Smart machines now can be connected from contactors and sensors to a plant’s CMMS and to the engineers, technicians, operators and managers.
By Paul Studebaker, Contributing Writer
The vision of seamless connectivity and smooth integration throughout automation and information systems became even more real on the show floor at the 2018 Automation Fair® event, where Rockwell Automation demonstrated the latest technologies of The Connected Enterprise.
A tour of the Smart Devices and Systems exhibits began with a reminder of the process- and self-diagnostics being incorporated into smart devices. From motor controls to safety systems and sensors, field devices increasingly can deliver useful information.
Smart Field Devices Provide Smart Diagnostics
The newest smart sensors can be hard-wired or connected via IO-Link (it’s the same part number) and provide appropriate self-diagnostics, such as “lens is getting dirty” for an optical presence sensor.
Smart safety components come in hard-wired or GuardLink™ versions, which are supplied power and communicate via the same cable. Smart diagnostics in this application includes information such as which emergency stop switch has been pushed or which sensor has been tripped, and when. Along with speeding repairs, this information can be integrated with context to identify systemic problems with products, lines or operators.
Smart motor controls include contactors and soft starters that can communicate information about their condition and load so you can plan maintenance activities and prevent failures. For example, “an intelligent overload relay that detects an overtemperature problem can predict when it will trip and communicate it over Ethernet to a PLC and the operator,” says Bill Martin, program manager, networked components, Rockwell Automation. “This allows operators to reach a stopping point and prevent the consequences of a sudden, unplanned shutdown.”
Smart contactors and soft starters can record the reasons for their most recent trips, including times and dates, which technicians can access by connecting to a built-in Web server or by using an optional diagnostics station at the panel. If replaced, the new device can configure itself via the PLC. Firmware allows backward compatibility so current versions can directly replace old or obsolete devices.
Variable-frequency drives (VFDs) can do more. For example, the new PowerFlex® 755T family, which expands the PowerFlex series range to 10-6,000 hp (7.5-4,500 kW), brings harmonic mitigation, regeneration and common bus-system configurations to a wider range of high-demand applications.
More powerful adaptive control capabilities allow the drives to monitor machine characteristics that can change over time and automatically compensate for them. An adaptive tuning feature uses as many as four automatic tracking notch filters to block resonance and vibration that can impact quality, waste energy and wear out a machine prematurely.
Predictive maintenance features provide real-time information about a drive’s health. By monitoring operational characteristics such as temperature, voltage and current, the drive can calculate the remaining life of critical components and notify you, again you to prevent unplanned downtime.
Smart Machines Get What They Want
Another exhibit displayed the set of mixing, filling and packaging machines sometimes called the Rage Energy Drink bottling line, which demonstrated complete integration of IT and operation technology (OT) using the new FactoryTalk® Innovation Suite, built with PTC ThingWorx and augmented reality (AR) technologies.
The mixer bears a ThingWorx ThingMark, a QR code of sorts that when viewed using a tablet, phone or VR headset, brings up 3D representations of the relevant equipment with information useful for monitoring, predictive maintenance, diagnostics and operator and technician training. Apps are being created by machine builders, component manufacturers, and end users, according to Tiffany Pfremmer, market development manager, Integrated Architecture, Rockwell Automation. “The first one takes a while to develop, but then they get easier.”
An embedded FactoryTalk Analytics DataView screen shows that a conveyor component is worn, and its predicted remaining life is 4.7 days. With a push of a button, you can issue a work order through Innovation Suite to the company’s existing computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).
A nearby display also had Catbridge M900 winder/unwinder machine that was ready for its slicers to be set up. The machine uses safe-speed monitoring, a safety function Catbridge says can be used as an alternative to lockout/tagout in certain instances.
Safe-speed monitoring allows a worker to access a machine for “routine, repetitive and integral” tasks while the machine continues to run at a reduced speed. This can deliver big productivity gains when it’s used appropriately in place of the lockout/tagout process.
The M900’s Compact GuardLogix® 5380 controller has integrated safety and SIL2/PLd compliance; a Kinetix® 5700 servo drive with advanced safety functions that allow the machine to remain active while being monitored safely; SafeZone™ 3 safety laser scanners and a 450L-E GuardShield™ light curtain; and a Stratix® 5950 security appliance to help prevent potentially malicious firmware updates and program downloads.
It also uses FactoryTalk Analytics integrated with an AR app developed on the PTC Vuforia platform. A Microsoft HoloLens headset provides digital work instructions and guidance for operators and maintenance. The VR application on the HoloLens walks users step-by-step through the slicer setup, allowing even inexperienced personnel to perform this critical and nonroutine procedure.
Using FactoryTalk Analytics DataView and FactoryTalk Innovation Suite with PTC ThingWorx and VR technologies, smart machines now can be connected from contactors and sensors to a plant’s CMMS and to the engineers, technicians, operators and managers they serve.
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