High-Fidelity battery modeling.

26/05/2015
The use of virtual battery technology in the design of test systems can facilitate the development of better products, reduce project risks, and get products to market faster.

The use of rechargeable batteries in consumer products, business applications and industrial systems continues to grow substantially. The global market for all batteries will reach almost €68 billion (US$74b) this year, and rechargeable batteries will account for nearly 82% of that, or €55 billion (US$60b), according to market researcher Frost & Sullivan.

Figure 1: Simulation of thermal runaway using the Li-Ion model from the MapleSim Battery Library

Growth like this means several things. First, large companies have moved or are moving into the market, designing and offering products ranging from hand-held devices to large power back-up systems. Second, as the systems get larger, battery technologies have to match the technical challenges of increasing cell capacity, thermal stability, life extension and disposal.

Meeting the Technical Challenges

Monitoring and controlling larger cell arrays through Battery Management Systems (BMS) helps to minimize charge times and maximize efficiency and battery life. Design and testing of a sophisticated BMS can pose challenges, however, as was discovered by one of the largest producers of electronic products in the world. That’s why they recently relied upon Maplesoft and ControlWorks Inc., a real-time testing systems integrator with deep experience developing BMS test stands, to develop a Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) test system for the BMS in one of their large  Energy Storage System (ESS) products.

An attractive solution to these testing challenges is to use virtual batteries – mathematical models of battery cells that are capable of displaying the same dynamic behavior as real ones – for early-stage testing of the BMS. Not only have these models proven to be highly accurate, they are computationally efficient and are able to achieve the execution required to deliver real-time performance for batteries containing hundreds of cells on real-time platforms.

The battery modeling technique employed by Maplesoft uses a partial differential equation (PDE) discretization technique to streamline the model to a set of ordinary differential equations (ODE) that can be readily solved by system-level tools like MapleSim. The advanced model optimization features of MapleSim also allow the resulting code to be very fast and capable of running in real-time.

The resulting battery models can also be employed in the prediction of charge/discharge rates, state of charge (SoC), heat generation and state of health (SoH) through a wide range of loading cycles within complex, multi-domain system models. This approach provides the performance needed for system-level studies with minimal loss in model fidelity. The user can also allow for energy loss through heat, making these models useful for performing thermal studies to determine component sizes in cooling systems to manage battery temperature. Not carefully controlling the temperature can lead to reduced operational life or, in extreme cases, destruction or even explosion due to thermal runaway, a common problem in many battery-powered systems.

Model Structure for this Application
For the purpose of this ESS test system development project, the key requirements for the battery model were:

-Up to 144 Li-Ion polymer cells for testing the BMS of the client’s ESS products
-Ease of configuration for different requirements (parallel/series networks)
-Several sensors per cell (current, voltage, SoC, SoH)
-Variation of chemistry make-up due to manufacturing tolerances
-Fault-insertion on each cell (open-circuit, shorting)
-Capacity to run in real-time (target execution-time budget of 1 ms)
-In the case of energy storage systems, like this example, each ESS battery is made of several “stacks” that, in turn, contain several cells. The MapleSim model follows this structure with each cell being a shared, fully parameterized subsystem. Each cell can also be switched to open circuit using logical parameters.

Figure 2: Cell stack model

The stack model is made of 18 cell subsystems connected either in parallel or series, depending on the requirement. Input signals are provided for charge balancing from the BMS. Output signals are provided back to the BMS to monitor the condition of the stack (supply voltage, SoC and SoH). Finally, the full ESS is made of several stacks with IO signals fed to and from the BMS.

Figure 3: ESS Battery model

Model Calibration and Validation
Much of the accuracy of this model is dependent on experimentally derived parameters, determined from charge/discharge test results. Project engineers determined that any deviation in performance due to manufacturing variations needed to be included in order to test the charge-balancing capability of the BMS. Instead of testing every cell, engineers relied on random variants generated from the statistical distribution determined by the charge/discharge test results on 48 cells. This was applied to all 144 cells and then compared with the real test results. The maximum variance of the voltage from the experimental data was 14mV, while from the simulation it was 13mV, acceptable for the purpose of this project.
Maplesoft and ControlWorks Inc. engineers also determined the average cell response using the parameter-estimation tool supplied with the MapleSim Battery Library. This uses optimization techniques to determine the values of cell-response parameters that provide the closest “fit” to the experimental results. This response was then validated against response data from other cells to ensure close estimation of the resulting model.

