Wireless pushbuttons made their most famous debut with the Zenith TV remote control in 1956. Ever since, the land of the wireless pushbutton has remained, for the most part, in the realm of the consumer product. But with wireless devices gaining an increasing foothold in industrial automation applications, it was only a matter of time before the application of wireless pushbuttons came to pass.
I’m not claiming that Schneider Electric’s Harmony XB5R is the first wireless pushbutton for industrial application, but it is the first from Schneider Electric as well as the first of its kind I have seen put into use by an OEM. Before getting into the application, here are a few particulars about the Harmony XB5R.
It looks like a standard industrial pushbutton (see picture below) and can be mounted on a machine in a plastic or metal housing. More interestingly, the pushbutton can be programmed to interact with multiple devices on a machine, which means that the pushbutton does not have to be mounted, but can be carried around by a machine operator.
The pushbutton works by converting the mechanical energy created when the button is pushed into electrical energy, which sends a radio message to a receiver that connects with the device to be acted upon. An added bonus to this conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy is that the pushbutton does not require batteries to operate. This, of course, means no battery replacement, recharging or disposal/recycling issues.
If the receiver is mounted in a control cabinet, signals can be passed between pushbutton and receiver up to 25 meters away. However, if the receiver is mounted outside the cabinet, signals can be transmitted up to 100 meters away. Programming between pushbutton and receiver works much the same way you program the pushbutton in your car to open your garage door.
For machine designers, the ability to eliminate wiring between pushbuttons and devices not only saves on wiring costs, but simplifies and expands machine design options — especially considering that communication distances can be up to 100 meters.
Getting back to the application mentioned earlier, GAI, a bottling machine OEM in Italy, uses the Harmony XB5R in some of its machine designs. Some GAI customers have ordered machines that use one pushbutton carried around by a machine operator to interact with multiple devices on the bottling line designed by GAI.
Click here to learn more about the Harmony XB5R and see it in action on a GAI machine.