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FEATURE SENSORS & SENSING SYSTEMS Braving the elements


GB Electronics UK (GBE) has selected Datakey RUGGEDrive UFX tokens and IP67-rated UR4410IM receptacles for


use in harsh environment data logging applications. Here we find out why…


E


nvironmental monitoring plays an essential role in modern life and, in many applications,


data is often acquired in extremely remote locations. As the monitoring systems are exposed to the elements, the same model of data logger could therefore experience the high temperatures and dusts of deserts, the heat and humidity of rain forests, and the low temperatures and high winds of mountain tops. At the forefront of environmental monitoring


equipment, Surrey-based Van Walt supplies a variety of technologies for use in environmental and groundwater monitoring. One of its leading products is the vanwaltDataHub, a solar-powered data-logger and hub for a wide variety of sensor types (see image, right). Vincent van Walt, director, said: “We developed


the vanwaltDataHub in response to our customers’ growing needs for a data collection


system that was sensor agnostic and which could communicate over different platforms depending on the site location and availability of a GSM signal. We wanted a system that was flexible, accessible and most importantly reliable.” Packaged in an IP-rated,


The vanwaltDataHub


rugged enclosure, the unit organises collected data for distribution or sharing through radio frequency, GPRS or satellite portals. Following the completion of a recent upgrade programme, the DataHub can also copy data to a removable memory device. This is beneficial as sometimes wireless data transfer is impossible.


LOOK BUT DON’T TOUCH: THE SICK SPEETEC SPEED AND LENGTH SENSOR


With the SPEETEC non-contact sensor for speed and length measurement, SICK has introduced a compact, affordable, eye-safe laser surface motion sensor, able to measure a wide range of continuous, web-fed or cut-to-length materials down to a resolution of 4µm. SPEETEC combines affordability with precision surface measurement for process control and quality inspection tasks, useful for industries as diverse as printing, textiles, tyre manufacture or building materials production. The Class 1 eye-safe infra-red laser eliminates the need for special guarding or safety measures required by many velocimeters. The SPEETEC uses the Laser Doppler principle to work at speeds between 0.1 and 10m/s to measure directly on the material surface with an accuracy of 0.1%,


and a repeatability of 0.05%. Typically, Return on Investment can be achieved in under 12 months. Darren Pratt, SICK’s UK product manager for motion control sensors said: “The SPEETEC’s non-


contact measurement principle means it can be used where a measuring wheel in contact with the substrate would never have produced completely reliable results. There’s no danger of damage to the material, important, for example for delicate, smooth or soft materials such as extrusions or textiles. There is no need for any marks or scales on the material itself. What’s more, unlike a measuring wheel which can wear over time due to abrasion with the material surface, the SPEETEC’s non-contact measurement function cannot be impaired in this way, so maintenance and downtime is reduced.” Product testing and field trials have already shown the SICK SPEETEC to be reliable even when


measuring materials with challenging, highly reflective, dark-black or uneven surfaces. SICK also expects to see it being installed to increase process speeds in applications where rotary encoders or measuring wheels would be prone to inaccuracy due to slippage of the material. The SPEETEC is easy to mount, rugged, compact, can be set up in minutes and does not require any


supplementary electronics to process the signal output. The Laser Doppler measurement is automatically converted onboard the sensor into TTL/HTL signals identical to those of an incremental encoder, so that they can be easily integrated into the machine control system. Pratt is offering 30-minute one-to-one presentations and online demonstrations.


SICK 22 NOVEMBER 2020 | DESIGN SOLUTIONS www.sick.co.uk


In addition, wireless connectivity draws extra power – which needs to be managed well on a battery- and solar-powered system. For this upgrade, Van Walt turned to


electronics design company, GBE. Renowned for its embedded systems design capabilities, contract equipment manufacturing (CEM) services and project management skills, the company is active in many sectors including automotive, medical and industrial electronics. Mark Bullen, managing director of GBE,


commented: “DataHubs often have to operate in harsh environment remote locations, so unit reliability is a high priority. It was therefore essential that the introduction of the removable memory devices feature did not compromise that reliability.” The use of a standard USB port


was immediately ruled out. Drives and receptacles are not generally available as rugged/ industrial versions nor do they offer sufficient security. However, it was recognised that the USB comms protocol was safe enough to use from an embedded systems perspective.


RELIABLE CONNECTIONS GBE turned to Nexus Industrial Memory, ATEK’s appointed


distributor in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Scandinavia, for its Datakey range of products. Matthew Wilson, GBE’s technical director, recalled: “As we mapped out the features for the new vanwaltDataHub, I knew that a bespoke ‘data key’ and a weather- and tamper-proof receptacle would be needed.” Based on GBE’s requirements, Nexus


recommended the Datakey RUGGEDrive UFX token and the IP67-rated UR4410IM receptacle (see image, above right). The token provides USB (NAND) flash drive functionality through a USB 2.0 hi-speed interface, and is of a solid over- moulded construction, making it impervious to liquids and virtually crush-proof. As for the UR4410IM receptacle, it has a standard 5-pin motherboard header and custom mounting features and details to provide enhanced water protection. The receptacle body has a 2-piece construction, comprising a field-proven frame/contact system on the inside and a tough outer shell that provides additional strength and environmental protection. The UR4410IM is mounted on the side of


the DataHub’s enclosure panel and, though IP67-rated, for extra protection the receptacle’s opening is beneath a rubber- backed plate.


AN INNOVATIVE SOLUTION The frequency with which data from the units can be retrieved via the Datakey device depends on the deployment, the environment, and sensor and data types. Wilson went on to explain that the new vanwaltDataHub was designed such that inserting a Datakey token into the unit’s


/ DESIGNSOLUTIONS


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