It is increasingly necessary in industrial automation to network the diverse individual automation systems together and record measurement data. This is often the only way to accomplish further optimization and cost-reductions in production processes. The use of wireless communication systems for data connections is particularly well suited for system components that are mobile, located at a distance from each other or must be frequently reconfigured. Such radio-based automation systems are more flexible than other solutions, and the associated installation costs are also low. However, they must be extremely robust and reliable, functioning flawlessly under difficult environmental conditions.
Industrial environments present conditions that are especially detrimental to radio communication. Disruptive electromagnetic influences from production systems and numerous metal objects can interfere with wireless transmission systems. Another challenge is posed by the coexistence of multiple radio systems in the same environment. Interference between the radio systems can result, causing one of the systems to fail.
For these reasons, the RobAn project is working on technical aids and software tools that can realistically evaluate the functional capability of a new radio solution already during the planning phase. Possible sources of interference should also be identified and potential coexistence problems avoided through reconfiguration.
In order that existing infrastructure in industrial production halls or similar environments can be expanded with a new radio solution, the currently used radio channels are typically measured and an open frequency band identified. However, only a limited range of frequencies are available. This method therefore leaves the possible number of different radio systems within a production environment severely restricted. To allow for greater freedom in this respect, the RobAn project seeks to enable conclusions to be drawn regarding the reliability and coexistence of wirelessly networked automation systems prior to installation. This would allow multiple suitable radio systems to operate on a single frequency, for instance.
The three participating project partners are developing an emulation platform that will make it possible to reconstruct in a real test environment the radio conditions in the industrial hall, in other words the radio infrastructure, electromagnetic interference and other influencing factors. This is based on computer models that take into account the various measurements and analyses of the industrial hall. The robustness, reliability and potential coexistence of a new radio solution can then be investigated and evaluated in a test environment. The radio conditions of the real industrial hall are always taken into consideration. This approach allows the configuration of the new radio solution to be adapted to the existing radio infrastructure already during the planning phase, significantly lowering the time required as well as the costs for installation and maintenance of the new radio solution.