20
May

4 Types of Connectivity With Industrial Ruggedness

c15Connectivity is crucial for all types of data networks. Data networks evolve over time as technology improves; it is often necessary to connect legacy copper-wired serial communications to modern TCP/IP communications through more advanced media such as optical fiber. Moreover, many different types of data formats, standards, media and connectors are often mixed and used together within a single data network. Examples of different types of standards and protocols include physical-layer standards, such as RS-232, RS-485, RS-422, TTL, USB, and TCP/IP, and higher-level protocols, such as Profibus, Interbus, Modbus, BACnet, and Modbus TCP/IP. Copper wires and optical fibers are typical examples of different media; and there are dozens of different connectors used for machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity and data communication systems, including DB9, DB25, USB type A, USB type B, mini USB, micro USB, terminal blocks, RJ11, RJ45, and ST, SC, FC, and LC connectors for fiber optic products.

Data networks perform many important tasks, including industrial automation (production, processing, monitoring, etc.), building automation (heating, ventilation, air conditioning [HVAC]; security systems; surveillance systems; etc.), motor control, and motion control. The costs for data equipment such as computers, PLCs, and industrial manufacturing or data processing equipment, ranges from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but perhaps the most important cost is system downtime because this affects your profitability, product delivery times, and customer relationships. With robust, machine-made cables, connectors, patch cords, terminal blocks, and gender changers, you can enjoy the maximum uptime and drastically reduce repair and replacement costs for your M2M connectivity and data communication systems.

Serial Connectivity

Serial ports come in various forms (such as DB9, DB25 and Terminal Blocks) and with both female and male connectors; it is often necessary to convert from one form to another: DB9 to DB25, female to male, DB9 to terminal blocks, etc. To deal with all these situations, you will need to have the right types of cables and connectors to do the conversions.

USB Connectivity

Replacing conventional RS-232 / RS-485 / RS-422 ports, USB has become the norm for controlling computer peripherals, and it has now moved from the desktop to more challenging environments, including instrumentation, point of sales, factory & building automation, etc. Similar to serial connectivity, USB also comes in different formats, such as type A, type B, mini, and micro USB. With suitable USB connectivity products, including cables and conversion adapters, you will be able to connect your modern networks with industrial ruggedness.

Ethernet Connectivity

Data networks evolve over time, and the same applies to Ethernet cables; from CAT 3 to CAT 6, the requirements for twisted-pair cables have become more demanding for the sake of increasing network speeds. Modern 10 / 100M Ethernet requires at least CAT 5 cables, and Gigabit networks require CAT 6 cables for speed and reliability. With reliable CAT 5e and CAT 6 cables, you can organise your data networks confidently and systematically.

Fiber Optic Connectivity

Fiber optic patch cords provide convenient connections between fiber-optic converters and patch panels. When choosing a quality fiber optic patch cord or cable, it is advisable to get one that has LSZH (Low Smoke Zero Halogen). The LSZH fiber-optic patch cords are more fire-resistant than other type of cables, such as PVC-jacketed cables. Should they catch on fire, burning LSZH cables give off little smoke and no halogen substances, which is important not only for the environment but also for the health of people near the cables.

13
May

Protect Your Assets With Optical Isolators and Surge Protectors

c14The world of data communication is busy, even noisy. Industrial communication systems, such as balanced RS-485 / RS-422, often require transmission between multiple devices over long distances. While having many devices communicating with each other on the same twisted-pair cable is robust and cost-effective, it also introduces two major challenges:

    1. Because of the long distances and the surrounding electrical devices/equipment, RS-485 / RS-422 networks are often exposed to electrical noises, remote lightning, and line surges, which can cause transient voltage to run across the serial communication system and the valuable equipment.

 

  1. Because multiple devices (nodes) are connected, the ground potential at different nodes could be different, which can cause ground currents to flow through “the path of least resistance” via either the common earth ground or the ground wire.

Both voltage and current surges can cause serious damage to valuable, mission-critical equipment such as computers, PLCs, and industrial manufacturing and data processing equipment; these surges can even endanger human lives. Ground loop problems also exist on unbalanced signals that rely on the ground pin being zero volts, such as RS-232 and USB.

There are a few methods of voltage and current surge protection in the industry, and the most effective are Optical Isolators and Surge Protectors:

Optical Isolators

An optical isolator (or opto-isolator) is used to block high voltages and transients so that a surge in one part of the system will not disrupt or destroy other parts. Optical isolation uses an LED (Light Emitting Device) and a photosensitive transistor to transfer data across the isolation barrier – typically an air gap; in other words, data is transmitted using light instead of electrical signals, so there is no physical connections between the grounds and the data lines, thus removing the ground loop problems and effectively preventing electrical surges and spikes from destroying other parts of the system. Furthermore, because optical isolation uses light to transmit data across the isolation barrier, it also gains the advantage of immunity from electrical- and magnetic-field interference. This makes optical isolation an effective solution in industrial areas where strong electric or magnetic fields could be present.