SoH behavior was implemented as a look-up table based on experimental results. The model determines the capacity and internal resistance based on the number of charge/discharge cycles and depth of discharge (DOD) from the lookup.

Figure 4: SoH simulation showing effect on battery voltage

Finally, the model was converted to ANSI-C through the MapleSim Connector, producing an S-Function of the battery model that can be tested for performance and accuracy with a fixed-step solver on a desktop computer in MATLAB/Simulink® before moving it to a real-time platform. The simplest solver was used and the performance bench showed that the average execution time was approximately 20 times faster than real-time, occupying 5.5% of the real-time system time budget. This shows that the battery model can be easily scaled up, if required.

The end result was a battery model capable of being configured to represent a stack of up to 144 cells that can be connected in any combination of parallel and series networks. Fault modes were also built-in, such as individual cells shorting or opening, as well as incorporating variations in charge capacity from cell to cell, and degradation of capacity over the life of the cells.

The final BMS test station provides the client’s engineers with the ability to configure the battery model (number of cells, series/parallel, etc.) and apply a range of tests to it. The engineer can go back to the MapleSim™ model at any time to make any necessary changes to the model configuration, and then generate the model for use on the real-time platform. In this system, the real-time software is National Instruments’ VeriStand™, driving a PXI real-time system. The MapleSim Connector for NI VeriStand™ automates the model integration process, allowing the engineer to produce the real-time model quickly and reliably.

The ControlWorks Inc. system also integrates real-time platform, signal processing, fault-insertion tools and standard communications protocols (CANbus for automotive, Modbus for industrial applications), allowing the engineer to run the BMS through a range of tests on the battery model, including Constant Current (CC) and Constant Voltage (CC/CV) charge/discharge cycles, as well as Constant Power (CP) and Constant Resistance (CR) discharge cycles.

“We were pleased to be able to partner with Maplesoft on this project,” said Kenny Lee, PhD, Director of Research Center of Automotive Electronics, ControlWorks Inc. “The use of battery models in this case proved to be an effective alternative to the use of real batteries,” he added.

Summary
Test automation and simulation is critical in system-level testing, allowing time and cost of failure analysis, constant development pressure, expense of repeated tests, and lengthy set-up times all to be addressed.

“The use of high-fidelity, ready-made battery models allows the engineer to avoid the risks of damage to batteries, along with subsequent costs, while testing and optimizing the BMS design in a close-to-reality loading environment,” said Paul Goossens, Maplesoft VP of Engineering Solutions.
The use of virtual battery technology in the design of test systems can facilitate the development of better products, reduce project risks, and get products to market faster.

“The MapleSim model of the Li-Ion battery was selected because of its proven ability to achieve real-time performance. The code-generation and compilation tools are very easy to use, making the integration of the model into the HIL system very fast and cost-effective. That, plus the excellent development support we received from Maplesoft’s Engineering Solutions team made this a very smooth project.”  Kenny Lee, PhD, Director of Research Center of Automotive Electronics, ControlWorks Inc.


Does Industry know its I from its T?

03/05/2015
Industry IT security shortfalls persist!

A recent survey conducted by Electroustic revealed industry’s unsustainable approach to information security. The survey showed a pressing lack of information about the most common security risks in an age where industrial internet and remote data access are steadily being implemented on the factory floor. An impressive 34 per cent of respondents said their companies don’t have an information security policy.

The survey identified hacking as the biggest security concern – with 31 per cent of respondents worried about it – followed by human error (17 per cent) and cloud computing (11 per cent).

While it’s true that most security breaches are caused by outsider attacks, these often come in the form of malicious software and can easily be averted with the correct staff training and appropriate infrastructure.

tofino“The huge range of available IT security products for industry is a double-edged sword for many companies,” explains Paul Carr, managing director and owner of Electroustic. “Although there are a lot of options to choose from, inexperienced companies can easily end up spending a fortune on IT security systems that might not be appropriate for their specific needs.

