Third Quarter 2020 , Editor's Choice, Pneumatic systems & components
A Bosch Rexroth South Africa perspective.

Rethinking pneumatic technology for the factories of the future
Third Quarter 2020, Parker Hannifin - Sales Company South Africa , Editor's Choice, Pneumatic systems & components
As manufacturing continues its rapid journey to digitalisation, one must ask, what will become of conventional technologies? Take pneumatics for example, which remains based on the age old principle of ...

The future of collaborative robots
Third Quarter 2020, Omron Electronics , Editor's Choice, Robotics & Mechatronics
Collaborative robots (cobots) that can work safely in the same environment as people have an important role in enabling flexible manufacturing and creating a competitive advantage for companies. A new ...

Moving into 2020 with Festo digitalised products
Second Quarter 2020, Festo South Africa , Editor's Choice
HoloLens, mobile phones, 3D printing and smart glasses – the gadgets that captured the public imagination in the blockbuster movie 'Back to the Future' over 30 years ago have now become a reality, all ...

Simplified access to HIV tests
Second Quarter 2020 , Editor's Choice
Roche has developed the Cobas Plasma Separation Card (PSC), a new technology that simplifies and improves the examination and monitoring of HIV patients, particularly in remote areas. For the first time, ...