SMC Corporation has launched what it says is a first of its kind wireless valve bank in South Africa.
“Our customers expressed a need for a reliable communication system which could limit the number of communication cables between multiple valve banks and the PLC. A wireless communication module was the only logical answer,” the company said in a statement.
It has since developed such a system, the EX600-W, which it said had addressed all its customers’ safety and interference concerns.
The module has been registered with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to use the 2.4Ghz frequency band. “This band falls well out of the range of any frequency disturbances generated in an industrial environment. This negates possible interference from welding machinery, motor drivers or electro-magnetic heating systems. Furthermore, the base and remote modules use a unique frequency hopping algorithm to provide stable communication and prevent disruptions from other electronic devices.
“The wireless system is designed to work within a 10m radius. This, along with an encrypted protocol unique to SMC, maximises security and prevents unauthorised access,” the company said.
The EX600-W base unit makes use of Ethernet/IP or Profinet protocols and is capable of pairing with up to 127 remote modules. The base unit can handle up to 1280 Inputs and 1280 outputs. These can be distributed throughout the wireless network as required, giving users complete control of the layout of the system.
The EX600-W uses a high-speed connection system of min 250ms from start up till start of communication. According to the company, this improves production line efficiency at start up or during tooling change over.
“The EX600-W has been available internationally for several months. Many satisfied customers have already successfully updated their extensive hardwired communication systems to a wireless alternative.”
SMC said numerous automotive industry customers had tested the EX600-W in their BIW areas on tool changers and spot welders.
“They unanimously expressed the need to migrate away from the hard-wired communication cables. Cable inner cores would rub against each other and eventually short circuit during high speed operation of robot arms, resulting in costly cable replacement and production downtime.”
The EX600-W wireless module has now been tested for more than two years with zero failures reported.
“We collaborate with a developer of automated industrial solutions for automotive, aerospace, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. They have recently designed a compact three-station pick and place robot cell. After introduction to the new SMC EX600-W wireless module they endeavored to include it in future designs.”
Due to the elimination of field-based wiring, simple block diagrams were needed in place of complex wiring plans. “This simplified the design process, saving them time and money. The elimination of communication wiring enabled the controls engineer to greatly reduce the set up and integration time. Factors unique to EX600-W reduced the delivery time of the cell from six months to four weeks,” the company said.
The EX600-W has also proved its worth in the United Kingdom, where SMC UK and ATG partnered with MAKE UK to design and build a training facility for engineering apprentices.
According to the company, the 10m radius of the EX600-W offered the perfect range for wirelessly integrating all training stations in the cell with one base unit connected to the PLC via ethernet/IP.
“This has significantly reduced the cabling costs and installation time of the various stations. Furthermore, thanks to the built-in web function of the EX600-W, all stations can be remotely monitored by training staff and students alike, allowing them to troubleshoot and test functionality away from the physical training cell.
“This along with many other products in SMC’s IOT range further illustrates SMC’s Industry 4.0 capabilities.”