“In terms of network security, establishing multi-layered defences using industrial firewalls, like Tofino’s Xenon (pictured), is crucial. A reliable industrial firewall should be easy to implement and manage, while also being versatile and rugged. A good IT security system should ensure a company meets and exceeds NERC CIP (North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection) requirements and ISA/IEC-62443 Standards.”

User education and awareness are two additional points in the Electroustic survey where respondents didn’t fair particularly well, which suggests industrial companies need to do more to tackle the problem.

User security policies describing best practice when using a company’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) systems should be formally acknowledged in employment terms and conditions. Additionally, IT induction programmes should be complemented with regular training on the cyber risks faced as employees and individuals.

The latest industry trends, including industrial internet, remote data access and Industry 4.0 are drastically changing the industry landscape and the skills employees are expected to bring to the table. Companies need to do more to prevent and address IT security breaches and the best way to do so is by training staff, implementing reliable industrial security solutions and keeping up to date with the latest industry developments.

• For companies just starting on the road to industry security, the latest version of the British government’s 10 Steps to Cyber Security guide is available on the GCHQ website.

The advantages and disadvantages of advanced NDT.

29/04/2015

Alison Glover from Ashtead Technology describes the advantages and disadvantages of advanced Non-Destructive Testing equipment, and explains why her company has invested over £1m (€1.4m) in advanced NDT equipment.

Alison Glover

Alison Glover

Simple, conventional inspection methods such as ultrasonic thickness testing can provide a useful, fast, low-cost method for assessing materials. However, in comparison with advanced NDT, such methods are generally less repeatable, less recordable, and have a lower Probability of Detection (PoD).

There are many advantages to be gained from advanced NDT, some of which will be briefly described below. The major disadvantage of these high-end technologies is, of course, their cost. Advanced NDT instruments may cost tens of thousands of pounds and require significant levels of training to best exploit their benefits. For this reason, Ashtead Technology has chosen to invest over £1 million in advanced NDT equipment; the ability to rent this technology can dramatically lower the cost of entry to this market for our customers in applications such as crack and flaw detection, weld evaluation, tube testing, corrosion mapping, composite inspection etc.

The advantages of advanced NDT
In general terms, advanced instrumentation can, in the right hands, provide more accurate and reliable inspection data with an improved PoD. The data is more recordable and more repeatable. Advanced technologies such as Phased Array Ultrasound (PAUT) or Eddy Current Array (ECA) provide more intuitive displays, better ways of presenting data and generate inspection reports of higher value to clients. For example, a colour-coded C-Scan is an intuitive way of representing inspection data. Using different colours for different remaining wall thicknesses, for instance in PAUT inspection of corroded or eroded pipes, produces an image that is easy to understand. Similarly, many clients will find a colour-coded ECA C-Scan simple to interpret compared with the conventional eddy current impedance plane display.

Composite OmniScanMX2

Composite OmniScanMX2

With greater control over instrument configuration, advanced NDT procedures can be optimised for particular inspections. Setup files can be saved digitally and easily transferred to others. Digital recording means that data can be emailed to colleagues when a second opinion is required, or when complex data needs to be assessed by a higher level technician. The ability to store large inspection data files also means that new inspections can be compared with those done previously, to determine whether there has been further deterioration, and to monitor, for example, crack growth. In addition, the use of scanners improves repeatability and helps to ensure that sequential inspections are directly comparable and less subjective.

As a result of these advantages, there has been strong growth in the advanced NDT sector, and this has been reflected in the volume of advanced NDT instruments in the Ashtead Technology fleet that are out on hire.

The disadvantages of advanced NDT
In comparison with conventional methods the operation of advanced instrumentation requires a higher level of training and additional certification, which incurs more costs. However, as discussed above, the deployment of advanced NDT delivers a superior, and therefore higher £value service. Once advanced training is completed, as with any skill, it is important to practise what was learned on the training course. This can only be done if high-value advanced instrumentation is available. Again, purchase costs may be preclusive, so renting can be a preferable option. In addition, instrument purchase ties the user to a specific technology, whereas a rental fleet offers users the ability to deploy the most appropriate kit for each job, or to hire equipment from different manufacturers depending on the users’ training, experience and preference.

