Archive for category Wireless

Two different approaches to industrial networking

This morning, I came across two articles I thought were worth sharing. They’re both about industrial networks, but from two entirely different angles.

The first article is written by a network engineer at a manufacturing plant. The gist of it is something we at Lesman talk about often with our customers: Buy what you need. In this case, he’s talking about Ethernet switches for light manufacturing and assembly operations, where a field-hardened industrial ethernet switch may be overkill (and out of your budget).

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Industrial Wireless 101: Why do we need three frequency bands?

Regardless of what information you need to send, or where you need to send it, if your data is going “over the air”, you’ll need to choose a frequency in one of three ranges that do not compete with the FCC licensed bands for radio transmissions.

These three ISM (industrial, scientific, medical) bands are 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5 GHz. They’ve often been described as the industrial equivalent to Citizens’ Band radios, specified so they don’t interfere with broadcast radio signals.

History with technology would lead you to believe that the more Hertz you have, the better your radios will perform. But what you need to understand is that there’s a tradeoff. Each band has its strengths and weaknesses, and there’s a best use for each.

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Using a wireless radio battery to power a pressure transmitter

In an ideal world, every place you need to install a transmitter would have easy access to electrical power. But we don’t live in the ideal world, and there are locations where power isn’t readily available, and getting electrical power to those areas can be quite costly.

This was the situation at a local plant, in their flammable fuel storage facility. The site is required to keep a record of the line pressure that supplies water in the event of a fire.

The Problem

The water pipe is located 6 to 7 feet (2 meters) below grade, and the engineers planned to build a vault where they could install and maintain the necessary submersible pressure transmitter.

The planned location is more than 500 yards from any available power source. The signal coming from the pressure transmitter would have to run that distance plus an additional 200 yards to reach the control room.

Not surprising, the trenching cost for an electrical installation was quoted at a five-figure minimum price.

Finding a solution

The project engineer started considering a wireless solution, and then asked, “Can a battery-powered industrial radio also power a two-wire loop-powered pressure transmitter?”

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How do I get an alarm from our station that’s 17 miles from here?

The situation: Plant operators needed notification and a log of events or alarms happening at a remote pump station, 17 miles away. 

The options:  First, the engineers considered installing dedicated leased phone lines with modems. But when one engineer asked if anybody really remembered or understood the AT codes the modems used (back in the early Internet days), and noone did, they dropped that option. Next, they investigated license-free wireless. That proved impractical: There were hills and valleys between the plant and remote station (no line of sight), and they’d have to lease property between the two locations and install repeater towers at an additional expense.

So, how did they get the data across 17 miles without leasing land or resurrecting obsolete technology? The answer was much simpler and less expensive than they anticipated. Read the rest of this entry »

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