Industrial Wireless Communication

In May, at SPS IPC Drives Italia in Parma, SMC premiered the EX600 Wireless system, which makes use of a platform with “Master & Slave” logic, dedicated to the management of digital, analog and pneumatic signals. At the trade show the multinational company exhibited two demo versions of the system.

by Silvia Crespi

At SPS IPC Drives Italia in Parma, SMC premiered the EX600 Wireless system, dedicated to the management of digital, analog ad pneumatic signals.
There are many industrial applications which require a connection between different automation devices: the use of remote peripherals interconnected by means of the various industrial networks represents the most efficient solution (Profinet, Ethernet-IP, Ether-CAT, Powerlink, CC Link IE…).
This type of solution, especially if it envisages the installation of peripherals on mobile equipment (robots, rotating tables and so on), may represent a highly critical issue on account of the frequent disconnections and/or breakages of cables connecting the different working units. This is a frequent case, as shown by the post-sales service activities which lead to evident repercussions both in production and on the management of machine downtimes. Unfortunately, the reliability of entire automation platforms may even be subject to the mere interruption of a cable because it is subject, for instance, to an unwanted mechanical stress. Apart from this, it is also necessary to consider the weight of general cabling costs, with relative connection accessories (rotating couplings with sliding contacts, specific connectors for fieldbus applications) as well as their installation with the following test and maintenance phases.

The platform provides extreme flexibility and scalability
In order to overcome these issues, SMC offers theEX600 Wireless solution. This system offers flexibility and scalability thanks to the “Master & Slave” logic. Each EX600 Master unit may be connected in Wireless mode with up to 127 EX600 Slave units. The connection among EX600 Master & EX600 Slave units is Wireless and uses the frequency range reserved for industrial communications (2.4 GHz – ISM; 79 channel spectrum) using an innovative fine-tuning system of the frequency itself with update times of 5 ms. (FHSS: Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum). Thanks to these properties, EX600 Wireless communication turns out to be stable and reliable in any industrial context, even where particular sources of disturbance and interference, such as welders, are present. Every EX600 Master unit can manage up to 1280 Inputs and 1280 Outputs with digital, analog and pneumatic combinations distributed among the different EX600 Wireless units integrated in the network. Thanks to the system’s scalability it is also possible for every EX600 Wireless unit – both Master and Slave – to manage the relevant signals using the Digital (connection: M8-M12-D Sub, Cage Clamp), the Analog Input-Output modules (selectable range: mA/V…) and the pneumatic sub-bases (Manifold Valves: New SY, SV, VQC). By means of the “Web-Server” function, the communication level between the various EX600 Wireless modules (channels, frequencies…) may be monitored, including the possibility of extracting the detailed “log-file” in Excel format. Besides, the EX600 Wireless system offers data encryption to ensure the security of plants and equipment where it is installed. The entire system offers an IP67 degree protection.

Two demos, one static, one dynamic, to illustrate the system
At the exhibition two demos of the Wireless EX600 system were on show. They were illustrated by Giuseppe Fruci, Technical Support Engineer as regards the serial system and electrical actuators department. “The first static demo – Fruci explained – shows the EX600 master system communicating with two slaves. The system offers the possibility of managing a manifold of electro-valves, among them, the new SY series and general purpose input/output modules, both digital and analog. Thanks to the system’s scalability, masters and slaves may be combined at will depending on the client’s application. The other, dynamic, demo shows a master system positioned in front of a manifold (slave) composed by digital inputs/outputs and electrovalves. This slave receives signals to manage the entire automation: four stemless electrical actuators regulated by digital I/O and pneumatic grips. The master’s communication may occur within a ten-metre range, it can manage up to 127 slaves, 1280 inputs and 1280 outputs. The wireless protocol is SMC-proprietor and has already been tested by a client in Japan. The really distinctive feature, and at the same time the advantage offered by the system is the elimination of the communication cable between the master and the slaves. One of the most expensive cables of the machine or plant, namely the field bus cable, is therefore eliminated. This leads to a simplification of the machine’s wiring and therefore of the configuration of the electrical panel, which may be smaller in size”. The system finds its ideal application in robotised palletising systems, in rotating tables, in tool changing systems and so on. The possibility of mounting salves on robotised arms, for instance, eliminates the need for mobile network cables, eliminating the cascade connection between serial systems. It has been tested successfully in the automotive industry for heavy-duty applications, such as welding systems, but it is also appropriate, in general, for all applications where a reduction in cables is required. Finally, even the possibility of having diagnostics on board, with remote access via Internet browser, is another one of the system’s advantages”.