Connectivity and interoperability
In principle Industry 4.0 is basically distributed intelligence communicated over a wired or wireless network, which must meet a variety of standards. Devices can be developed with reasonably priced microcontrollers and corresponding development tools are also available. Careful selection of controller sensors can also mean devices can be battery-operated due to their extremely low power.
Numerous sensors are used to detect measured variables like pressure, temperature, humidity, mechanical load and they must communicate reliably with the higher-ranking system with one partial battery charge over several years. However battery life also depends on the radio technology used, like for instance Bluetooth LE (Low Energy), WiFi etc.
Regardless of the radio technology used, interoperability on the RF level must be guaranteed, and the security of the connection must be considered. With a vertical segment, like RF, EBV Elektronik is optimally positioned to recommend the most suitable technology, independent of the manufacturer, to the developers: from the chip through software to the antenna.
More frequently the radio connection is employed within the control concept, as currently not every machine in the field needs an industry-enabled display terminal. And with increased frequency (industrial) tablets are used to connect with the relevant unit whenever needed, to visualize data and to enable inputs. In most cases the respective communication between machine and tablet takes place via WiFi or Bluetooth: an application running on the tablet functions as a classical operating terminal. At the same time the app also has access to the sensors measuring speed, position, acceleration etc. plus the camera sensor integrated in the tablet (or even smartphone). With skilful utilization of the available data, radio path and the control unit, innovative operating concepts can be realized. EBV Elektronik supports newcomers and existing customers to recognize and to exploit suitable potential within Industry 4.0.
Unified communication via TSN
EBV provides its customers virtually everything they need to enable them to develop the appropriate application. A good example is the communication on the production level in the factory floor through the future communication standard TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking).
On the lower field level the data is currently exchanged through proprietary buses like Profibus, Varan or through Ethernet variants like Ethernet/IP, Ethercat, Ethernet Powerlink, Safetynet-p or Profinet. One level above field level, on the control level, experts are trying to install a standard communication. As in the factories most machines work in parallel, often coming from different suppliers.
The proprietary buses have to communicate through complicated gateways to enable some sort of a real-time communication at least. Every single gateway represents an additional effort, which requires development resources as well as being costly, simultaneously introducing a time delay into the real-time communication, and increasing system complexity. Such gateways translate from, for example, Profinet to Ethercat, and Ethercat to Sercos etc.
Sercos III, the third generation of the Sercos interface series according to IEC/EN 61491, has been submitted to the IEC (International Electric/Electrotechnical Commission) for worldwide standardization, to become part of the international standards IEC 61800-7, IEC 61784 and eventually IEC 61158. Sercos is actively supported internationally by more than 50 control manufacturers and more than 30 drive manufacturers. The user organization Sercos International (SI) is responsible for further development of the standard.
Thus a unified communication standard like TSN is highly desirable to allow universal use of different components, especially since TSN facilitates seamless communication with the higher levels, in which the Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) work. Typical representatives of MES are units like PLCs (Programmable Logic Control) and SCADA systems (Supervision Control And Data Acquisition). TSN is currently being standardized by the IEEE and originally comes from the automotive industry.
Due to the complexity of TSN, EBV Elektronik cooperates with partners that can help to support this standard. In this EBV works in cooperation with these partners regarding components like processors and switches in connection with the BSPs and the necessary software for its customers. Thus EBV´s customers are in a position to develop TSN-compatible applications themselves with acceptable effort.
As opposed to the high volumes associated with the big automotive OEMs the production batches in the industrial segment are normally much smaller, so a cost-effective solution of a TSN development would not be possible without appropriate partnerships and tool kits for most companies.