Keep making the tablets!

08/05/2018
This article shows how valuable manufacturing production line downtime in the pharmaceutical industry can be reduced by ensuring predictive maintenance of tablet making machinery using Harting’s MICA industrial computing platform.

Introduction
Harting recently challenged postgraduate students from the Centre for Doctoral Training in Embedded Intelligence at Loughborough University to investigate practical application solutions where MICA – the company’s innovative open platform based ruggedised industrial edge computing device – could be applied to the benefit of manufacturing. Simple seamless integration within existing established production processes was the target, based on the concept of machine predictive maintenance.

The key objective was to achieve immediate productivity improvements and return on investment (RoI), thus satisfying the increasing trend for Integrated Industry 4.0 implementation on the factory floor. One such proposal was suggested for volume manufacturers in the pharmaceutical industry: in particular, those companies manufacturing tablets using automated presses and punch tools.

Data from these machines can be collected using passive UHF RFID “on metal” transponders which can be retrofitted to existing tablet press machines and mounted on the actual press-die/punch tools. The RFID read and write tags can record the pressing process, i.e. the number of operations performed by a particular press die, plus any other critical operating sensor-monitored conditions. The system can then review that data against expected normal end-of-life projected limits set for that die.

Such data can be managed and processed through Harting’s MICA edge computing device, which can then automatically alert the machine operator that maintenance needs to take place to replace a particular die-set before it creates a catastrophic tool failure condition and breakdown in the production line – which unfortunately is still quite a common occurrence.

Open system software
MICA is easy to use, with a touch-optimised interface for end users and administrators implemented entirely in HTML5 and JavaScript. It provides an open system software environment that allows developers from both the production and IT worlds to quickly implement and customise projects without any special tools. Applications are executed in their own Linux-based containers, which contain all the necessary libraries and drivers. This means that package dependencies and incompatibilities are eliminated. In addition, such containers run in individual “sandboxes” which isolate and secure different applications from one another with their own separate log-in and IP addresses. As a result, there should be no concerns over data security when MICA is allowed access to a higher-level production ERP network.

MICA is already offered with a number of containers such as Java, Python C/C++, OPC-UA, databases and web toolkits, all available on free download via the HARTING web site. As a result, users should be able to download links to the operating software system compatible with an existing machine, enabling full 2-way communication with the MICA device. Relaying such manufacturing information, which can comprise many gigabytes of data in the course of a day, directly to the ERP would normally overwhelm both the network and the ERP. With the MICA, this data stream is buffered directly onto the machine and can be reduced to just essential business-critical data using proven tools from the IT world.

The resultant improvements in productivity include:

– Less downtime reduces the amount of money lost during unforeseen maintenance of damaged punch tools.
– Individual punch identification will help in removing a specific punch, once it has reached its pre-set operational frequency working limit.
– A digital log of each punch and the number of tablets that it has produced is recorded. This provides vital information for GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) regulators such as the MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) or the FDA (Food & Drug Administration).

A further benefit is that MICA is very compact, with DIN rail mounting fixing options that allow it to be easily accommodated inside a machine’s main control cabinet.

@HARTING #PAuto #Pharma @CDT_EI

Reduce data centre asset liabilities.

07/08/2016
How you implement RFID monitoring is critical to the performance of the system.

Harting_Data_Centre_AppWith regular headlines about the latest cybercrime attack stealing important or commercially sensitive data, the physical security of IT equipment is often overlooked. One area in particular is the almost casual theft of small pieces of equipment from the racks. For example, the latest helium filled 10TB hard drive represent a €700  (£600stg) investment and with up to 22 drives used in a 4U storage array, loss through theft can be substantial.

The constant monitoring of what equipment is located inside the data centre has additional benefits not only in terms of security but also in managing cooling air-flow requirements and power consumption, which support growing need to demonstrate compliance with Green IT initiatives.

In response, data centres have been increasingly looking for cost efficient solutions for key asset management. Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM)* is an emerging holistic management approach that combines traditional data centre equipment and facilities with monitoring software for centralized control. DCIM includes physical and asset level components and by combining both information technology and facilities management it raises the effectiveness of a data centre.

