Process I/O: Great gadgets galore

Senior Tech Editor Rich Merritt takes a look at recent developments in I/O, wiring and terminals and concludes that it looks like we might be emerging from the new product doldrums.

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By Rich Merritt, Senior Technical Editor

FOR THE PAST several years, we have complained loudly about the dearth of real new products. Thanks to the worldwide recession, reduced research and development monies at vendor companies across the board, and falling product sales, what we’ve been seeing in these monthly product roundups have been slightly warmed over versions of last year’s products. Few companies have spent development money on new, truly advanced products.

Instead, many companies just change the color scheme or install a gold-plated screw on last year’s gadget, call it a new product, and send us a press release. In years past, we would ignore such products, because we don’t like to publish products that are more than a year old (yes, we can tell). These product roundups are supposed to be limited to all the new products in a given niche announced in the past year. This lets you see how products have developed and identify any trends.

Alas, for the past couple of years, we’ve had to run the “gold-plated screw” products, just to fill these pages. In some cases, because of the lack of products in a category, we’ve had to (blush) run last year’s products again.

In this month’s roundup on I/O, wiring and terminals, we finally get to see some ingenuity and cleverness at work, as vendors seem to have broken out of their new product doldrums and are starting to generate great gadgets galore. As near as we can tell, what you will see on the following pages and on our web site are all new products, not warmed-over versions.

Wireless, Ethernet and fieldbus products dominate the scene, as vendors have been scrambling to make their products fit into the digital world. Nearly every I/O product in this roundup has either a wireless, Ethernet or fieldbus connection.  A few even have advanced capabilities: one power switching relay controller has a built-in web server, and one DeviceNet device allows remote diagnostics.

Several of the new terminals and connectors work with fieldbus. To make your job a little easier, one company offers a 24-hr delivery service for wiring, cordsets and connectors, while another offers a design-build service for custom enclosures and wiring.

Product Roundup: I/O, Wiring and Terminals

Wireless Profibus DP
The 905U-G-PR provides wireless extension of Profibus DP LANs with secure Firewall isolation and security data encryption. The wireless Profibus extenders are available with both Profibus Master and Slave functionality, connect to a Profibus DP LAN at full bus speed of 12 Mb/sec, and can transmit more than 20 miles line-of-sight, or up to one mile in a congested plant or factory environment. Elpro Technologies; 866/713 4409;

Wireless Communications
The WirelessDIN system provides an interference-free link for monitoring and transmission of critical data. Using the license free 902-928 MHz ISM band with spread spectrum frequency hopping technology, the transmitter and receiver units are DIN rail mountable for installation in a control cabinet or can be installed in any of the company’s fiberglass, stainless steel, or cast aluminum enclosures. Adalet; 216/267-6864;

Wireless Signal Conditioner
Model 3001(ISAC-1) load cell signal conditioner combines the functions of a load cell calibrator, weight indicator, signal conditioner and wireless transceiver. It can be retrofit to any existing scale installation or any other sensors with mV outputs. An embedded program provides the functions of a typical weight indicator, set point driven digital I/O for simple process control, load cell diagnostics, and wireless communication to Bluetooth enabled PDAs and laptop computers. Sensor System Solutions; 949/855-6688;

Air/Gas Flowmeter Goes Wireless
A wireless communication option for the ST50 Flowmeter lets field technicians obtain measurements, make setting changes and read trouble-shooting codes from a PDA without ever having to open the instrument. The wireless IR link also eliminates the need for proprietary programmers, which simplifies maintenance and reduces the overall cost of use. It comes with user interface software for downloading into any Palm-OS based PDA. FCI; 800/854-1993;

Wireless Ethernet I/O Network
The WLM Wireless Link Module provides wireless connectivity between remote field sites at data rates up to 100 Mbits/sec. The bi-directional, spread spectrum wireless module employs Intelligent Spectrum Frequency Hopping technology and 32-bit CRC error correction for secure communications. Available models support Ethernet or serial communications, and operate at FCC license-free frequency ranges of 902-928MHz or 2.4-2.483GHz. Moore Industries-International; 818/894-7111;

DeviceNet Slave
DRT2 smart DeviceNet slave monitors I/O status and network communications status, allowing users to remotely monitor and diagnose such common problems as low network voltage, communications errors, and short circuits for connected devices. When combined with the company’s Configuration Software, users gain the ability to connect and monitor the factory floor network over an Ethernet connection without the need of any control programming or interruption. Omron Electronics; 866/88O-MRON;

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