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  • Build vs. Buy Calculator

    The Graphical System Design Calculator is an online tool that helps you understand the financial benefits and trade-offs between using off-the-shelf products (BUY) and traditional custom design tools (BUILD).

    National Instruments
  • Expanding Allen-Bradley PLC Systems With Intelligent Remote I/O

    Allen-Bradley ControlLogix, CompactLogix, and similar control systems have become a corporate standard for many companies. As a control engineer, you are familiar with these systems and their architecture. You appreciate their strengths and understand how to best utilize them. And you're well aware that every expansion of the PLC system, whether into new physical space or into new functionality, by necessity puts a strain on system performance.

    This PLC expansion dilemma you face with each system change is more and more frequently tied to new demands on automation functionality. Today's more sophisticated automation applications often require more than the traditional scan inputs-solve logic-write to outputs approach. Incorporating connections to third-party devices, such as RFID and barcode readers, and involving more complex logic such as PID (proportional-integral-derivative) control loops, these applications place heavy, nontraditional demands on PLCs.

    Of course any expansion of a PLC system means the addition of I/O for new sensors and actuators. The PLC must scan the new I/O and run logic for it, which impacts processing power. But in comparison to existing I/O, the new sensors and actuators may demand proportionally more processing power because they are simply a different type of I/O.

    Analog is a good example. Applications using many analog inputs and outputs require temperature conversion, thermocouple linearization, analog scaling and Engineering Unit conversion. All these new functional demands place nontraditional burdens on the central controller.

    As functional demands for industrial automation systems increase even while budgets shrink, you may be wondering if there are other ways to achieve system expansion.

  • Machine Condition Monitoring Technical Library

    Trends in the data provide health information about the machine and help detect machine faults early, which prevent unexpected failure and costly repair. Learn more in this technical library.

    National Instruments
  • Evolution in Motion

    The Machine Automation Controller (MAC) Meets Market Needs More Effectively than Previous Controller Solutions

    To paraphrase Albert Einstein, the opportunity for development is directly related to the potential for value. This is particularly relevant to technological development, where market forces establish need and value, and then science and engineering are applied to meet them.

    Case in point: Look at the use of machine control hardware for automation. During the past 50 years there has been a powerful and dramatic development of controllers: Distributed Control Systems (DCS), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), Industrial PCs (IPC), and Programmable Automation Controllers (PAC).

    The explosion of industrial applications continues to challenge the functionality of those controllers, fostering further innovation. The need to combine the capabilities of traditional process/discrete industrial control has led to adaptations or extensions of existing technology. The efforts to evolve resulted in underperforming machine automation due to limitations in architecture and a lack of cross-discipline expertise.

    Today we see the emergence of a new controller type: a Machine Automation Controller (MAC). A MAC resolves the integration of control technologies without sacrificing performance. Only after painstaking development from the ground up--specifically for high-speed, multi-axis motion control, vision, and logic--has the MAC emerged. Let's revisit how this point was reached.

  • Cloud-Based SCADA Systems: The Benefits and Risks

    Is Moving Your SCADA System to the Cloud Right For Your Company?

    Cloud computing is a hot topic. As people become increasingly reliant on accessing important information through the Internet, the idea of storing or displaying vital real-time data in the cloud has become more commonplace. With tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Google pushing forward the cloud computing concept, it seems to be more than just a passing trend.

    Recently the focus of cloud computing has started to shift from consumer-based applications to enterprise management systems. With the promise of less overhead, lower prices, quick installation, and easy scalability, cloud computing appears to be a very attractive option for many companies.

    Common questions surround this new technology: What is the cloud? What kind of information should be stored there? What are the benefits and risks involved? Is moving toward cloud computing right for your company?

    Cloud computing is not a fix-all solution. It has strengths and weaknesses, and understanding them is key to making a decision about whether it's right for your company. We'll explore the major benefits and risks involved, and give you a set of factors to consider when choosing what information to put on the cloud.

    Inductive Automation
  • Debunking "Conventional Wisdom" in Actuator Selection and Deployment

    Understanding all the costs in pneumatic and electric actuators -- and recognizing their very different capabilities -- can save tens of thousands of dollars.

