Outstanding industrial wireless

From sensor networks to long-haul wireless, industrial wireless technologies bring outstanding savings to industrial automation and process control applications.


Control Engineering June 2012 cover story

Help follows on when and where wireless networks should be used instead of wired networks. Wireless can be up to 10 times less expensive than cable, with more flexibility, mobile benefits, and reduced maintenance and troubleshooting.

Do you have a cool, useful, fast return-on-investment (ROI) wireless application story to tell? http://controleng.com/contribute

- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com. 

Note: In the Control Engineering North American print and digital edition cover story for June 2012 (pp. 28-36), the following articles were summarized. The full versions are linked below. Click into each link to read more and see more photos, graphics, and details.

Application: Wireless monitoring, asset protection

Wireless implementation: The PEMEX Tula Refinery increased efficiency and is protecting critical cooling towers assets with wireless monitoring and analysis of process and vibration sensor data. Wirelessly transmitted information will help predictive maintenance efforts, and 20 hours per week of manual data collection time can be used more productively, according to Ricardo Velázquez Espinosa, industrial networking solutions manager for Mexico and California, at Belden Inc., and Rafael Montandon Spinoso, project manager at Representaciones y Montajes S.A. de C.V. (RYMSA), a system integrator located in Mexico City. 

Application: Mobile HMI access

Wireless implementation: A wireless local area network covers a 3.1-mile span for a California water system, taking information from a mountaintop plant into town, according to David Burrell, wireless product specialist, Phoenix Contact. 

6 overlooked applications for wireless

Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving make Wi-Fi increasingly useful for industrial applications, said Mike Fahrion, data communications expert and director of product management, B&B Electronics. Wi-Fi bandwidth and reliability have increased dramatically, and implementation costs have dropped, Fahrion said. He pointed to six overlooked locations for industrial wireless communications.

Application: Steam trap monitoring, wirelessly

Wireless implementation: Susan Lang, project manager, Maverick Technologies, said a wireless steam trap monitoring project recently answered two major questions: 1) Given the amount of on-site metal and line-of-sight obstructions, would wireless work? 2) Could the wireless devices be integrated into the existing control system?

Where to use wireless

“Installation of wirelessly connected assets is up to 10 times cheaper than the wired alterative and offers much faster start-ups and accelerated profits,” said Brent E. McAdams, director, customer advocacy, FreeWave Technologies Inc. “Engineering costs are dramatically reduced as extensive surveys and planning are no longer required to route wire back to junction boxes or control rooms. The reduced costs in wiring engineering, installation, and maintenance combined with the increased data gathering flexibility is the primary driver for wireless migration.”

Physical demands may demand industrial wireless

Even when a wireless solution may not be the most cost-effective approach, it may be necessary because of physical demands, explained Mark Lochhaas, product sales manager, Advantech. 

Easier wireless troubleshooting

Wireless advantages include less downtime compared to troubleshooting and repairing an industrial wired network, said Todd Hanson, director of wireless solutions, Honeywell Sensing and Control. “A busy automotive factory can lose a car for every two minutes the line is stopped for repair. Every minute of downtime can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Troubleshooting a wireless network is much easier and quicker than tracking down a shorted or defective cable connection,” Hanson said.

When to go wireless

Manufacturers should consider using wireless when it provides a cost-efficient, reliable alternative to other solutions, said Bob Gardner, senior product manager, Banner Engineering. 

Energy-harvesting sensor network

A basic energy-harvesting wireless sensor consists of the following blocks (see diagram), according to Reghu Rajan, technical marketing, Microsemi Corporation, communications and medical products group (CMPG).

Sensor-actuator technologies

Different wireless technologies serve different industrial wireless networking applications, noted Carl Henning, deputy director, PI North America, Profibus and Profinet, in North America (formerly PTO).  


See more Control Engineering industrial wireless coverage.

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