If it’s not lightning or static, electricity itself can’t easily travel through the air. However, wireless can certainly help equipment deliver power more effectively. For instance, system integrator QDS, in Baton Rouge, La., recently collaborated with Mactech Inc. in Red Wing, Minn., to help develop its Stresstech mobile power station for heat treating pipe welds.
“Whatever the method or buzzword—wireless, mobility or edge computing—it’s all about getting process data closer to users, and doing it faster and more efficiently,” says Jeffery Francis, system engineer at QDS, which is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). “Where we traditionally used hardwiring and PLCs, we’re now doing more wireless networking with seamless technologies that aren’t centralized.”
This device has a series of power ports for insulating blankets, which are wrapped around newly welded pipes for two to four hours to even out their welds. To monitor the power stations, which need to be close to welds where operators may not be able to go, QDS integrated a Micro820 PLC into the power station, and networked it with a Pepwave Wi-Fi and 5G router from Peplink, which uses EtherNet/IP protocol, and can identify other devices on a network.
“I developed an HMI application with Aveva Edge, which was formerly InduSoft Web Studio SCADA software running on a laptop. The PLC and router integrated into the Stresstech station lets users monitor and control the entire process using the laptop from anywhere with an Internet connection,” explains Francis. “Pepwave easily establishes a virtual private network (VPN) linked to a centrally located, hardware-based VPN, which also lets users secure any device, such as the welding machine or other proprietary equipment it’s connected to.”
Mactech initially had 32 Stresstech units running at a site in West Virginia, sent four to a pipeline in Australia, and deployed another two in Texas. The PLCs and routers QDS integrated let Mactech and its users monitor their mobile power stations, but they can also remotely control setpoints to complete time goals for particular welds and situations, which improves productivity and ease of use. A total of 20 are presently operating in various locations.