With November comes the annual Rockwell Automation Fair. This event showcases some of the new and updated products that Rockwell and its partners have to offer. There are a multitude of labs and technical sessions that can be taken to learn about a variety of topics. The main classes that I took revolved around smart devices and sensors, safety systems, and hazardous location implementations. I also spent some time walking around the showroom floor to learn about some of the new products that are available.
This year, one of the main focuses at the fair was with what Rockwell calls the “Connected Enterprise”, which is essentially connectivity in all stages of your process. This includes both the software and hardware that they provide. Rockwell is in the process of integrating all equipment with
Ethernet communications so that the equipment can be monitored by the PLC to provide much more detailed information. This has already been done on many of the devices that we are familiar with, including: PowerFlex drives, Servo motors, Soft Starters, Overload Devices, and many safety relays and controllers. With connectivity comes additional usability through the use of a free app called FactoryTalk TeamONE. FactoryTalk TeamONE can be used to chat with team members, view incident reports, view device health, display trends, or even visit the Rockwell Knowledgebase. All of the data available through the connected enterprise, especially when paired with the software applications available, makes things like OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), down-time management and preventative maintenance more easily attainable.
One of the newer things that Rockwell is beginning to implement is IO Link sensors. These sensors enable the controller to pull in more information than was traditionally available. For instance, since most inductive proximity sensors have a correction for the ambient temperature, having the sensor IO Link enabled allows the controller to pull in that temperature reading. While not as accurate as a true temperature sensor, this reduces the need for additional sensors in environments where a low accuracy is acceptable. IO Link sensors also provide information for the overall health of the sensor, such as product build-up or inconsistent readings; thus simplifying troubleshooting and end-of-life replacement. In addition to the incredible functionality that IO Link has added, it is also cheaper per point than Analog IO. Rockwell is in the process of adding IO Link sensors to its product line and currently has a set of pressure sensors. Soon, they will be adding a temperature line, and most sensors newly released from Rockwell will be IO Link enabled.
Rockwell has expanded on their current safety relay and controller systems to increase the ease of using their software. They have enabled the use of a faceplate to add to a PanelView Plus interface that will display the state of a safety relay. This comes premade and can be downloaded along with some add-ons from the Sample Code Library. They have also integrated the add-ons for their safety relays to Studio5000, making it easier and faster to implement into the current control. These relays are cheaper than a safety controller and can meet the needs of more simple systems. When a process calls for both a safety and non-safety controller, Rockwell has developed GuardLogix controllers that can separate safety routines from regular routines. Inside of the GuardLogix controller there is cross checking between the normal and safety routine to confirm that both methods have been certified safe. These come with predefined certified safety function blocks for additional ease of use.
For hazardous location systems, Rockwell has introduced the 1719 EX I/O line. This is intrinsically safe, has an Ethernet adapter, and comes with an add-on for use in Studio5000. This 1719 EX I/O is rated for Class 1 Div. 2, but they will also be introducing another line that is ATEX Zone rated for foreign applications. A great feature of this line of products is that the barrier necessary for many applications is integrated into the 1719 EX I/O modules. Because of the integrated barrier, signals that come from and into the module don’t need to be intrinsically safe. This makes installation simpler and makes it easier to reach the proper safety rating.
While all of the information that is provided by Rockwell was the main focus of the Automation Fair, they also have many of their partners displaying products on the show floor. Some of the more notable companies for Northwind included: EPLAN Software & Services, Pentair – Hoffman, and Hardy Process Solutions. These are companies that we use on a daily basis, but there are companies that can meet any need, as the total was well over 100 companies. Some of the more common equipment that Northwind uses was showcased at the booths, along with new developing technologies. These included updated panel designs, new heating and cooling solutions, and a new electrical design version on display.
If the immense amount of information provided by Rockwell during this event is not enough to convince anyone to accept the invite, Rockwell’s distribution network also planned a couple of events for people to participate in. If you were lucky enough to get an invite from CED-Rensenhouse like we were, the events included the College Football Hall Of Fame and the World of Coke. At the night events there is plenty of food, drinks, and entertainment to go around. These are great events to network with other people in the industry while enjoying a remarkable venue.
The Rockwell Automation Fair is a great way to keep up to date on the new and exciting things coming from Rockwell and its partners. Some highlights include: all of the devices linked through communication, safety functions, and hazardous location advancements. Even though it is an informative event, it is a relaxed and enjoyable environment, and one that was an amazing experience.