Intelligent Building Integrator

Intelligent Building Integrator

Communication Needs in Manufacturing Plants

Intelligent Building Integrator

For Intelligent Building Integrators, communications within their infrastructure is key. Manufacturing plants and operations are each unique in their own way. So, the communications opportunities that can equip new and existing buildings with more intelligent digital infrastructure are unique as well.

Communications technology is the underlying foundation for manufacturing and producing goods of all types. The availability of many communications mediums enables Intelligent Building designer to think about effectively monitoring and managing more of the environment than ever before. In addition, most of the production subsystems feature application programming interfaces (APIs) and software that enable them to be integrated into an end-to-end framework.

Planning for communications needs starts with the first layer of the foundation—the wired and wireless data.  

Wired Infrastructure

LAN—The Ethernet LAN is a well-known technology in service since the 1990s. The most common implementations feature a 1-Gbit/sec data rate over Category 5e or Category 6 twisted-pair cable plant.

Usage example: Industrial control computers for production equipment will have an Ethernet port that is connected to the plant network via an Ethernet switch supporting the local wiring zone.

Coaxial cables—In original machine-vision applications, older analog cameras networked to frame grabbers using 75-ohm coaxial cable. CoaXPress, a newer standard for digital machine vision that can leverage coaxial cable plant, has been developed to deliver up to 12.5 Gbits/sec.

Usage example: Machine vision on high-speed inspection lines.

Fiber-optic cabling—Fiber-optic cabling is used to achieve Ethernet LAN data rates of 10, 40, and 100 Gbits/sec. Future manufacturing systems will achieve these data rates on their own or a single 5G radio may aggregate many traffic flows to these data rates. Fiber-optic cable offers an additional benefit in manufacturing in that it is immune to electromagnetic interference (EMI). EMI is essentially electrical “noise” transmitted by copper wires that overwhelm the legitimate communications signals on the wires.

Usage example: Production machine with a 10-Gbit/sec interface. Because the machine already has its own onboard power, the fiber-optic cabling does not require additional copper wires. Again, armored fiber-optic cabling could be used instead of building out conduits.

Wireless infrastructure

WiFi—Emerging in the mid-2000s, this is the workhorse of enterprise wireless with the contemporary platform architecture of “thin access points” (AP) paired with a controller(s). Where tightly controlled and predictable bidirectional communications are required or where distance is an issue, most system architects prefer Ethernet cable to WiFi. The transport to connect the WiFi AP to the network is usually a type of Power over Ethernet (PoE) over a Category 5e or Category 6 cable.

Usage example: Remote access to computer numerical control (CNC) machines like a lathe or horizontal mill (that is close enough to an AP) where remote access is used to upload programs and monitor the health of the system.

LTE—With the launch of Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) on September 18, 2019, LTE became an accessible technology for organizations that do not own wireless spectrum (i.e. not a mobile operator). This is a breakthrough as it allows any company that requires the controlled and predictable access characteristics of LTE to deploy it to support the manufacturing process. LTE is desirable because it provides fair and predictable access to all attached devices, quality service controls to enable priority access for critical traffic, and a signal reach far beyond that of WiFi. The transport to connect an LTE radio to the network is usually a type of PoE over a Category 5e or Category 6 cable.

Usage example: Outdoor access to a solar-powered pressure sensor attached to petrochemical feeder line within a refinery—the sensor has priority access as a rise in pressure must trigger a set of time-sensitive actions across the refinery. The pressure sensor is needed for a refinery process efficiency improvement, but the cost of the conduit and power to the installation location drives up the costs in the business case. Adding CBRS as a shared medium to blanket the geographic area of the refinery in signal enables private LTE attached sensors, infrared cameras, mobile devices with control apps onboard, and other innovations to be deployed cost-effectively.

5G—The next generation of infrastructure for mobile operators around the globe, 5G has many additional technology features that will be attractive to the manufacturing community, including the following.

  • Wideband channels in higher frequency ranges that enable attached devices to run 20x faster than LTE.
  • Ultra-reliable low-latency computing (URLLC) enabled by edge computing in the network along with prioritization network controls. This URLLC function eliminates the round-trip delay from edge of network to cloud service that is beyond the time boundary allowed to the 5G attached device.
  • Network slicing is a method to allocate the network by chopping it into slices with four main controlling factors (core network to use, priority level, bandwidth required, maximum round-trip time).
  • Beam-forming antenna technology that, for every transmission to a mobile device, knows the location of the device and points the energy at that location while transmitting.
  • The transport to connect a 5G radio to the network will be composite fiber-optic.

Usage examples: As more production systems have machine vision and large KPI/metrics flows that feed a controlling AI engine, some activities will run on high-performance slices with wideband channels to continuously manage and adapt the production line. And, where 5G is supporting employee-attached mobile devices, the slice profile will be no more than today’s LTE.

The present and future communication needs for PoE lighting Manufacturers are bigger and faster. When LTE and 5G are involved, these platforms will require a companion logical implementation design developed and implemented with the customer. The key question is: Do engineers do this design work, or will this all be software-driven by a “wizard” front end?

For more information contact C&C Tech Group today!

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