Purchase of a particular technology may also reduce or preclude access to other methods that may be developed at a later date.

It is important to remember that the capital expenditure on advanced NDT equipment is not the only cost. Instrument maintenance incurs a further cost, as does depreciation. Capital purchases will typically be written off in the company accounts over a 3 year period, which means that this equipment must generate substantial profit for a return on that investment. Also, there are borrowing and opportunity costs – the money used in equipment purchase or to pay interest could have been used for something else, such as training or hiring more staff.

To be a worthwhile investment, high value advanced NDT equipment must be used regularly. Without an assured steady flow of work, there is a danger of underutilisation. In contrast, renting provides a way to only pay for equipment when it is needed and not to incur any costs in the intervening periods.

In summary, the advantages of advanced NDT can be enormous if the financial implications are managed effectively. One way to achieve this is by taking advantage of rental instrumentation from Ashtead Technology.


Global HMI market!

25/04/2015

Human machine interface (HMI) solutions have made rapid strides in the last decade in step with changing customer demands. As the trend towards real-time factory intelligence gains widespread acceptance in industries, HMI software will continue to evolve. From merely providing plant data on a mobile device, HMI now delivers real-time data and actionable insights to operators. The consequent benefits, such as lower plant operation costs, higher process efficiency, and greater energy efficiency will power the adoption of HMI solutions.

globalHMI_F+SNew analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Global Human Machine Interface Market, finds that the market earned revenues of $2.94 billion in 2014 and estimates this to reach $3.60 billion in 2018.

“The development of Industrie 4.0 in Europe and Smart Factory in the United States will create a future for the manufacturing sector wrapped around the convergence of applications,” said Frost & Sullivan Industrial Automation and Process Control Research Analyst Guru Mahesh. “As a result, the need to constantly innovate and reinvent components will propel the uptake of HMI in discrete sectors.”

Unlike discrete industries, process industries such as chemicals, food and oil can get by with basic automation solutions for production in bulk quantities. Hence, advanced HMI solutions have found restricted use in the process sector.

While this trend continues to pervade several process industries, the food and beverage sector is gradually giving in to the allure of HMI solutions. Manufacturers in this increasingly competitive segment have understood that automation is critical in order to remain profitable. Likewise, growing awareness in other process sectors will open up new applications for HMI solutions.

“Real-time intelligence and big data analytics are expected to revolutionise the HMI space,” noted Mahesh. “To capitalise on these opportunities, HMI vendors must meet the demand for innovative features and value-added services from end users in the global market.”


220,000 people integrate and join the network at #HM15.

20/04/2015
Spotlight on “Industry 4.0”, robots and intelligent energy systems while India sets new standards as Partner Country.
Germany's Dr Angela Merkel and India's Shri Narendra Modi at opening ceremony of 2015 Hannover Meße

Germany’s Dr Angela Merkel and India’s Shri Narendra Modi at opening ceremony of 2015 Hannover Meße

Stories shared with Read-out from this years Hannover Fair! Other Reports: • Automation World • The Industrial Ethernet BookProfiBus/Net Reports! • Gil Community

After five action-packed days of industrial innovation, dynamic networking and lead generation, HANNOVER MESSE 2015 – the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology – drew to a close on Friday, 17 April, to rave reviews by exhibitors and visitors. With “Integrated Industry – Join the Network” as its keynote theme, HANNOVER MESSE 2015 soared to new heights, striking an inspirational note among exhibitors and attendees from industry, business and government.

The show placed major emphasis on the digitization of manufacturing as well as on human-machine collaboration, innovative subcontracting solutions and intelligent energy systems – topics which pulled in the crowds. More than 220,000 trade visitors – 70,000 of whom came from outside Germany – used HANNOVER MESSE to catch up on the latest technologies and make key investment decisions.