Surge Protectors

The main function of a surge protector is to limit the voltage introduced to an electrical device by either blocking or shorting to ground any voltages above a safe threshold. Surge protectors are mainly used for protecting power and data lines against electrical surges and spikes, including those caused by lightning. However, it is important to note that solely relying on surge protectors could be insufficient or even do more damage than good, as in the cases of improperly installed or poorly selected surge protectors. In many applications, surge protectors are used in conjunction with optical isolators to provide much more effective protection.

4
May

5 Ways to Extend Your Data Communications Without Limits

c13Your network is only as effective as its reach – yet unbalanced signals such as USB and RS-232 can reliably transmit only up to 15 feet, and even balanced Ethernet signals are capped at 300 feet. With a growing range of connectivity platforms, modern data networks require not just compatibility and reliability but also flexibility and expandability. There are many ideal solutions to meet modern networks’ data distance needs such as converting unbalanced signals to balanced ones, deploying repeaters to boost signal strength, and implementing hubs for star-configured connections, while still taking full advantage of cost-effective and readily available copper wire. For large systems that go far beyond what copper wires can reach, fibre-optic converters can used to work in both conventional point-to-point and advanced daisy-chain / redundant-ring configurations, giving your data network a boost in distance, ranging from 3 miles to hundreds of miles, and additional flexibility, reliability, and expandability. The use of a Serial-TCP program is another ideal solution for merging serial communication protocols with modern TCP/IP communication, yielding benefits such as widely available infrastructures and greater distance, reliability, and speed.

Point to Point

Used mostly for one-to-one unbalanced signal (RS-232, TTL, and USB, etc.) extension, it can also be used for one-to-one optical fiber extension. Depends on the signal types, the extended distance ranges from 250 feet (70 m) to 4000 feet (1.2 km) on copper wire and 3 miles (5 km) to 40 miles (25 km) on optical fiber.

Daisy Chain (Multi-Drop)

Typically used for multi-drop RS-485 / RS-422 networks, addressable commands from the Master can be sent to all Slaves, and the addressed Slave can respond to the Master through the same wires, thus reducing the system’s costs. The typical distance for a daisy-chain RS-485 / RS-422 network is 4000 feet (1.2 km), and with the RS-485 / RS-422 repeater, this distance can be extended by another 4000 feet (1.2 km).

Star Wiring

Due to the nature of the signals and the requirements of impedance matching, the RS-485 / RS-422 network must run on a linear, daisy-chain (multi-drop) configuration; however, star-wiring is inevitable in many places. With very well-engineered hubs, the star-wiring configuration is more than just possible; it makes the system much more robust and reliable.

Redundant Ring

Data networks are critical for production, security, and information exchange, any system downtime is very costly – and even deadly in some situations. With an extra self-healing redundant link, a system will not break down even if there is a breaking point in the system, as these redundant-ring networks work both clockwise and counter-clockwise. If the clockwise link is down, the counter-clockwise link will recover the system instantly.

Network

Legacy serial communication protocols such as Modbus have merged rapidly with modern TCP/IP communications, yielding benefits such as widely available infrastructures and greater distance, reliability, and speed. A suitable Serial-TCP program offers ideal solutions to bridge your existing Serial/COM port and TCP/IP without the need for changing protocol. It works seamlessly and transparently, just like a pair of passive repeaters; furthermore, instead of requiring installation of cables and converters with limited distance, it simply makes use of existing computers and networks with an unlimited transmission distance.

21
Mar

USB Memory Sticks Advantages Over Disc Formats

c7USB sticks, or flash drives as they are also known, are becoming an ever more popular format for the transfer of data between businesses and also to for business promotion to potential customers. At the current time of creating of this article (March 2016), memory sticks that are capable of holding as much as 512 GB of data can be purchased easily on-line at a surprisingly low cost. Amazingly, a USB drive that will hold 1TB of data can also be obtained, but currently, these are expensive. The rate of technological advance will mean that the current high price will tumble over the next twelve months as order numbers grow and manufacturing costs are lowered due to bulk purchases.

