If the factory of the future will run on data, new types of hardware will be needed to collect, route, process and display it. That means more than just new PLCs, but gateways, edge computers, tablets and other hardware.

Here’s a look at some of the latest technology.


Gateway for Factory Automation

435NBX gateway

The 435NBX is an ASCII to PLC gateway that writes ASCII serial data directly to and from the data tables of an Allen-Bradley PLC. It’s simple in function and easy to use by design. The gateway moves ASCII serial data into a MicroLogix, ControlLogix, CompactLogix, PLC-5, and SLC5/05 Allen-Bradley PLC. The device supports up to 4,096 characters; and there are no scan lists or IO trees to deal with. Data can be transferred independently to and from either serial port, and there are separate read and write tags and registers for each serial port. The gateway offers simple, browser-based configuration and support for connected and unconnected messaging. It has the ability to save configurations for backup or loading multiple units. It works with a NetENI module on legacy PLC applications, and it includes diagnostic and trouble-shooting tools.

Real Time Automation Inc.


Terminal Simplifies Ethernet-APL Integration

ELX6233 EtherCAT terminal

The ELX6233 EtherCAT terminal is a compact, dual-channel communication interface that simplifies integration of field devices in the hazardous areas of zones 0/20 and 1/21. The compact I/O terminal extends Beckhoff’s flexible EtherCAT system architecture and the intrinsically safe ELX portfolio to Ethernet-APL, in addition to HART or simple digital signals.

The rise of digitalization, especially for plant diagnostics and monitoring, remains a major topic in the process industry. In the past, the massive footprints of processing plants and highly specialized requirements in hazardous environments created challenges due to limited network sizes and slow data transmission rates. However, Ethernet-APL—short for Advanced Physical Layer—offers a new option with cable lengths up 1,000 meters (200 meters in intrinsically safe environments) and speeds of 10 megabits per second. 

The ELX6233 terminal meshes the advantages of the EtherCAT industrial Ethernet system with the emerging possibilities of Ethernet-APL. When connecting corresponding field devices, the new I/O terminal offers a modular approach along with numerous associated advantages, including a compact footprint and high channel density; easy expandability and an adaptable number of channels to suit each application; simplified integration; faster cycle times than field switch systems; and compatibility with all EtherCAT terminals, couplers and other devices.

The ELX6233 connects to sensors according to the SPAA (TS10186) port profile and integrates them into the system via Profinet. Two APL ports are available for this purpose in the space-saving 24-millimeter terminal housing. This allows data from connected sensors to be transmitted to the controller and to the higher-level process control system (DCS) via ultra-fast EtherCAT communication.

Beckhoff Automation LLC


Edge Platform Creates Real-Time Productivity Scoreboards

FlexEdge intelligent edge automation platform

The FlexEdge intelligent edge automation platform with HDMI enables manufacturers to securely access and visualize performance data in real-time. Powered by Crimson, FlexEdge with HDMI offers user-friendly configuration capabilities so engineers can easily develop and deploy customized dashboards to keep production teams informed of key performance indicators. 

FlexEdge can collect data directly from devices such as PLCs, drives and bar code scanners. Engineers can map data to PLCs, PCs and SCADA systems through a simple, no-code, drag-and-drop interface. This allows, for example, a Siemens PLC to communicate with an Allen Bradley drive in seconds. The device has a built-in graphics library with more than 5,000 drag-and-drop elements to visually represent an application, such as tanks and gauges. 

Engineers can sync data to FTP servers and MS SQL servers to send information where it needs to go. They can set up alerts for important events using a built-in mail manager, which sends notifications to one or more specified recipients via email, with attached report or logged data files. Engineers can use built-in cloud connectors to link manufacturing process data to one or multiple cloud providers, including Azure, AWS, Google or other MQTT brokers.

FlexEdge also makes it easier to develop and deploy productivity dashboards with sample templates. Engineers can choose from six common templates available as demo databases in Crimson. Sample productivity templates include cumulative work cell status, process status, andon board, production run, safety and line-down warning.

Red Lion Controls Inc. 


