My experience with industrial control systems have shown very few integrated handheld barcode scanners or industrial printers suited to reside on the plant network. Even fewer that can communicate directly with a PLC/controller easily. Most applications use either USB direct to an Industrial PC or connect to the enterprise network which requires IT configuration.
Times are now changing, and just like the blending plant network, Zebra is blending the connection to a Logix controller. By using Zebra’s “NetConnect” barcode scanners with an Add-on-Profile (AOP) you can easily integrate both the “in” and “out” on a machine to simplify configuration. This eliminates unnecessary networking hardware and old school logic to manipulate the data into a useful format. Plus, these products are designed to work together natively, lowering risk and shortening implementation time.
Why do I like Zebra for this technology? Beyond making a control engineer’s life easier, Zebra is a market leader in barcode scanner and industrial printer technology. They have also been a Rockwell Automation Encompass partner for over 5 years. Rockwell has helped facilitate development of the NetConnect suite of products, and release of the AOP since v24 of Logix.
Scanners play an ever-increasing role in your manufacturing applications from quality and trace-ability, “track and trace” or “work-in-progress” error proofing programs. With this technology, you can now easily add extended capabilities to the machine logic if desired. For example, to perform the next function, the worker must scan the correct barcode. If the wrong code is scanned the PLC will not continue the process until the proper barcode is scanned.
With a network connected scanner solution, security and ease of use are key. These scanners use an EA3600 Ethernet adapter that is Rockwell specific for Ethernet/IP, it uses an Ethernet Utility much like BootP to set the IP address and the AOP makes integration and logic less complicated. These adapters also provide power to the corded or cordless scanner, via the directly connected cable or the cradle respectively.
Additionally, it should be noted that the EA3600 for Rockwell is only sold in kits with your choice of select rugged scanners. The ultra-rugged scanners are nearly indestructible and offered in many different models that depict their range and functionality.
Printers are also being used by in many creative ways. Some are used for packaging, shipping, general description or including the weight of a pallet from a scale on a label. The example of the weigh scale comes up often. You may want to scan or weigh an incoming or outgoing pallet and record its weight. This is easily accomplished with a NetConnect LinkOS printer, that can print data from any PLC on the network. The result of using ZebraDesigner software is a neat, concise printed label that displays the contents and weight of a pallet. The high end ZT600 series are also capable of encoding RFID tag-labels.
This is just a small example of what can be done with these NetConnect scanner and printer solutions. If you have an opportunity or need to learn more related to barcode scanning or printing, please contact me to discuss your application. Here at Rumsey we also have demo set up and test equipment we are happy to loan out if you’d like to give this “simplification” a try for yourself!