Autumn has arrived! Pumpkins are picked, leaves turned to golden hues and giant combines lumber through the cornfields. So finish your pumpkin carving and wash that pumpkin seed slime off your fingers while I take you on a unique tour of some of my favorite products. Not some droning, guided bus tour but a journey of ideas and solutions.
Time is short, let’s dive in.
The single most ubiquitous language in the industrial world, Modbus, is an elegantly simple and open protocol. Over its 30 year history it’s been implemented on RS-232, RS-485 and Ethernet by thousands of manufacturers. That enormous success predicts that you will run into quirky Modbus connectivity issues. Mark did when he got called out to an oil rig that had two RS-232 transducers (both unfortunately hardcoded with an address of 1) that needed to be connected to a PLC via Modbus TCP. A quick call to B&B’s support team guided Mark. When you’ve got a Modbus conundrum, the Vlinx MESR family of Modbus gateways is the solution and now both of Mark’s transducers are connected into his Modbus/TCP control system with no conflicts.
A few weeks back I got a voice mail from plant engineer David, “Mike, I’ve got a problem” (my favorite kind of voice mail). David’s plant had a work cell with productivity problems due to high setup times. Previously masked by high production volumes, now that the plant is turning over products every few days it had constrained the entire manufacturing operation with its long setup cycle. David was tasked with automating the programming process which would allow both operators to focus on retooling instead of futzing with the two aging PLC’s. Simple enough, each controller had a serial port (one RS-232, the other RS-485). But the crux of the problem was that the work cell was out of reach of the plant's Ethernet and extensive wiring work wasn’t in the budget. David’s remedy was a two port Wi-Fi serial server and an industrial-grade outdoor access point. These products provide the connectivity needed for remote programming and monitoring of the PLC’s, eliminating thousands of dollars of wiring costs.
Jack is a crack SI in London. He was adding a SCADA system to several wells in a municipality that previously had nothing but local control (and a lean budget). While there were bundles of wires going between the pump house and the control panel, there was no Cat5 cable in this 1980’s installation. Jack was able to leave the trencher back at the shop using Ethernet Extenders. Using a pair of extenders and an extra pair of wires in the cable bundle he was able to get full Ethernet connectivity into the pump house.
Cian called me late in August. Cian’s company had installed three electronic traffic-information signs in Dublin and had seven more installations to go. But things weren’t going well. In only six weeks they had lost communications to the signs twice due to lightning storms and the contract was in jeopardy. After outage #2 they wisely brought in Cian to diagnose the problem. He called me to review the two grounding practices he found; the design as intended, and how it was actually wired. And he also called to tell me that he was less than pleased to find that it was not a B&B Electronics RS-485 converter that had been installed. Not only was the converter fried, but it didn’t even provide proper connections for grounding. Cian’s solution was a triple isolated RS-485 converter that not only provided the isolation badly needed to survive a lightning season, but also had the proper connectors and terminals to eliminate the bad wiring practices he found in the field (B&B is the serial market leader for good reason!).
Matthew was another systems integrator with a challenge. He’d been tasked with adding SCADA to 14 water towers in an isolated community. Now, anyone could solve this problem with some brute force and a lot of installation labor. But that’s not how you win business or turn a profit – something everyone is well in-tune with this year. Matthew found his solution at B&B, where he selected a Zlinx wireless I/O module to beam the information from his level and flow transducers down to the control panel, where it flowed easily into his software thanks to Zlinx native Modbus protocol.
I’ve run out of time before I’ve run out of favorites - so I’ll leave it to the powers of your own imagination to conjure the unique connectivity solutions available by exploring our web site at http://www.bb-europe.com. Be sure and check out the New Products section and the excellent white papers to inspire your own connectivity solution.
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