    It's in the news. Everyone is talking about it. Pneumaitc or electric? Are you considering replacing a compressor and 200 pneumatic cylinders with electric actuators to save compressor costs? Thinking about building a new machine with pneumatics because 30 electric actuators cost a whopping $34,000?

    You might be making the wrong decision and as a result wasting tens of thousands of dollars a year. This article provides an analysis of cost components for both estimations. Cost calculations are provided in the appendix for readers who wish to evaluate costs for their machines or facilities.

    Bob Kral, Bimba Manufacturing Company
  • How to Reduce Downtime and Raise OEE

    Learn what 5 questions you should be asking and how to get the answers to critical issues

    In today's economy the manufacturing industry is more competitive now than ever. You have to get every advantage you can to keep up with the competition. If you are already the leader amongst your competition, you must continually improve to stay ahead of the pack.

    To Stay Ahead, You Need to Measure OEE.
    One crucial area that every plant can improve on is efficiency, and one of the best measures of efficiency is OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). If you don't know your OEE, then you don't truly know how efficient you are. More importantly, you don't know how efficient you could be.

    There is a lot that goes on at a manufacturing plant every day. Employees come in and out and work on the plant floor, machines need to be maintained, and production quotas need to be met. With so much happening all the time, it can be hard to see how things are all working together.

    More specifically, it can be very difficult to determine if everything is working together efficiently, and what can be improved to increase the plant's overall productivity.

    There is so much data to consider when trying to determine a plant's efficiency; it can be a daunting task. This is where OEE can help.

    OEE, the overall equipment effectiveness, is a measure of the efficiency and effectiveness of the manufacturing processes (i.e. machines, cells, assembly lines, processes, etc.). OEE is a simple and powerful metric for tracking and improving a plant's efficiency.

    Inductive Automation
  • Taking the Guesswork Out of Pneumatic Control

    Here's a step-by-step approach to efficiently designing systems that work right the first time.

    Designers have several options when constructing pneumatic-control systems. But modular air-logic systems are often a good bet when a compact, economical unit is a must. They typically consist of a series of valves mounted onto standard manifold subplates. Such systems speed assembly and piping, and all interconnections between valves and controls in the circuit are machined into the manifold subplate. This cuts design and installation time, reduces the number of fittings, and eliminates piping and the routing errors that often go with it.

    For instance, compared with discrete air-valve control systems, a modular system features:
    - Lower component costs.
    - Simple plumbing and troubleshooting.
    - Lower air consumption.
    - No air locks.
    - A smaller total package.

    Compared with electrical-relay control, a modular system offers:
    - An explosionproof system with no danger of burnouts.
    - Lower power consumption.
    - Lower costs by eliminating solenoids and relays.
    - A single air supply.
    - No heat buildup.

    Only a few manufacturers offer modular, manifold-mounted pneumatic control systems. For instance, Clippard's Pneumatic Programmable Controller is a sequential controller that provides step-by-step system operation. It consists of a clear acrylic manifold for mounting sequence valves and other such components in a compact, efficient package.

  • Five Myths of Cloud Computing

    In recent years, cloud computing has been as visible as any topic in IT. Its front-page news status has been accelerated by Amazon, Salesforce.com, Yahoo, and Microsoft, among other firms aggressively vying for leadership in providing cloud infrastructure or services. However, this race for mindshare has obscured cloud computing facts. Many admit to the haze surrounding cloud computing.

    This white paper separates fact from fiction, reality from myth, and, in doing so, will aide senior IT executives as they make decisions around cloud computing. While dispelling cloud computing myths, we will answer tough questions: How hard is it to adopt a private or hybrid cloud? How difficult is it to maintain and secure a cloud? How will the cloud transform my business? Do I have the right skill sets in place? What are some of my cost considerations? HP is committing extensive resources to helping customers with all of their questions and concerns around cloud computing.

    So, where did cloud come from?

  • Is Cloud Computing Right for You?

    Drawing on the manufacturing-specific responses from a broad IDC survey, this report details the trends surrounding cloud computing in the industry. The report looks at adoption rates, important characteristics, and business benefits and how those factors will impact manufacturing IT budgets in the next two years.