RFID has been seen by many as a key element to providing real-time monitoring of component location within the data centre. By installing passive RFID tags on every removable component of the rack data centre systems integrators and site operations managers can easily use them not only to record locations but more information about the device than they could before with standard asset tags.

But how you implement RFID monitoring is critical to the performance of the system.

Portable hand-held RFID reader systems have a very small UHF read range and only offer a slightly better performance than relying on paper records or barcodes because it requires employees to walk down aisles and identify the piece of equipment and its location. This is a very time-consuming task and as such is not undertaken very often. It also relies on the competence and integrity of the operator carrying out the check.

Fig1_HartingRFID

Fig 1

Up until now it has been unrealistic from a physical location point of view to directly integrate even the most compact passive RFID UHF patch antennas into existing data centre server rack arrays.

Typically, 4 antennas would have to be separately mounted either side of the front of each server rack, in both the upper and lower areas and carefully positioned to ensure there are no gaps in the RF field coverage. Correspondingly, with such an arrangement it would also be necessary to utilise multiple readers, resulting in excessive installed cost

Harting now have the ideal solution to remove this higher cost multiple patch antenna and reader arrangement with its innovative Ha-VIS RFID LOCFIELD® coaxial cable waveguide antenna.

They can be directly integrated, with insulating spacers, onto the rear side of the front access door of each server rack. Only one of these Ha-VIS RFID LOCFIELD® antennas needs to be fitted for a fully installed 45U sever rack. By fitting in an extended S-shape design (See Fig. 1) you can achieve the best possible RF field coverage of the complete rack. In conjunction with a single reader which has the required power to match the correct read distances, it can register passive RFID tags that provide specific item identification within a rack and additional sensor functionalities e.g. detecting empty or occupied slots, thus minimizing the complete data centre system installation cost.

The Ha-VIS RFID LOCFIELD® is a traveling wave RFID antenna consisting of a coax cable that—when plugged into the antenna port of a Harting UHF EPC Class1 Gen 2 reader—conveys the reader’s RF signal along the cable’s copper core and to the antenna’s far end, where a coupling element draws the RF wave out and onto the cable’s exterior. When that signal reaches the reader, a metal protecting shield prevents the interrogator from receiving its own signal and interfering with its performance. N.B. The Ha-VIS LOCFIELD ® antenna should not be mounted directly onto a metal surface but raised-off slightly with insulating spacers.

Fig2_HartingRFID

Fig 2 – Harting HA-VIS RFID LOCFIELD® antenna

By its functional nature the Ha-VIS RFID LOCFIELD® antenna facilitates real-time monitoring of movements in and out to the rack enclosure and is available in different lengths up to 10 metres and is 5 millimeters in diameter. If used with a high-powered reader, such as Harting’s Ha-VIS RF-R500 long range reader transmitting a signal of 4 watts (36dBm), it can read passive EPC Class 1 slot Gen 2 transponders located up to 2.5 metres away radially over its entire length.

Put simply Harting’s Ha-VIS RFID LOCFIELD® antennas allow you to identify what is in a data centre rack, its population status and where a specific item is located.

* DCIM was originally defined in the US and describes a methodology of IT and facilities management.
@Harting #PAuto

Connection allows expansion modules be added in seconds.

12/01/2016

Peak Production Equipment manufactures a comprehensive range of test equipment, from simple test boxes used by subcontract manufacturers to stand-alone high specification test racks and systems used in the aerospace and other industries.

HartingandPeak

Harting’s har-flex® PCB connector system is a key component in a new versatile interface developed by Peak.

A key element of the company’s offering is the fact that all its test fixtures and interfaces are designed and manufactured in-house, which represents an increasing challenge because of the growing demand for lower-cost test solutions from customers. To accommodate this requirement, Peak needed a robust, computer-controlled interface board containing relay controls and digital inputs and outputs which could be configured flexibly to accept different customers’ test scenarios.

As such boards are not available in the marketplace at a reasonable cost, Peak took on the challenge of producing the board in-house.

