Machine Control From a Sailboat

We Commissioned and Started Up the Entire Machine Remotely, and We Support the Machine Using Remote Access

By Dan Hebert, PE, Senior Technical Editor

Matt Youney of Youney Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineering designs machines and control systems for machine builders worldwide. He handled the HMI software and PLC integration for a Peak Automation semiconductor die handler with seven vision systems and 20+ motion control axes. The machine is installed in Switzerland.

"We commissioned and started up the entire machine remotely, and we support the machine using remote access," Youney says. Remote access lets Youney give immediate support to his customers. "I can do real-time troubleshooting to reduce their downtime, and make temporary emergency software workarounds for failed sensors or other hardware problems," he explains. "This higher level of customer service distinguishes us from other less-connected companies."

The types of remote access that Youney uses:

  1. Third-party OEM software on a PC, Mac, iPhone or iPad. This, however, only allows remote control of a PC at the customer's site, not the actual machine itself. Programming software has to be installed on the customer's PC, and this could allow customer access to the source code.
  2. VPN over cellular or Internet. This allows "native" access to industrial PCs using Codesys software on his computer. No software has to be installed on the customer's PC, and no customer has access to source code.
  3. Industrial PCs that have built-in web server visualization. This provides web browser access to machine settings and visualization from any location that has Internet access.
  4. GSM modems. Machines in remote locations can provide status via SMS text messaging and email to mobile phones. Youney uses this to provide machine status, fault reporting, and cycle-based maintenance for equipment.
  5. A custom app on an iPhone/iPad. This option can send/receive Modbus commands to provide a remote operator interface for a machine via wireless LAN or VPN.