Integrating a production system into a specific environment requires using the right network protocols. What is also important is finding a reliable solution, which easily adapts to a wide range of requirements. A German specialist for highvoltage generation systems was confronted with such a task and discovered a compact communications device, which is open to all alternatives.
Schnier Elektrostatik GmbH is considered a pacemaker in the field of high-voltage generation systems. The company was founded in 1977 in Reutlingen, Germany and is known for its high-voltage generating solutions, which are typically used in electrostatic coating processes.
Each Volkswagen produced at the German Wolfsburg facility was coated with Schnier high-voltage technology while at the paint shop of the Porsche plant near Stuttgart, Germany, special electric filters with Schnier high-voltage technology take care of clean air.
New product, new solution
The very latest product range from Schnier is named smart-E 310. It was developed with the goal to find a smaller, simpler and most of all, more cost-effective solution for highvoltage generation. It houses not only the technology for high- voltage generation but also integrates the complete electronic system to control the generator as well as the interface technology to integrate the system into the fieldbus communications infrastructure of the coating system.
Originally the real-time protocol, CANopen was used for communication between smart-E 310 and the process control system. However, Schnier is flexible in this aspect and also offers machine manufacturers in the field of electrostatic coating other fieldbus systems. In course of time, the company noticed an increased demand for Ethernet/IP and decided to offer an additional model featuring this protocol.
Specialists among themselves
Being a specialist, Schnier needed to live up to very special requirements and could not always rely on standard components that can be procured anywhere on the market. In addition, Schnier is also a company focusing on its original know-how in the field of high-voltage generation while relying on external system partners when it comes to peripheral technologies.
One of them is Hilscher, headquartered in Hattersheim, Germany. This company specialises in infrastructure components in the field of system automation and has indepth knowledge of the various protocols used for fieldbus communication.
Hilscher was asked to provide a compact Ethernet/IP adapter, which was suitable to work within the demanding operating environment of a paint shop. In addition, the component needed to work with 3.3 volts to match the electronics of the high-voltage generator with its integrated control system.
The company was able to offer a solution called netIC 50-RE, which describes a completely sealed communications unit with passive cooling, which was small enough for integration into
the extremely compact cabinet of the smart-E 310.
Made for real-time communication
Hilscher’s netIC is a single-chip module featuring the compact dimensions of a DIL-32 IC. It is based upon the proven netX range of network controllers and includes all components of a fieldbus or real-time Ethernet interface with integrated 2-port switch and hub. This netIC was designed primarily for simple field devices, such as, barcode scanners, identification systems, valve assemblies or digital/analogue IO units. This means that its primary application range is applications with relatively low data throughput, which need to work within a real-time communications environment.
Depending on the firmware, the solution can handle any standard real time Ethernet protocol on the market. The module is shipped with pre-loaded firmware and therefore, ready to run. This means that Schnier did not need to provide a specific module for each protocol but was able to adapt its new smart E 310 range of high-voltage generators to the system environment of the customer by simply loading the respective firmware. This not only saved costs by reducing the number of parts to be held on stock. It also turned the smart E 310 into a cost-effective solution, which combined highly compact dimension with the advantage to easily integrate into any machine concept and any system environment.
Shaping the future
Once two partners join hands to come up with a pace making product, they will most likely stick together and look for more opportunities to shape the future with innovative solutions. With Hilscher and Schnier, this is the path that was followed.
After Ethernet/IP, Schnier presently works at smart-E models for Profinet and Sercos in order to complete its product portfolio. Thus, this is how a seemingly inconspicuous solution can often pave the way to a completely new range of applications.