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Industry 4.0 requires enclosures for smart sensor applications

Enclosures for IIoT Applications in Smart Factories

The fourth industrial revolution, or "Industry 4.0" for short, has already begun, even if many people are not really aware of this. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that most people have already heard of it, but many are struggling with the definition and its real impact on day-to-day working life. In addition, the topical subjects of IoT (Internet of Things) and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) are mentioned in the same breath as Industry 4.0. This makes things a little more complex.

KAY HIRMER
Head of Marketing at OKW Gehäusesysteme

IoT in the household

Digitisation and networking can best be used and understood in your own private environment: with your smartphone, which has meanwhile become "man's best friend", you can today control a wide variety of things, no matter where you are. Individual devices such as the smart watch are linked up with other "smart things" and the data is stored in a centralized secure "cloud". All of this is intended to make our everyday life easier for us. In my opinion much of this is absolutely sensible, such as wearable emergency call systems/transmitters in hospitals or social areas. Or also personal tracking systems in occupations with an increased safety risk. An interesting example is the "Capturs" by the French manufacturer of the same name (www.capturs.com). At first glance this GPS tracking system may seem to cater for the fun factor, but a closer look reveals much more: the wearable device makes it possible for friends, family and fans to keep track of routes and thus to be involved live when persons are pursuing their sports activities, regardless of the terminal unit in question. You can export/save the data (route, distance, elevation, duration) and even publish them in social networks. But now the special feature: in the event of crashes or accidents, departure from the predefined route, longer stay at a given location and when the battery is weak, it automatically sends an email or a text message to certain persons. This makes it possible to call for help quickly in case of emergency. The Capturs was installed in the OKW MINITEC series of enclosures and can be used for all outdoor activities: hiking, skiing, climbing, paragliding etc. Other OKW series of enclosures that can be used for wearables are the BODY-CASE and the ERGO-CASE.

Industry 4.0 and IIoT

Let us come back now to the actual topic of "Industry 4.0" and IIoT "Industrial Internet of Things". There is a significant difference between the two concepts – in short, Industry 4.0 is a high-tech strategy for promoting the digitisation of industrial production; IIoT is the concrete use of smart technologies in the manufacturing industry. Many companies are currently discussing the question of how to make internal processes transparent and how to optimise them across different levels/organisations. In IIoT, it is also basically a question of making things smarter by making them communicate with each other. The focus here is on sensors which are embedded in the devices and which constantly gather and centrally deliver data concerning machinery and special application scenarios or data about the user and the entire value-added chain. The main objectives are always the same: providing better quality, optimising processes and streamlining operations, optimising the use of resources, completing orders faster and delivering them faster to the customers. In addition, an important objective is to significantly shorten the market introduction cycle for new products in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Enclosures and IIoT

Even today, many OKW enclosures series are used for the most varied applications in the smart factory. Subsequent use in day-to-day work is highly varied, and the requirements to be met by the enclosures may therefore vary considerably:

  • Mobile enclosures for the integration of temperature, humidity or presence sensors – ergonomic design for fatigue-free working.
  • Installed permanently on the wall as gateways – simple, concealed wall mounting, possibly with security functions
  • In machines/systems with integrated vibration/pressure and status sensors.
  • In miniature form for wearable applications – on the arm, wrist, around the neck or in the shirt/trouser pocket
  • Larger sizes in a robust design – if more space is required for installing components/displays. 
  • Use of high-quality materials for the manufacture of the standard enclosures
  • High IP classes for the protection of the built-in electronic components and sensors.
  • Options for modifying the standard products according to individual customer wishes and requirements.

In the following, I have picked out some interesting examples of customer applications from the field of IIoT for you:

Wireless data logger

Wireless data logger

With the Almemo 470 wireless data logger by Ahlborn Mess- und Regelungstechnik, you can wirelessly measure climate parameters such as temperature or atmospheric humidity. A flexible connection technology for digital sensors allows the adaptation of a large number of different sensors for measuring different variables.

Application wireless data logger
Wireless network access point

Wireless network access point

At field level, the sWave.NET wireless network by steute Schaltgeräte GmbH & Co. KG facilitates variable communication between wireless switching devices and access points, which function in a similar manner to a router. They receive signals from wireless switching devices, bundle them and then transmit them, e.g. by Ethernet or WiFi, to one or more application servers. The access points are installed across the transmission range and communicate with the wireless switchgear.

Application wireless network access point
Smart TAG

Smart TAG

The conbee Smart TAG is based on the Bluetooth 4.x specification with a range of up to 150 m. The fully configurable TAG has an authentication function using out-of-band or SecureSimple pairing, is forgery-proof and has a motion sensor that is capable of detecting manipulation attempts. Status data are transmitted at dynamically adaptable transmission intervals in advertisement packets that provide information about the object to be tracked. The intelligent TAG cyclically reports its identification number, temperature and movement data as well as battery status and optionally also its position.

Application Smart TAG
Robust UHF reader

Robust UHF reader

RF-Embedded GmbH has developed an RFID reader for the passive ultra high frequency (UHF) radio range, which generates an energy field from electromagnetic waves. As soon as a passive UHF transponder enters the energy field, it sends the content of its memory to the relevant RFID reader.

Application robust UHF reader

We have now drawn up a list of all enclosures that are suitable for the use of smart sensors under a separate heading. Now you can find a suitable sensor enclosure even more quickly.

To ensure that the standard enclosures also meet individual customer requirements in terms of company colour, visual adaptation to the usage environment, company logo, the electronic components and cables etc., we offer a wide range of services: painting, printing, EMC aluminium vapour plating as protection from stray radiation, cutouts/openings, for example for USB/SPI/I2C/LAN connectors or control buttons. In industrial enclosures with high IP classes, the use of special pressure compensation elements is a big advantage. A partial vacuum may be created inside sealed enclosures if there is a change of temperature. Moisture and dirt particles may be sucked in, damaging the sensitive electronics. These OKW pressure compensation elements can counteract this, since they allow an especially high air flow. At the same time the innovative design provides reliable protection against dirt and, if required, is absolutely waterproof up to a pressure of 6 bar.

general operation

  • The physical world is connected to the digital world through the collection of reliable sensor data, correct evaluation or real-time analysis.
  • The collection of data through countless different sensors is highly diverse 
  • The best-known sensors are temperature, humidity and presence sensors. Energy, vibration, pressure and status sensors are used especially in machines.
  • To transfer the data, wireless networks such as GSM, LTE, BLE, WLAN, WiFi or the particularly power-saving LoRa standard are required.
  • Wireless and battery-free applications according to the EnOcean principle are also interesting for a limited range.
  • So-called APIs such as SPI, I2C, LAN, USB are necessary in the enclosures/devices.
  • These data can also be paired with weather data from the Internet; the data can be stored in suitable cloud solutions.