“HANNOVER MESSE 2015 has made it unmistakably clear: Industry 4.0 has arrived, and is sweeping every sector of industry. Digital integration is becoming a key aspect of modern manufacturing, and this trend is set to continue at a rapid pace,” commented Dr. Jochen Köckler, member of the Managing Board at Deutsche Messe. “Over the past several days, some 6,500 companies from 70 countries have showcased technologies for tomorrow’s production plants and energy systems. And India has made a real splash as this year’s Partner Country, creating a truly impressive showcase to promote its ‘Make in India’ campaign.” Under the motto of “Integrated Industry – Join the Network”, HANNOVER MESSE 2015 gave tangible shape to the vision of the “intelligent factory”. In the factory of the future, information will be seamlessly exchanged between machines and products, ensuring optimal results and peak efficiency.

According to Köckler, “HANNOVER MESSE 2015 has demonstrated that ‘Industry 4.0’ is far more than an inspirational buzzword – it is a reality. For the first time, the smart-factory solutions advertised here can be bought for direct implementation at customers’ plants.” Robots also figured prominently at the fair, drawing keen visitor interest with their captivating demonstrations of speed, precision and power. HANNOVER MESSE 2015 also revealed a new trend in this field, with protective barriers no longer separating robots from people, but robots taking their rightful place alongside human co-workers as versatile team players handling monotonous and physically demanding tasks. “Robots have been uncaged and can now directly support production crews,” said Köckler. But integration is not confined to mere production operations, as energy systems also rapidly become intelligent, driving the transition to renewable forms of energy. An increasing number of decentralized power generators – including wind, solar, hydroelectric and biogas plants – are being hooked up to the grid. “The challenge of combining all these forms of energy generation into a single intelligent power grid, and distributing this power adequately to consumers, has been impressively addressed by the many exhibitors showcasing their pioneering solutions for the energy sector at HANNOVER MESSE,” Köckler noted. “Around the globe, there is a lot of debate about whether Germany is not only a leading industrial nation, but also a leader in terms of Industry 4.0. A quick look at the show’s attendance figures says a lot about this,” remarked Dr Köckler.

Of the more than 220,000 visitors at HANNOVER MESSE, 70,000 were from abroad – a new record. “From rank-and-file SME employees to the CEO of industry giant Foxconn – all of them came here to Hannover to explore the opportunities for more integrated, faster, more individualized production. That means they are in the market for leading-edge technology – that is, for Industry 4.0. And they know that Germany is already far down the 4.0 path, and this why they turn to HANNOVER MESSE for the related expertise.” The pulling power of Industry 4.0 was also highly evident in the strong demand for guided tours, forums and events addressing the topic at the fair. According to Köckler: “The 4.0-related guided tours for visitors were booked solid. So was the Industry 4.0 forum. And we ran out of copies of the Industry 4.0 visitor guide in the first few hours. The supporting program of panel discussions and events also proved highly popular.” HANNOVER MESSE visitors were delighted with India’s confident, innovative and fresh presence as this year’s Partner Country. India succeeded in positioning itself as an up-and-coming industrial nation, with more than 400 companies displaying their goods and services at the show. India’s objective was to encourage foreign companies to set up shop there, and to encourage Indian enterprises to form even closer partnerships with German business and industry. “India put in an impressive performance, here in Hannover and throughout Germany, making ideal use of the opportunities generated by the Partner Country showcase. It has set new standards for partner countries at HANNOVER MESSE,” remarked Köckler. In the words of Anupam Shah, Chairman of EEPC India (Engineering Export Promotion Council of India): “Hannover Messe 2015 has been a tremendous success for India in every respect. As the Partner Country at one of the world’s largest engineering fair and under the leadership of the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi and Commerce & Industry Minister, Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman, Indian companies were able to showcase their technical skills, engineering capabilities and human resources before a global audience. EEPC India, which is the lead agency for India that brought 350 companies of diverse economic scales to display their engineering competence, is truly proud of having undertaken this mammoth task successfully under the guidance of the Indian Ministry of Commerce and other agencies. Major Indian companies like Roots India, HEC, to name a few, signed MoUs with their German counterparts. EEPC India also signed an MoU with BVMW, the leading German association of SMEs with 2,70,000 members. EEPC India expresses its sincere gratitude to German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, Vice Chancellor Mr Sigmar Gabriel, Minister-President of Lower Saxony, Mr Stephen Weil and other senior officials for their support in making India’s participation a grand success. EEPC India pledges to build this relationship for mutual benefit in the years to come.”


