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SEP-OCT 2017

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INTECH SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 19 sors or programma- ble logic controllers (PLCs). Returning to the modular machine example (such as a stamping or injection molding machine), the RFID infrastruc- ture used to track the modular tooling assets can also act as a pro- cess check and control. It ensures that the correct mold/tool combination and necessary program for the job is in place on the machine before the manufacturing process begins. The RFID sys- tem communicates with a PLC to control the machine operation based on the correct param- eters being in place. Correctly setting up before running the machine prevents costly damage to tools, assets, or the system—as well as preventing unnecessary downtime. Use case 3: Predictive maintenance Another powerful implementation of RFID in the automation space is to support predictive maintenance. RFID can link part histories and repair/replacement records directly to the asset. This replaces manually checking serial num- bers, inspection records, and logs, thus saving inspection time. With RFID, manual inspection that usually takes hours or even days can be per- formed in minutes. RFID further enables predictive mainte- nance when it is combined with other sensors that measure things like force and temperature. This allows process monitoring and can trigger an alarm or stop when a parameter goes out- side of expected limits. RFID tags connected to a thermal sensor in a large motor or gearbox, Use cases: Where RFID excels RFID technology can significantly reduce downtime and increase productivity in manu- facturing environments when utilized to its full potential. Below are three applications in which RFID particularly excels. Although countless other applications exist, these are some of the most common and trusted use cases for RFID in automation. Use case 1: Asset management The most frequent application of RFID technol- ogy across all markets is asset management. A common use of RFID in asset tracking is to track a product as it goes through the manufactur- ing and assembly process. Tracking a product through the logistics chain from manufacturing to warehousing and shipment is also common. Asset management can extend beyond the manufactured product to tracking tooling, parts, and other items used on the manufactur- ing floor. For example, as manufacturing pro- cesses become more modular, a facility may use multiple molds/cavities or tools for injection molding, machining, or similar manufactur- ing operations. Tracking these high-cost capital resources may be more valuable than tracking the flow of the actual manufactured product. Of course, RFID can be used to separately track both when needed. RFID is most effectively used to track items in a dedicated, confined space, such as in a room or through a defined portal. A portal can be anything from a door to a gate on a conveyor or warehouse docking bay. Portals are traditionally created using patch antennas; however, there have been advanc - es in RFID technology that allow very specific and customized portals. For instance, there are anten - nas that can generate an RF field around the con- tour of the antenna cable itself (figure 1) allowing a wholly customized field. Smart shelves or tables are also common means of asset tracking. The system reads the tags as soon as they are placed on or removed from the smart shelf or table. Of course, RFID could also allow full tracking throughout an en tire facility, but that requires significantly more hardware and implementation. Using RFID in a dedicated space is cost effective, while still offering all the benefits of an RFID system. Use case 2: Performance monitoring and control Performance monitoring, performance metrics, or even process controls can be developed by combining RFID with other common technolo- gies used on the manufacturing floor, like sen- FACTORY AUTOMATION FAST FORWARD l RFID system benefits include preventing product and equipment shortages, tracking parts inventory, and providing up-to-date maintenance history in the field. l RFID technology can significantly reduce downtime and increase productivity in manufacturing environments. l Learn steps for implementing an effective RFID system. Figure 1. Antennas that can generate an RF field around the contour of the antenna cable allow a wholly customized field.

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