Helping the Factory of the Future Go Wireless

Today’s factories demand flexible manufacturing. Leading manufacturers need to react quickly to shifting customer demands, customization, and short product life cycles with interchangeable processes and equipment that can be reconfigured, modified and replaced quickly and easily with a minimum of wear-and-tear, maintenance costs, and downtime. However, much of the equipment on factory floors still relies on traditional physical connectors and is subject to wear-and-tear’s deleterious effect on industrial productivity.

Manufacturers in this space are eager to eliminate physical connectors, replacing them with next-generation wireless technology. But because wireless RF technology has never been used in many of these applications, manufacturers don’t have the necessary RF expertise to identify the right technologies and design the RF system. Analog Devices is actively partnering with these manufacturers, bringing the cutting-edge RF expertise and industrial application knowledge necessary to deliver a complete wireless solution.

At a Glance

Companies:

Factory equipment manufacturers

Applications:

Connectivity for a variety of industrial automation systems uses

Problem:

Physical connectors wear out quickly, leading to costly maintenance, downtime, data reliability issues

Challenge:

A partner with a deep understanding of both the application and the RF domain to create a complete, turnkey RF solution

Need:

A partner with a deep understanding of both the application and the RF domain to create a complete, turnkey RF solution

Goal:

Reliable wireless communication essential to guarantee real-time operation, continuous uptime, reduced maintenance, and maximum efficiency


Better, More Efficient Connectors

The need for faster and more reliable wireless solutions to handle ever-increasing amounts of data in the toughest industrial settings has never been higher.

Many manufacturers are stuck in the old world of physical connectors, sending commands and setup instructions through wires and cables with slow data transmission speeds. The problem here is that not only are these wires expensive, with installation costs running anywhere from $10 to $1,000 per foot -- wires wear out and need to be replaced. And some manufacturers are still using physical connectors of a different sort – mechanical contacts. These also wear out.

But the cost of wear-and-tear maintenance and slow transmission speeds are just two of the many reasons why manufacturers are investing in wireless technology. Other reasons include fast and flexible configurability and the reduction of labor and setup time.


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A Leap Forward

One particular manufacturer is poised to leverage RF technology to eliminate physical contacts in rotary joints (also known as slip rings), an assembly for transmitting data and power across a rotating connection in the moving parts of industrial automation systems equipment.

Rotating tools spin in a way that wires cannot be used. In some applications where connections need to be made between something stationary and something spinning, a wire is not practical. So, they use electromechanical contacts made of brushes and filaments. Because these contacts are mechanical in nature, they are subject to:

  • Wear-and-tear
  • Electrical interference which can degrade the data transmission signal
  • Limited bandwidth

With all this in mind, the manufacturer sought to replace the traditional contacts with a wireless 60 GHz data interface broadcasting commands quickly, at low cost, and with higher reliability. But they did not possess the essential RF knowledge base or expertise required to develop the solution independently. Nor did they have the projected time to build the solution from the ground up. With the cost of original R&D, prototypes, and testing – a full solution was beyond their reach. So, they turned to a longtime trusted partner, Analog Devices.


The Analog Devices Solution

With its deep domain knowledge, expertise, and system-level understanding, Analog Devices is developing a complete solution, including the core 60 GHz chipset and the full RF signal chain all the way to, and including, the antenna. This complete RF link is a board-level plug-and-play module for both ends of the communication link. Solutions of this level not only solve the customers’ application problem but more importantly gets them to market in a fraction of the time it would take to build the necessary RF capabilities themselves.


The Value of Experience, Expertise, and Wide Spectrum Knowledge

“We’re solving a full system design challenge here, not just a chip level challenge,” said Anton Patyuchenko, Senior Field Applications Engineer at Analog Devices. “That requires that we engage differently – to be brought in earlier in the process, not expecting to be told exactly what the customer needs. To create real value and engage in collaborative problem solving and exploration, I need to understand your application thoroughly. It’s not something just any semiconductor company can do.”

As domain experts and leaders in the full spectrum RF space, Analog Devices dives fully into the customer’s underlying challenges, assumptions, restrictions, and goals. Extensive system level application knowledge enables Analog Devices to quickly engage in high-level conversations revealing the underlying problem and separating the need-to-haves from the nice-to-haves.

Analog Devices: Ahead of What’s Possible

“If you have a challenge and don’t know how to solve it, we know the space, what questions to ask, and how to solve it,” Anton said. “Analog Devices is offerings customers a whole new level of flexibility to ensure the realization of future proof products with expandable functionality.”



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