A new (3-D) perspective in presence detection.

06/04/2015
Irish/German co-operation in new technologies creating a paradigm shift in the planning of safety for current and future manufacturing systems.

Presence detection is a critical element in the basis of safety for many pharmaceutical and bio pharmaceutical processes. Detecting presence of workers prior to start-up and during operation of machinery and processes is an effective means of injury prevention. Likewise product can be protected from human contamination using collaborative robots allied with relevant 3-D presence detection. The pharmaceutical sector has always had to deploy sophisticated processes and technology in its manufacturing environment while maintaining the highest safety standards.

G-Funktionsprinzip-SafetyEYE-EN-568This is an approach which responds positively to the need for worker safety while minimising production disruption. Process components such as centrifuges and barrel mixers pose a significant risk to workers because of high speed rotational action or agitation. Likewise transportation of storage units such as intermediate bulk containers and the use of automated wrapping and palletising machinery create the need for effective safeguarding. 3D sensing systems provide many advantages through the introduction of barrier-free safeguarding.

SafetyEYE, a 3-D virtual detection system, provides a comprehensive protection zone around such machinery. Developed jointly by the Pilz Software Research and Development team in Cork (IRL) and the Product Development division in Ostfildern (D), the company considers SafetyEYE as an example of new technologies creating a paradigm shift in the planning of safety for current and future manufacturing systems.

Named ‘Safety Company of the Year’ for 2014 by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) Desmond-South Munster Branch, the award recognised Pilz’s commitment to continuous innovation, singling out the development of SafetyEYE as central to this commitment.

Bob Seward, chair of the IOSH Desmond-South Munster Branch, said: “The development of this innovative SafetyEYE technology will make a significant difference in terms of protecting people at work while they operate around machinery danger zones. Our members were very impressed with SafetyEYE and what it can achieve in terms of accident prevention and safeguarding workers.”

The world’s first 3D zone monitoring system SafetyEYE comprises a three-camera sensing device, an analysis unit and programmable control capability.

The sensing unit creates the image data of the zone to be protected and the stereoscopic cameras allow for precise distance and depth perception. Adjusting the height of the camera device allows for varying zone dimensions and areas of coverage. The image data is processed by the analysis unit to detect any intrusion of the defined 3-D protection zone and is relayed to the programmable safety and control system (PSS) for activation of the appropriate safety response.

The avoidance of an obstacle-course of physical guards has obvious advantages for increased freedom of interaction and ergonomics between machinery and humans without compromising safety for both. Because of the highly configurable software a wide range of detection zones can be designed either using pre-defined geometric forms or bespoke shapes. These zones can then be assigned various safety-related actuations with reference to the risk from an audio-visual warning to shut-down.

SafetyEYE can be used to prevent start-up of machinery when persons are in a danger zone or provide warnings and if necessary activate a shutdown if an operator enters a danger zone while such plant is running. The system can be configured to signal a warning as the worker enters the perimeter of the defined safety zone and as he continues further into the zone initiate further safety actions. The machine can remain in this suspended state while the worker completes his task. Once the worker has cleared the area the machine’s activities can resume in accordance with the worker’s egress from the safety zone. This incremental reactive capability allows for minimum downtime and so optimal productivity is maintained. For workers who only encroach on the outer points of the safety zone the triggered warning will uphold the safety integrity of the work space without limiting operation. Likewise, the system can be configured to allow for pre-defined spaces within the protection zone to be breached without shut down. This is especially useful for supervisory personnel who need to access control components which lie within the safety zone. Again they may complete their task safely without the need to disrupt the manufacturing process.

