Minneapolis--The joint-venture union of two firms would seem to be news for the business pages. But the joining of the bus-product lines of sensor companies Banner Engineering and Turck to form InterlinkBT(TM) (all of Minneapolis) has implications for design engineers. The new unit offers bus stations, junctions, cordsets, and components for device-level bus systems.
InterlinkBT President Murray Death notes the impact of open buses on control and communications on process and factory automation equipment. "Control, instrumentation, and process engineers are recognizing the benefits of open controls, device-level buses and fieldbuses. For example, they can reduce costs by eliminating traditional point-to-point wiring, with fewer circuit checks, terminations, cabinets, and connections," says Death. "Also, they are demanding creative, flexible solutions to their I/O problems--and they are demanding choices." Because InterlinkBT does not have a strong tie to any open bus, users have the freedom to specify the most effective system.
Besides bus-protocol choices, design engineers can pick a range of hardware. "Intelligent" stations have bus electronics built in, so that existing devices do not need to be replaced with new "smart" ones. Such stations provide diagnostics on bus status. For example, green LEDs may indicate normal bus, power, and output operations; yellow LEDs note input on; and red ones flag anomalies such as no bus communications, power loss, and short circuits. Modules also feature automatic baud-rate detection at start up. And via DIP switches or over the network, users can set node addresses.
Without built-in bus electronics, multi-port junctions can distribute data to smart devices linked to the bus. Both bus stations and junctions are available in environmentally hardened materials and configurations.
Products often overlooked are available from InterlinkBT. While buses save wiring, users often have to specify it in standard lengths of cordsets, resulting in extra feet of cable for each sensor or actuator. After components are installed and the cable runs are measured, InterlinkBT supplies exact lengths of cable needed with rapid delivery.
"Turck and Banner have a long history in buses and have combined their knowledge and strengths," Death notes. This expertise includes: on-machine, process, and manufacturing experience; packaging for demanding environments; interconnect and cabling technologies; and distribution and marketing. "The two companies have had complementing sensor technologies for many years, and will retain that focus. InterlinkBT will concentrate on bus products not embedded in the sensor. At this time, the three operations are not seeking other formal collaborations," says Death.
"There is potential for increased intelligence in sensors because of buses," notes Bob Fayfield, Banner Engineering president. "Even though the primary purpose of the bus is simplified wiring, it's important for sensor manufacturers to supply bus products to take advantage of this potential."
"InterlinkBT will concentrate on bus products (device-level and field buses), allowing the parents to focus on their core strengths in proximity sensors, cordsets (Turck), and photoelectric sensors (Banner)," says Turck president Bill Schneider.
Products will be marketed by the parents' current North American distributors. "We will be able to counsel our customers in an unbiased way regarding which bus and hardware will most precisely fit their needs," says Death. "Our customers will not be locked into a single technology." He notes that while some bus protocols are faster, others may handle more data or go longer distances. Cost may vary and, he goes on, "often a bus is not the best solution. If it is, InterlinkBT will supply the exact components the customer requires."
What's driving designers' bus needs and solutions?
- Lower installed cost.
- Less engineering investment.
- Shorter start-up times, quicker installations.
- More operational "up time," via fewer repairs done more quickly.
- Higher return on investment.