Omron Automation & Safety in the United States is investing in the egg-marking technology of Ten Media. This will see Omron providing Ten Media with production and purchasing services, automation hardware and technical support. ‘By securing Omron as a partner, we’ve fortified our bench and automation capabilities’, says Mitchell Chait, President of Ten Media. American
Over the past 20 years, Controlled Area Network (CAN) technology has become the basis for communication between electronically controlled devices in a wide range of equipment. It was originally developed for vehicle electronics, but it is now used in applications as diverse as trains, X-Ray scanners, escalators and coffee machines.
A CAN protocol is used to interpret the signals sent over the network, so that devices can understand what the data means. There are several open-standard CAN protocols, as well as proprietary protocols used by individual manufacturers: a good example are the protocols used by vehicle makers to protect the way braking, fuel delivery and other critical systems work.
User-defined CAN systems
Among the advantages of CAN technology is that it is robust, versatile and easy to use, so it’s ideal for applications such as packaging machines and mechanical handling equipment. It’s also possible for manufacturers to design their own CAN control systems, although this can cause problems. If there’s a need to upgrade a machine, replace obsolete parts or implement new technology, it may be necessary to redesign the entire control system.
PLCs are theoretically ideal for these installations, because they are easily re-configured and re-programmed. All that’s needed is a user-definable CAN module, such as Omron’s recently introduced CORT21, that can send and receive data over the CAN bus. The CORT21 is protocol-independent, so standard PLC commands are used to set up all parameters, and it can communicate at any baud-rate up to 1 Mbps.
Once it’s been configured, the CORT21 communicates independently of the PLC, monitoring the network and extracting data as needed. The module also has extensive diagnostics capabilities to show its own status of the unit and that of the network.
With the CORT21 module, machine makers can rethink the control system on both new and existing equipment. A PLC can, of course, be programmed and re-programmed easily: and with remote diagnostics, it can be done using any suitably equipped web-based device – no matter where the machine is installed.
So replacing a bespoke control board with a PLC and CORT21 module opens up all sorts of possibilities for machine makers, who can offer service-upgrade packages to existing customers for in-service equipment. Quite apart from the sales advantage, there are significant customer-relationship benefits in providing long-term improved performance without the need for major financial investment.
However, it’s on new installations that the CORT21 really comes into its own. Machine makers can assure end-users that the equipment can be kept in peak condition, wherever it is used. Upgrades, parts replacement, even new modules can usually be accommodated without major expense. All that’s needed is simple programming and reprogramming.
The system also enables seamless integration of CAN technology with other networks such as PROFIBUS. So, for example, several machines, each with their own CAN protocol, can send status data to – and receive control instructions from – the main PLC on a PROFIBUS DP network. In much the same way, data from the machines, and any other CAN-connected equipment, can be forwarded into a centralised management system. The possibilities are endless, and the benefits enormous.