To achieve the same level of safety in such a scenario as this, a whole range of other safety measures may have to be deployed, such as guard-doors, with the physical and visual restrictions these solutions will impose. Safety for workers venturing beyond these guards would then require optical sensors which operate two-dimensionally along a plane and may require a multiplicity of sensors to provide comprehensive monitoring. This mix of solutions can present significant cost implications and their static single-plane positioning will raise costly design challenges. As SafetyEYE is positioned above the manufacturing area it does not present any physical or visual obstruction and it is also far less likely to be interfered with than other ground-level safety measures which are always more vulnerable to intentional or accidental interference. The 3-D zonal capability means that one sensor unit can provide far more safety coverage than the planar sensors. Such imaging-based devices also have a recording functionality so that safety zone breaches can be recorded or production activity monitored to feed into productivity metrics.

These attributes were acknowledged by Bob Seward of the IOSH when presenting Pilz with the award. “With the introduction of this certified technology, safety can no longer be seen as a barrier to work, slowing work down or stopping work. It can be truly integrated in the work system.”

Pilz Ireland managing director John McAuliffe said: “Pilz were honoured to receive this award. The area of safety in which we work is constantly changing and Pilz need to be innovative in order to provide our customers with solutions that achieve safety in lean manufacturing environments.” Providing services from risk assessment, safety design and safety training to customers all over the world the company views continuous development of processes and products, such as SafetyEYE, as vital in meeting the constantly evolving demands of the modern manufacturing environment.

The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI) estimates that 34% of primary pharmaceutical operations in North America by 2018 will be carried out by robots, compared with 21% in 2013. This increasing automation, along with the rapid growth of collaborative robots across all sectors, is heralding a new era of human-robot interaction in manufacturing.

SafetyEYE is especially effective in ensuring the safe deployment of collaborative robots which are ideal for handling materials and ingredients in a decontaminated environment but which require some level of interaction with operators who need to approach to carry out supervisory, control or intervention tasks.

Such are the potential production efficiencies brought about by collaborative robotics in the bulk pharmaceutical manufacturing sector that Health and Safety managers, engineers and suppliers will need to align their safety strategy in line with this new industrial environment.

As with all new technologies care and due process must be exercised in the integration with other plant and machinery. Structured risk assessment considering the specific hazards leading to intelligent safety concepts are the key to successful adoption of such new technologies. Pilz is pioneering safe automation with the continuous development of its services and products, such as SafetyEYE, ensuring that its customers can anticipate the safety challenges presented by industry developments such as collaborative robots.


The future of CCD image sensors: Are we seeing the end of an era?

30/03/2015
Sony recently announced its intention to close its 200 mm CCD wafer line in Kagoshima and to stop the manufacture of the majority of Sony’s industrial CCD (charge-coupled device) sensors.

Mark Williamson, Director – Corporate Market Development of Stemmer Imaging, explains how machine vision users and his customers are affected by this decision.

Mark Williamson

Mark Williamson

Question: CCD sensors have been the key enabler of the imaging and machine vision market, with Sony being the largest vendor of CCDs to this market. What has driven this decision?

Williamson: Before the CCD arrived video cameras were based on tube technology which were free running only and came from the broadcast industry. When CCD technology launched it became possible to add specialist features in cameras to enable triggering and hence the ability to synchronise to the production line. This enabled the explosive growth of industrial vision which developed into the industry we know today. However, while Sony CCDs have the largest market share in industrial imaging, the biggest market for image sensors has been larger markets such as consumer cameras, mobile phones, CCTV and broadcast. The importance of the CCD to mankind was recognised by a Nobel prize in Physics in 2009. In the last few years there has been a big shift from CCD to CMOS in these high volume markets which has left the CCD wafer line very underutilised even with the high number of machine vision sensors sold. This makes the factory no longer financially viable.

Question: Historically CCD sensors have outperformed CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensors in terms of image quality. Will Sony’s decision reduce the availability of high image quality sensors?

Williamson: Absolutely not, CMOS has traditionally had a reputation for lower image quality, however recent sensors have surpassed the image quality of Sony CCDs in terms of noise and dynamic range. This, coupled with the numerous advantages of CMOS sensors such as speed, lower power consumption, less support electronics and the elimination of tap balancing is the natural evolution of technology. The higher end CCDs from ON Semiconductor (formerly Truesense and Kodak) and the full frame CCDs used in professional photography from Teledyne DALSA are still available for high end applications although over time CMOS will affect this market segment also.

