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Instrumentation • Electronics

tested and ready-to-install valves. An industrial RFID (radio- frequency identification) system with 17 reading stations provides information exchange between material flow and the controller. A large number of standard sensors such as diffuse photoelectric, inductive proximity switches and cylinder switches are also used, whose signals are carried to the controller in as simple a manner as possible. On the actuator side, a larger number of parallel wired pneumatic valve terminals are connected.

Proprietary standards

Instead of complying to open standards or those agreed by consortia, some sensor manufacturers have opted to develop their own network systems. Solartron Metrology, which makes precision dimensional measurement and position measurement transducers, has developed the Orbit and, more recently, the Orbit3 network system that combines RS-485 communications and ‘plug and go’ functionality (Fig. 2). Any Orbit3-compatible transducer, probe, encoder, I/O module or analogue input module can be used in any location and each is automatically given a unique address.

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Fig. 2. Solartron Metrology’s Orbit3 system combines RS-485 communications with ‘plug and go’ functionality.

One of Solartron’s customers, oven manufacturer Neff, recently wanted to reduce the thickness of the steel sheet used in oven cases. To do this - without sacrificing product quality or manufacturing yield - some of the manufacturing processes had to be more tightly monitored and controlled. To this end, a metrology system was conceived to gauge the exterior and interior case dimensions, flatness and perpendicularity, as well as the location and orientation of mounting surfaces and points. In all, 36 measurement points were required. Furthermore, to prevent the thinner steel from deforming, the measuring system had to exert a contact force of less than 0.7 N on the sheet metal. Given the high volume of parts and measurement points,

co-ordinate-measuring machines (CMMs) were deemed too slow for this application. Data handling and computation were key elements to the control of manufactured parts. Solartron’s transducers and Orbit network were compared against those from an alternative supplier, but Neff found that the quality and reliability of Solartron’s Feathertouch probes was superior. l

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