Machine Design

Fiber-optic link delivers clean signals in "dirty" factories

By swapping conventional cables for a noise-resistant fiber-optic bus adapter, a control console destined for a noisy factory can be located closer to its associated paint machine. This approach taken by Behr Systems Inc., Auburn Hills, Mich., a maker of human-machine interfaces, also eliminates several hardware layers with their associated costs and risks.

Ordinarily, conventional cables connecting sites within a factory would pick up excessive electrical noise that give controllers fits. The control system could be rendered useless. But with this innovation, Behr's Ecopaint family of modular, freestanding paint-application machines can now be installed as part of a paint booth wall or inside the booth in a conventional arrangement. Because the system contains rotating atomizers that deliver a variety of coating materials in response to console-initiated commands, the fiber-optic bus ensures noise-free operation. While operators monitor the process and fine-tune the painting parameters on the fly, instructions for paint flow, bell speed, and shaping air are transmitted to the motion controllers and processors without error.

According to Dave Monacelli, a Behr software engineer, "The fiber-optic PCI to VMEbus adapter also lets us reduce the number of components that we must stock and the troubleshooting points to be monitored."

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