Question:  Are there other advantages of CMOS over CCD technology?

Williamson: From a manufacturing point of view CMOS sensors can be built on standard wafer lines which utilise mainstream manufacturing capacity and competition. From a technical point of view the ability to mix sensor and support circuits on to one device simplifies camera design and allow additional features to be integrated. Multiple regions of interest, and linear scaling of frame rate versus readout region provide application flexibility and high dynamic range modes, additionally the reduction in oversaturated image bleed makes the cameras more tolerant of changing illumination.

Question: What is the share of CCD cameras compared to CMOS cameras Stemmer is selling today?

Williamson: In 2010, 22 % of cameras we sold were based on CMOS sensors. This has risen to 58 % in 2014 with 32 % of cameras using Sony CCDs and the remainder other high end CCDs. With nearly all new camera designs using CMOS the prediction is that in a further 4 years the natural shift would make the CMOS market share approximately 80 %.

Question: What is your expectation of how Sony’s decision will change that ratio in the future?

Williamson: Although Sony has announced the closure, production will not cease until 2017 with the last deliveries in 2020 or even later, depending on the sensor model. This time scale is designed to follow the natural declining trend which is expected to continue and maybe slightly accelerate. With the attractive price: performance ratio of new CMOS cameras new designs are expected to use CMOS anyway.

Question: What are your plans with regards to the announcement?

Williamson: While Sony CCD availability will continue until at least 2020 the camera manufacturers will need to commit to quantities much earlier. Each camera manufacturer may choose to take a different approach, to commit to stock sensors or asking customers to make future commitments. Stemmer Imaging are liaising with all our camera manufacturers to agree their policy and we will communicate this policy if it has any effect on availability to customers. Some models will be available even after 2020.

Question: What is your advice for imaging and machine vision integrators and users that have used CCD cameras in the past?

Williamson: If you build an OEM product that utilises a CCD camera we believe there is no immediate need to change the camera. If there is any risk of your particular camera being made obsolete we will inform you normally with 6 months notice under our End of Life programme. However when selecting a product for a new application we would recommend selecting CMOS sensor based cameras as availability will be longer and also the price: performance ratio will be better. If CCD capability is important remember CCD sensors are available from other companies.

Question:  Are Sony leaving the machine vision sensor market by discontinuing its CCD sensors?

Williamson: Sony have been innovating with CMOS sensors for some time and are investing significantly in expanding their CMOS wafer production capability. They have announced their first CMOS global shutter sensor family under the Pregius name aimed directly at the imaging and machine vision market. The first model named IMX174 is already shipping in a number of our cameras and outperforms the Sony CCD equivalent. With a clear roadmap of further models we will still see Sony sensors in the machine vision market.

Question: Which other players are in the imaging and machine vision sensor market?

Williamson: Over the last 10 years we have seen many small companies launch CMOS image sensors addressing the low cost or high speed market where CCDs could not compete. In recent years a number of these have become significant providers through a combination of innovation and acquisition. While Sony has been the dominant supplier of CCDs to the imaging and machine markets this dominance is not evident with CMOS giving more market choice . Key players besides Sony are ON Semiconductor, CMOSIS, e2v and Teledyne DALSA. Our direct relationship with Teledyne DALSA allows us influence over their sensor strategy so customer needs are valuable input.

Question: With so many manufacturers and sensors how do I choose what?s right for my application?

Williamson: Like any product each manufacturer’s design has advantages and disadvantages. Stemmer Imaging has an in-house EMVA 1288 camera testing facility which is used to characterise cameras and hence the sensors beyond the spec sheet. With this capability, our immense knowledge of sensor and camera technologies and access to the largest number of camera manufacturers and possibly all sensors relevant to our market we are well placed to advise customers as to the sensors and cameras that are best suited to their application. When you are ready to migrate to the new generation of CMOS sensors we are here ready to assist.

• See also: What is the difference between CCD and CMOS image sensors in a digital camera? (How stuff works!)

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