Router for Long-Range Wide-Area Networks

Router for Long-Range Wide-Area Networks

Actility has integrated Cisco’s LoRaWAN module for the IR1110 industrial router into its ThingPark wireless networking architecture to extend low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) connectivity to remote sites.

In February, Cisco introduced pluggable interface modules (PIM) for its Catalyst IR1100 Rugged Series routers for long-range wide-area network (LoRaWAN) connectivity. The Cisco PIM for LoRaWAN enables long-range, low-power connectivity for industrial IoT sensors. It can fit in space-constrained and distributed environments and can be used as a LoRaWAN gateway. The Catalyst IR1101 LoRaWAN module offers flexibility and scalability to install in various locations. When using the router with two modules, it can function as an integrated LoRaWAN gateway with 4G and 5G backhaul capabilities, making it easy to deploy in tight spaces.

Users of Cisco routers can now transition to LoRaWAN connectivity without the need to purchase a new router. They can simply upgrade their existing router to start utilizing LoRaWAN technology with the help of the new pluggable module.

The Actility’s ThingPark Enterprise and ThingPark Wireless clients are already integrated into this module, allowing the gateway to seamlessly connect with ThingPark without requiring a software update, and providing users with automatic access to a suite of powerful tools. Furthermore, the IR1110 router can be conveniently upgraded in the field to become ThingPark-compatible.

The integration allows enterprise, industrial and public sector customers to implement value-added end-to-end industrial IoT use cases, such as infrastructure monitoring, industrial automation, geolocation and metering.

Data collected from LoRaWAN field sensors is locally decoded by ThingPark’s edge processing. ThingPark also implements a rich library of connectors, which take care of activation and synchronization of digital twins at scale for all leading IoT platforms, including Microsoft Azure IoT Hub and IoT Central, AWS IoT Core and PTC Thingworx.

Actility’s ThingPark Enterprise platform, accessible for free through ThingPark Community, provides a dependable LoRaWAN connectivity infrastructure to efficiently connect low-power IoT devices. It streamlines IoT network operations, providing enterprises with a proficient UX to easily build a multi-gateway LoRaWAN network and feed data to IoT applications.



Gateway Connects EtherCAT Devices to Industrial Networks

Anybus Communicator EtherCAT Main Device

The Anybus Communicator EtherCAT Main Device is a high-performance gateway that provides an easy and reliable way to connect EtherCAT subordinate devices to different industrial networks and control systems. 

In recent years, EtherCAT has rapidly gained popularity. It is now the third most widely installed industrial network in factory automation globally, and it’s the preferred choice in the semiconductor industry. As the number of subordinate devices using EtherCAT increases, there is a growing demand for high-performance gateways that can seamlessly connect these devices to other major industrial networks. The Anybus Communicator EtherCAT Main Device addresses this demand by providing a reliable way to connect EtherCAT subordinate devices to Profibus, EtherNet/IP, Profinet or Modbus-TCP control systems.

With the Anybus Communicator, engineers can quickly and easily scan the EtherCAT network for devices directly from its web interface. The Communicator automatically identifies each device and maps its data to the control system, eliminating the need to manually search for and import device description files.

The Anybus NP40 industrial network processor ensures that the communicators meet requirements for industrial performance, reliability and security. The gateways enable instant data transfer, up to 10 times faster than their predecessors. Engineers can also exchange significantly more data between networks, since the gateways can transfer up to 1,500 bytes to and from connected PLCs.

To protect against cyberattacks, the gateways have an onboard physical security switch that prevents unauthorized configuration changes and secure boot functionality to resist attacks and infections from malware.

Engineers can configure the gateways using drag-and-drop functionality in the web-based user interface, which is accessible via a dedicated Ethernet port. In the user interface, engineers can also monitor network traffic and diagnose issues before they become problems.

Anybus by HMS Networks



For more information on IIOT technology, read these articles:
IIoT: When the Real World Merges With the Digital One
An IIoT Roadmap for Driving Productivity and Efficiency in Automotive Assembly Plants
Digital Technology Transforms Auto Assembly Lines