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Linking industry to information through optical fiber

Posted by Larry Malone

Factory Automation Robotics Palettizing BreadWhen many people think of factories, they think of low technology, manual processes and hundreds of staff working on production lines. Nowadays nothing could be further from the truth – with the growth in automation and the use of smart machines factories are now full of the latest technology, with human involvement kept to a minimum.

First generation factory automation saw individual machines programmed and controlled locally, but as technology has matured machines are increasingly linked together to create a seamless process. A new part can be designed and its dimensions automatically delivered to the machine that will create it, without the need for human involvement. Monitoring can be carried out through remote sensors with the results automatically flagged to supervisors.

All of this technology relies on the fast transmission of enormous amounts of data, often in tight and confined spaces alongside and amongst large and noisy machines. Chemicals, vibration and heat add to the demands on technology deployed within factories. While optical fibre is becoming the method of choice for delivering this data, it has to be able to cope reliably with the toughest conditions 24×7. And data needs to flow in both directions – from ERP and CAD systems to machines and then back through sensors to monitor and ensure uninterrupted, high quality production.

PPCProtecting optical fibre is therefore critical, and PPC’s Miniflex non-metallic armoured cable and ducts have been deployed in a large number of factories to enable automated machine control, data collection and monitoring.

Factories come in all shapes and sizes and therefore PPC provides a full range of products to meet differing needs. Our UL-certified riser products enable cable to be routed high into buildings, including within plenum ducts, meeting the tightest controls and the most demanding requirements.

Automated machine control
The rugged and redeployable nature of PPC's products make them well suited to factory floor and industrial sites. As we offer a wide range of cable and microduct materials it is simple to choose the right option to meet specific environmental and chemical resistance needs. Options include Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH) cable, which reduces the amount of toxic and corrosive gas emitted during fires, making it perfect for poorly ventilated factory areas.

Also, when our microduct is deployed the fibre type and count can be upgraded as the production equipment evolves.

The protection within our fibre ensures production equipment gets the data it needs to work 24×7, can be monitored remotely and provides a reliable, flexible solution that underpins factory operations.

Fiber sensors
Fibre sensors are replacing electrical transducers in a variety of measurement applications, such as fluid containment checks on containers and stress and fatigue monitoring in bridges. Protecting fibre in tough conditions is vital, and PPC’s Miniflex non-metallic armoured cables have a combination of lightweight, toughness and flexibility and are crush resistant up to 4000N. PPC cables and ducts are therefore the perfect choice to connect sensors and cameras to monitoring systems in even the tightest and most demanding of factory installations.

Optical power transmission
Advanced devices, such as lasers, require the safe and reliable delivery of significant optical power to where it is needed. Our technology is being deployed to protect laser instruments on the surface of Mars, and while factories aren’t quite so harsh an environment, they offer similar challenges. If cables are bent too tightly, there is a danger of power leakage and damage to fibre coatings. Miniflex® prevents this as it resistant to over bending while remaining flexible and strong.

From high tech clean rooms creating the most precise of computer chips and instruments, to factories producing plastics and traditional bottling plants the needs are similar. Businesses have to ensure the free flow of information across the factory floor and beyond in the toughest conditions, which requires the power of optical fiber and the rugged protection that PPC provides.

solving fiber to premise challenge with pushable fiber

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