Innovation is great! How could there be a downside to making better quality products or making products more efficiently? After all, being able to make goods faster and cheaper with more capability can only lead to wider distribution and improvements in quality of life for more and more people. Right? If history can be used to provide a preview of the future then the answer is an emphatic, YES! Yet, innovation requires change, which can be difficult for some, even when it benefits them. For example, an advanced industrial environment with more robots than people is a scary prospect for some. It should not be, however, as machines will always need programming and oversight.
Advanced industrial environment
More and more industrial facilities are subscribing to the Industry 4.0 concept of using small numbers of smart machines to improve their production efficiencies and outputs, while releasing people to perform higher-level tasks. These machines are typically automated and may be able to communicate and interact with other machines or people. This level of sophistication is only possible with embedded PCBs or electronics products that enable them to perform specific activities; network and communicate to accomplish production tasks; while uploading to and downloading from assembly lines. Let’s explore embedded product design and development processing, which creates the basic building blocks of advanced industrial processing.
Types of Advanced Industrial Embedded Products
The automation of industrial manufacturing is certainly not novel. In fact, some type of automation in industrial production has existed at least since the dawn of the first Industrial Revolution, which was around 1760. The use of automation has continued to grow ever since, although the needs and motivations for its usage have essentially remained the same and include:
- Improve product quality
- Reduce product cost
- Increase product output
Beginning in the 20th century, these needs have been augmented with the improvement of safety and increased flexibility. Even more recently, there has been an added emphasis on controller usability or the reduction in complexity of running the automation process.
Industrial automation is not limited to any particular industries. For example, virtually all manufacturers have assembly lines that use motors to propel products through the different stages of assembly. In addition to this basic automation, manufacturers utilize specialized automation equipment to perform functions that meet their specific needs. These include: soft drink manufacturers that utilize automation to accurately fill containers; plastics and metal manufacturers that use automated injection modeling machines; cardboard manufacturers that use automated folding and gluing machines to create various types of packaging for other products; and numerous other manufacturing operations.
All industrial automation operations can be classified as one of four types:
1. Fixed (hard) automation: The equipment determines the process organization.
2. Programmable automation: The order of operations is set by a controlling program. Different products or sets of operations require different programs.
3. Flexible (soft) automation: This is similar to programmable automation, except that the process can be changed by modifying the program’s code.
4. Integrated automation: The entire process is computer controlled and may include robots interacting with other robots.
Furthermore, automation processes can be divided into distinct levels based on their specific function within the process. The following table illustrates this organizational structure and the embedded products used according to level.
Production control level
|Program and control machinery and equipment scheduling and other parameters||Industry 4.0 Devices - Computers, Data storage, and Networking|
Computers, Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs)
|Direct control level||Process field data and generate controls||Programmable logic controllers (PLCs), Robotics, Computer Numerical Control (CNC), Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm (SCARA)|
|Field or device level||Data gathering and control distribution||Sensors, Actuators, Relays, Motors|
The table above lists common embedded products that may be found in industrial automation systems across industries. Depending on the specific product(s) manufactured and the level of automation, products such as robotics may be more or less prolific and found at higher levels. For example, a completely automated facility would have robots at the supervisory and production control levels.
Embedded Product Design and Development Guidelines
In addition to the embedded products listed above, industrial automation processes require communication between layers. The medium may be wired or wireless. Common wired mediums include RS485, CAN bus, Profibus, and DeviceNet. Wireless protocols include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. For most industrial facilities, the embedded products are third-party devices that are integrated into their production equipment. This, coupled with the wide range of manufacturing operation types and needs, means that embedded product design and development is customized in many cases. This is indeed the case for advanced industrial processing operations as they are typically specialized.
Regardless of the specific level of the automation process they are part of, the commonality among the embedded products is that they are comprised of, and driven by, PCBs as shown below.
Embedded product PCBs by automation level
This allows us to put forth some general embedded product design and development guidelines that will aid you in meeting the needs of these types of products, as listed below.
- Optimize your component selection
The use of high-quality components will reduce the probability of downtime, which is counterproductive to industrial automation, as it translates into lower ROI and production levels.
- Design for compactness
Smaller boards allow for smaller machines that require less power to operate. This also allows for more capability integration.
- Utilize materials that are structurally resilient
Many embedded products are required to continually be in motion and may be subject to quick starts and stops.
- Ensure your boards can withstand temperature variations
Automation environments are typically high in temperature; therefore, in most cases, high Tg boards may be preferable.
The need for high-quality, reliable embedded products extends through the industrial production sector. And for advanced facilities and smart factories, the requirements for these products are greater, as capabilities and functionality are more specialized. To meet these objectives, industrial manufacturers rely on contract manufacturers (CMs) to develop customized boards and electronics.
|Tempo‘s Industry 4.0 Custom PCB Manufacturing Services|
Tempo Automation is the PCB industry’s leader in quickly building custom boards to meet precise design specifications. We have the facilities and capabilities to meet the demands for your industrial embedded product development.
And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.