    In our 2011 predictions for manufacturing, we discussed the growing business need for dealing with complexity. We noted that survey work indicated that CEOs wanted to "capitalize on" complexity rather than simply reduce it. This wording provided a nuanced but important distinction between unnecessary complication or waste that must be eliminated and the unavoidable complexity of sophisticated products produced in elongated supply networks and sold into global markets. The impact of complexity was further magnified by the volatility of macroeconomic conditions, raw material costs, and consumer confidence.

    Capitalizing on complexity in a volatile context requires sufficient information and adept analysis - normally good news for IT investment. However, manufacturing IT organizations established an excellent track record of improving IT productivity in the decade from 2000 to 2009, when IT spending as a percentage of revenue improved some 25%. So the need for new IT capabilities in the complex context is couched in an expectation that productivity improvements will continue. And cloud computing is the most important productivity platform for the next decade.

    IDC Manufacturing
  • Future Safety Design

    ISO 13849-1 is the most important standard for regulating the basic principles and performance required of a safety control systems for machines and devices. This standard was greatly revised in November 2006. This revision is expected to cause major changes in the fundamentals of safety system design. This document was prepared to help explain the content of the revision.

    In considering safety protection in the measures to reduce machine risks, it has long been common practice to evaluate levels of risk reduction and the performance of a safety related control system in terms of Categories as specified in the international standard ISO13849-1: 199 (based on the European standard EN954-1).

    A Category is a classification of the architecture (structure) of a safety related control system. The concept was originally based on established technologies using electromechanical components such as switched and relays and simple electrical components. The behavior of these control systems in the event of a component failure can be determined to a high level of certainty because the failure modes of these components can be completely defined.

  • Understanding the Electrical Performance of Category Cables

    In today's electronic world, the following statement could accurately summarize the rules for data transmission: More data, going longer distances, at a faster rate.

    This rule makes perfect sense when you consider the technology of today that includes products, ranging from high definition televisions to cell phones, on which you can perform tasks that include watching movies or browsing the internet. At some point in the data transmission system that enables these and other technology driven products to function properly, we will find wire and cable.

    In a majority of these cable applications, Category cable will be the product of choice.

    For many users of Ethernet products, terms like Category Cable, NEXT, Insertion Loss, and Return Loss are terms that appear to require an electrical engineering degree in order to understand. While an electrical engineering background would add the ability to comprehend these terms with great depth, this paper is written to help the non-technical user better understand the performance characteristics that drive their Ethernet cable products.

    A couple of terms that are often used interchangeably are Ethernet cable and Category cable. In actuality, the term Ethernet and Category are quite different. Generally, Ethernet refers to a LAN (Local Area Network) method of accessing data. Defined by the IEEE 802.3 standard, Ethernet technology is used to connect computers to each other, to a network, or to a modem for Internet access, for example. Many electronic products have Ethernet capabilities built in, such any newer model computers or today's high definition televisions. Category cable refers to the cable used in Ethernet based systems. Some popular types of Category cable include Category 5, Category 5e, and most recently, Category 6. Category cables are usually constructed using four pairs. As with many products of this type, their electrical and data carrying performance is outlined by industry standards, such as TIA/EIA-568-B in the case of Category 5 cable.

    Some of the most common high-level terms around the performance measurements of Category cables include EMI, cross talk, and alien cross talk.

    Mike Levesque, Mike Karg & Himmeler Themistocle, C&M Corportation
  • Wind Energy Technical Library

    Learn about these essential technologies for test, control and monitoring and how National Instruments products are driving innovation in the wind energy industry in this white paper.

    National Instruments
  • The Seven Types of Power Problems

    Most Common Types of Power Disturbances, What Can Cause Them, How They Can Affect Your Critical Equipment and More

    Joseph Seymour, Schneider Electric
  • Five Critical Factors for Selecting Fieldbus Valve Manifolds

    In today's highly automated machines, fieldbus valve manifolds are replacing conventional hardwired solutions. They more easily perform vital functions by integrating communication interfaces to pneumatic valve manifolds with input/output (I/O) capabilities. This allows programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to more efficiently turn valves on and off and to channel I/O data from sensors, lights, relays, individual valves, or other I/O devices via various industrial networks. The resulting integrated control packages can also be optimized to allow diagnostic benefits not previously available.

