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CC-Link network expands to encompass entire factory

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CC-Link communications have enabled a modest project to automate a compressor house to be expanded to embrace the whole of Yorkshire Fittings' Leeds factory.

CC-Link network expands to encompass entire factoryA modest project to automate a compressor house has been expanded to embrace the whole of Yorkshire Fittings' Leeds factory. The initial project was based on the installation of a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) program to monitor the performance of a bank of compressors. While the main intention was to optimise energy usage, it also became possible to log detailed operational data for productivity analysis, thereby paving the way for a move to predictive maintenance.

The efficiency gains achieved with the compressors were almost immediate and, because of the data logging, full management reports were produced. These impressed the directors so much that they were soon asking the electrical engineers if the control network could be extended into adjacent areas of the plant. There was some scope for doing this and improved productivity was quickly noted. Before long, the idea of running the network across the entire site was taking root.

An audit of all the existing control systems running different parts of the plant identified that much of the hardware already in place was either already capable of using CC-Link or could be made so simply and cheaply through the use of standard plug-in cards. CC-Link is an open field device-level network that provides high-speed deterministic communications, linking a wide range of automation technologies over a single cable. It is suitable for machine, cell or process control in manufacturing and production industries, and is also widely used in facilities management and building automation.

With the hardware in place, the next objective was to connect it all up into a single plant-wide network, and naturally CC-Link was chosen as the as the protocol for communicating between field devices and production machinery.

The local networks were then connected to the high-level servers providing enterprise management capabilities via an Ethernet network. In fact the decision was made to design-in two servers, a primary and a standby, to help prevent unplanned downtime.

12 September 2008

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