HAR_FlexPCBHarting’s har-flex® family is a general-purpose PCB connector series based on a 1.27 mm grid with SMT termination technology. With its straight, angled and cable variants, har-flex® provides connectivity solutions for many different board-to-board and cable-to-board applications.
The different stacking heights of the mezzanine connectors and the flexible IDC connector cable lengths offer a high degree of freedom to the system design. A broad choice of configurations between six and 100 contacts in even-numbered positions is available.

The system had to be compact, low cost, expandable, robust and reliable and cover a wide voltage range, while at the same time incorporating multiple control interfaces, with one interface controlling a range of expansion modules. It also had to be compatible with multiple software drivers, and all the components used in its construction had to be fully traceable.

The solution arrived at by Peak engineers was based around a master interface PCB which acts as the key interface between the controlling PC and all the expansion modules. It is fitted with three interfaces: USB, Ethernet and RS232. The board can be used as a stand-alone controller, or it can be “piggy-backed” onto any expansion module or alternatively connected to expansion modules using a ribbon cable for maximum flexibility. The PCB assembly has a high speed I2C interface, 23 channels of digital I/O and 256 kbits of on-board memory, all controlled by any one of the three control interfaces. The PCB has a wide voltage input range from 7 to 36 V DC, and measures only 100 × 50 mm.

The on-board memory allows storage of data such as test cycles and date of manufacture, while the digital I/O is useful for monitoring sensor inputs and switching indicators and additional relays. The I2C interface is used for all expansion module communications, but can also be used as a stand-alone interface.

A 16-channel high-power SPDT relay board is used as the expansion module. This contains 16 SPDT 12 A, 250 V AC relays for general power switching. The relays can be switched and the status can be read back by the master interface PCB. All relays have LED indication, and the PCB has the same wide voltage input range as the master interface board (7-36 V DC) and measures 100 × 220 mm. Although the relay board can be used for general switching inside test fixtures and systems, it can also be used in many other applications.

HARTING har-flex® connectors were selected for board connectivity due to their small size, robustness and flexibility. They can be used as board-to-board connectors, allowing the master interface PCB to be connected to any expansion module directly; alternatively, the same connector can have a ribbon cable connected to connect subsequent expansion modules.

The small size of the connector allowed Peak to increase the pin count, allowing power lines to be commoned up and all communications and power to be passed down a single ribbon cable. As a result, expansion modules could be added in a matter of seconds.

The har-flex® family is a general-purpose PCB connector series based on a 1.27 mm grid with SMT termination technology. With its straight, angled and cable variants, har-flex® provides connectivity solutions for many different board-to-board and cable-to-board applications.

The different stacking heights of the mezzanine connectors and the flexible IDC connector cable lengths offer a high degree of freedom to the system design. A broad choice of configurations between six and 100 contacts in even-numbered positions is available.


Patent case won in China

27/07/2010

HARTING takes action against Chinese patent infringers

Patent infringements and plagiarism represent major problems in China, especially for the manufacturers of brand products. The Harting Technology Group has taken resolute action against a Chinese company that had copied its connectors. Following in-depth investigations, the Espelkamp (Germany) headquartered company took recourse to the Shanghai Second Intermediate Court and initiated legal proceedings for damage and injunction in connection with patent infringements.

After proceedings of only four months the Shanghai court passed a judgment confirming the patent infringement and sentencing the respective manufacturer to discontinue the production and sales of the counterfeit products, as well as imposing the payment of damages.

The court judgment is an important positive signal for Harting, as this action not only weakens the market position of the opponent, but also issues a warning to current and future patent infringers.

Harting is a globally active company and holds a particularly strong position on Asian markets. The Technology Group has filed patents in China since the beginning of the nineties, although their actual enforceability has been doubtful to date. The outcome of the recent proceedings demonstrates that intellectual property is also being protected in China in the meantime. In taking resolute action, they have clearly demonstrated that the company will assert its intellectual property rights internationally and will not hesitate to take recourse to all respective legal measures – now and in future.