    Fieldbus valve manifolds from manufacturers such as Festo, SMC, and Numatics find wide utility in packaging, automotive/tire, and material handling applications, as well as in the pharmaceutical, chemical, water, and wastewater industries. They are specified for purchase by controls engineers at original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who design and develop industrial automation solutions - as well as by end users in relevant industries.

    This paper presents controls engineers, specifiers, and buyers with new insights into five crucial factors they must consider before selecting pneumatic fieldbus valve manifolds - commissioning, distribution, modularity, diagnostics, and recovery - while also outlining some shortcomings of conventional approaches. Finally, it highlights new designs that offer substantial improvements in the application, performance, and maintenance of these valve manifolds from the end users’ and OEMs' points of view.

    Numatics Inc., Enrico De Carolis
  • Drive-Based Integrity Safety

    While safety functions have been integrated into drives packages for some years now, the current trends are very exciting, from many angles. Today, a full complement of safety functions can be implemented at the front-end of a system design on all types of production machines, including printing, packaging, converting, materials handling and other equipment used throughout American industry. This can be accomplished in full compliance with all the current regulations for machines used worldwide.

    Furthermore, machine designers can look to a drive-based safety integrated protocol that has greater flexibility than ever before, both in terms of its mechanical footprint and component savings, owing to the various ancillary devices such as external contactors and redundant electromechanical safety devices, with all their inherent wiring, cabinet space and related cost.

    This paper looks ahead to the ways today's advanced drive designs can be used to better implement the mandated safety functions on many types of production machines, including printing, packaging, converting, materials handling and others. Without the need for redundant or hard-wired back-up devices, or for safety functions being incorporated into a PLC or other motion controller, machine designers and end-users alike can benefit from fast, accurate and fully compliant safety features integrated directly into the machine's drives package. The result is more immediate detection and response, plus space-savings, wiring reduction, external component cost elimination and overall improved machine effectiveness in the critical areas of man and machine protection. Some emerging trends in drive-based integrated safety are detailed as well.

    John Krasnokutsky, Siemens
  • 1 Gigabit Industrial Ethernet Field Network Delivers Determinism and Accommodates 10/100/1000 Mb TCP/IP Field Devices

    The continuing drive to improve productivity will encourage more automation networking. The driving factors behind this expected growth include lean working, increased traceability legislation, product lifecycle management production (PLM), and improvements in manufacturing cycle times. This requires connecting the factory floor to the corporate offices where enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems make information available backwards into the supply chain, as well as forward to customers. Simply put, everyone wants to see what's happening. As a result, networks and the information they handle are becoming as important as the industrial control functions they manage.

    This white paper describes the open CC-Link IE Field network, an Industrial Ethernet technology, which operates at 1 Gigabit/sec. This data rate is 10 times faster than other Industrial Ethernet technologies in order to provide highly responsive control system communications, while at the same time allowing connection to field devices (RFID readers, vision systems, etc.) that have TCP/IP Ethernet ports communicating at slower 10Mb or 100Mb data rates.

  • Demystifying Ball Spline Specs

    Place a recirculating-ball bushing on a shaft and what do you get? Frictionless movement of the shaft.

    But, create grooves along the axial length of the shaft that correspond to the radius of the bushing's ball elements and you've got frictionless linear movement coupled with two important characteristics - those being anti-rotation torque transfer and higher load capabilities.

    Now...that's a ball spline. It combines a linear bushing (nut) that can now handle greater moment loads and, a shaft, which, unlike a rail, can be rotated when needed. It is perfect for high-speed motion and high-speed rotation.

    There is the right ball spline for an endless number of automated operations: Robotics, inspection, spinning, loading, coating, wire winding, grinding, indexing, die setting, transferring, conveyance, molding, drafting, measuring, optical measuring, welding, riveting, printing, book-binding, packaging, filling, pressing and more.

    So why isn't identifying the right ball spline for an application straightforward and easy? Demystify the semantic differences in the literature and it will, at least, be easier. We'll do this by thinking of ball splines in terms of how their various configurations affect their functions and then compare their functionality to application requirements.

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