Reading this article: "The Festo sensor/actuator level now features one of the fastest and most reliable short-range wireless communications systems available. WISA-COM, the wireless communications standard from ABB, will in future facilitate wear-free signal transmission to I/O modules. This will increase machine availability and reduce engineering and assembly costs."

I was involved with motion networks a few years ago (going from ±10V to 100BaseT) and although wiring reductions was key - was skeptical of critical IO or motion going wireless. Figured it was a lot of perception as well for machine troubleshooting and electrical interference was huge concern.

Now- wonder how tangible and how fast the uptake will be...

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Comment by Andrew Dreasler on December 18, 2008 at 6:52am
I'm also a bit skeptical about wireless sensors. I've seen wireless fail quite often (When UPS updated their hub scanning hardware, the loaders were moved away from the old 'arm computer and wired scanning ring' setup to the newer 'hip computer and Bluetooth wireless scanning ring' setup. The new scanners had trouble maintaining a communication link between computer and ring over a mere 1 yard distance with nothing in the way but one human body. Interference should not have been a factor because with one loader per trailer, the nearest competing Bluetooth device was 10-20 feet away, with two metallic walls blocking signals.

Cable wear can easily be minimized by designing the layout to minimize the cable flexing, and with quick-disconnect connections at each end, cables can be replaces with minimal downtime, if the machine is mission-critical the replacement cable could be secured next to the bad cable at the time of the 'quick-fix,' and the complete cable-swap done during the next scheduled downtime.

I believe that modularity and interchangeability are key to good Plant Engineering. When systems are standardized, and the maintenance staff rained to be aware of the standards, even a catastrophic failure of a machine isn't something to worry about. The bad components are simply swapped out with the spares and the system is back online, and the faulty parts are repaired and placed onto the spares shelf or replaced with new components at leisure.

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