A 512 GB USB stick can contain the same amount of information as over 20 regular Blu-ray DVD discs. The format may currently be a little more costly than the Blu-ray DVD discs but there is little to compare in terms of the convenience of the format as opposed to a pile of Blu-ray DVDs. The USB drive occupies little space and can be secured using a keyring or kept safely in a small pocket in a laptop bag or with ease. 20 Blu-ray DVDs, however, occupy a lot more space and would be much more inconvenient to have to transport.

At the other end of the scale, a memory stick with a capacity of 128 MB can be purchased inexpensively if the information files to be held on it are only small.

USB Sticks – Volume Production and Customised Casings

The ever- increasing sales volumes of the format has resulted in many companies, particularly in the far east, producing them in a staggering array of shapes and sizes. These designs can be both useful, such as a torch with a USB stick moulded into it, or any amount of novelty shapes such as a toy supercar shape that can be put onto a keyring. Many businesses using memory sticks to send out data on-site to employees and offsite to existing or potential clients, use flash drives in the form of a business card or a useful pocket sized shape that can be screen printed with the business or brand logo to further promote the company. Mostly, mass produced USB drives are basic shapes about 5cm x 1.5cm x 1.5cm which can be printed onto, or a business card form which, once more, can be printed through a spot colour screen printing technique. There are also a lot of companies which can produce memory sticks in a custom shape specified by the client.

Making Use of USB Memory Sticks To Give Your Business a Boost

The easy transportation of flash drive means that they are ideal for data storage for use by any company with a need for data distribution, particularly where data files are of a significant size. Where many employees need to be able to view large graphic design files or data/code files then USB sticks that hold large files are perfectly suited. This format is perhaps most commonly used, though, for promotion of businesses at exhibitions and business shows. Here, USB drives have two benefits; if you are employed in the marketing department for your business and are tasked with promoting your company at a tradeshow with the aim of raising brand awareness, or just to promote your company’s services, they can be used to distribute sales information, presentations or applications for potential clients to view on their laptops or desktop PCs. Any data space can then be used for information storage by the user. This convenience means that the flash drive is always on hand keeping the brand in mind whenever the memory stick is used. They are popular freebies and business card or stick type forms can receive a print via the spot colour screen printing technique, with up to 4 separate colours. This is great for printing business logos or contact details onto the body of the drive.

The gain for a business, where USB memory sticks are utilised for promotion, can be enormous. As with almost any mass produced product, the larger the quantity you purchase, the lower the unit cost. If your business lands a lucrative contract or sells a high value product after giving away a memory stick with a small cost, then the benefit is very clear.

USB flash drives account for a large proportion of the data distribution and business promotion markets. Their capacity to hold a very large amount of data in such a small package makes them perfect replacements for CD and DVD discs. Along with the fact that their prices are falling as mass production of USB sticks increases, they are now starting to become the choice format for many businesses that need to distribute very large files quickly, to existing clients or potential new ones, and also existing personnel. Just about everyone seems to possess at least one memory stick and they can be obtained in a vast array of shapes, sizes and colours.

USB Duplication – Producing Memory Sticks in Bulk

A great number of companies based in the UK are consistently placing orders for thousands of memory sticks to enable them to promote their businesses. This growing demand means that there are a growing number of USB duplication companies offering their services to UK customers. Units are readily available that can copy large amounts of data rapidly, to over 100 USB sticks, at the same time. If a duplication suite has several of these units working together, they can then transfer data to many thousands of memory sticks, very quickly. Data transfer speeds are constantly on the increase as the technology advances. The USB 3.0 data transfer standard claims a realistic data transfer rate of 400 MB/second meaning that even a 512 GB USB memory stick can reach capacity in around 20 minutes. This is roughly 10 times faster than the older USB 2.0 standard. The ability to transfer such a large amount of data so rapidly means that duplication expenses can be minimised and flash drives are then a financially attractive alternative to Blu-ray DVDs, as they are also much easier to handle.

These duplication units are readily available for purchase online and many businesses who find they have a regular need for a large amount of USB sticks will either outsource the work or obtain a duplication unit for their employees to use. They are easily set up and take up very little room, meaning that they can be tucked into a corner or even a drawer when not in use and taken out when needed.

USB Memory Stick Security

USB flash drives are also a convenient format for the distribution of sensitive data such as:

  • Legal documents
  • Sensitive internal company data
  • Copyright controlled information
  • Sensitive research documents

The files can be secured through encryption using security software such as Truecrypt or similar, and the key for decryption of the data communicated through another means as an added level of security. Where the files contained are particularly sensitive, the USB drive can be concealed as it can be moulded into just about any form such as a pen or a torch. Even a large capacity memory stick can be contained on a very small PCB, so hiding the drive in a place known only to the intended recipient is a good option.