Reducing Production Time With Smart Devices

Reducing Production Time With Smart Devices

By Amanda Eason, Senior Commercial Engineer, Rockwell Automation

In industry there's always a growing need to find ways to increase throughput without increasing production time. 

One way to achieve this is through the use of highly flexible and adaptable smart devices in control system architectures – devices that can very quickly execute simple control functions locally by making decisions independent of a central processor.

Imagine that you just captured the excitement of a fun weekend with your digital camera. In the past, you had to:

  • Download the photo files to your computer.
  • Send them over the internet to the photo center at a local drugstore.
  • Wait a few hours or days for the photo center to process them.
  • Drive to the store to pick them up and then return home with your printed photos.

If we started with digital image files, we could expect to wait upward of several days to get printed photos.

Looking at some of the current technology, smart printers are now available that allow consumers to simply connect cameras directly to them and adjust a few settings. Within minutes, these printers are able to process image files into high-quality photos.

We no longer have to endure the delays involved with sending files over the internet to be processed, or the time spent travelling to and from the photo center – or even worse, being unable to get photos because the store is closed.

With Allen-Bradley DeviceLogix technology from Rockwell Automation, users can avoid some of these same issues that can delay industrial processes and reduce throughput. They can reduce the delay in processing due to fully loaded central controllers, or avoid the shutdown of an entire process due to a central controller going offline.

For example, looking at a typical industrial application – such as a package going down a conveyor – a barcode scanner may serve as the input device.

The input data from the scanner is sent to a device (i.e. a soft starter) that controls the motor on a conveyor. The device will process that input and then transmit it over a communication network to a central programmable logic controller (PLC).

Figure 1: Motor controllers like the Allen-Bradley SMC-50 smart motor controller from Rockwell Automation can help users increase efficiency, reduce downtime and improve control.

After the data is received by the PLC, it will execute the logic. At this time, the PLC also scans the input data and updates the output data. If the PLC is fully loaded, then the amount of PLC time can increase significantly.

The updated output from the PLC is then transmitted back from the PLC to the device over the communication network. The device then performs some action, such as moving the conveyor 10 feet.

If this “device” is enabled by DeveiceLogix technology, all of the processing from input to output occurs locally. DeviceLogix is a platform-independent logic engine that is embedded into several Allen-Bradley devices, such as pushbutton stations, overload relays, motor starters and drives, making them all smart devices.

Figure 2: Users can leverage relays such as the Allen-Bradley E300 overload relay from Rockwell Automation to integrate communications in a modular design.

So what does it mean to have local control?

The on-board logic engine processes inputs, controls outputs and manages status information locally within a device, removing the need to go through a communication network and central controller. Because of this, the response time of a system can be improved by nearly 90 percent. These improved actuation times are particularly useful in applications where response time is critical.

If you’re looking for improved, control-system performance for time-critical applications, this can be achieved by using smart devices with DeviceLogix component technology.

Allen-Bradley and DeviceLogix are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.
 

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