The world of wireless has become a more secure, reliable, viable option for industrial applications in recent years. Plant operations can add capabilities to applications that were not previously possible, and can streamline processes for manufacturing and packaging plants which strive for high-volume, high-quality output.
Wireless can be used to improve plant efficiency in continuous process automation applications that require change-over of equipment for new products. Change-over times can take hours if the equipment is wired together, impeding productivity, whereas it can take mere minutes with a wireless network.
Andritz, Inc. uses ProSoft Technology 802.11 Industrial Hotspots with GPS units in a custom anti-collision system for their multi-million dollar cranes. Wireless not only modernized their crane applications by replacing festooning cables and slip rings which had performance issues, but improved safety of the crane operators and equipment. The new wireless network is reliable, provides real-time data transfer between the cranes and the operators, and allows for remote troubleshooting, programming, data acquisition, and diagnostics at the ground station.
Wireless can be used to replace wired networks which are subject to frequent degradation. For example, two transfer presses at Gestamp in McCalla, Alabama are used produce metal car components. Their hardwired network suffered frequent cable degradation, each occurrence costing $14,500 in downtime, plus the value of approximately 3600 parts not produced during that time. They considered going wireless but were concerned about line-of-sight. Gestamp was able to fit ProSoft Technology’s frequency hopping Ethernet radios directly to an Ethernet card in their existing Rockwell Automation ControlLogix PACs to successfully handle the I/O wirelessly.
There are now wireless options for industrial applications with critical, time-sensitive processes, or harsh environments that offer benefits beyond simple cost of equipment and replacement of wire. Savings can now be attributed to greater gains in process optimization, less downtime and demands on engineering.