Laptops offer convenient portability when you need to work on the go. However, they leave something to be desired as a complete workspace, particularly in small size of the display and keyboard and the cumbersome usability of the touchpad. A multiport USB-C docking station can improve productivity by allowing you to connect a 4K monitor, mouse and full-sized keyboard to your laptop.
How USB-C docking stations work
USB-C docks have a range of ports, card readers and power options to offer full workspace functionality using your laptop. Black Box’s USB-C Docking Station includes one USB-C host port and cable to attach to your laptop or mobile device. It also features one port for charging, one HDMI HD video port that supports 4K resolution at 30 Hz, one Gigabit LAN port, three high-speed USB 3.0 type A ports (one of which supports charging up to 7.5W) and one SD or micro SD slot for memory card readers.
Advantages of USB-C docking stations
Quick setup: Connecting a laptop to the network, keyboard and mouse is as simple as plugging in one USB-C cable.
Portability: Users can quickly take their work with them wherever they go—whether to a shared workstation, sales call or home.
Flexibility: USB-C docking stations are compatible with various operating systems and laptop brands. They are also backwards compatible with USB 2.0 equipment, so you aren’t limited by legacy hardware.
Applications for USB-C docks
USB-C docking stations are ideal for enterprise applications. Users who share workspace stations can work at a larger screen with keyboard, mouse and a wired LAN connection. Executives and sales professionals can use a USB-C dock to create a workstation at home or to connect laptops, tablets or phones to conference room screens and projectors. A docking station is also ideal for student dorm rooms or mobile professionals who operate from a coworking space.
Today’s workspaces are increasingly flexible and often extend beyond one desktop. USB-C docking stations offer all the convenient portability of a laptop while enhancing productivity by adding full-sized accessories. They are easy to use, relatively inexpensive and interoperable between your MacBook Pro or Windows laptop.
High-security networks, like those used in government, healthcare, retail, and financial applications, require a higher level of network security than commercial applications. While fibre optic networks are well known for their speed, they also present significant security benefits compared to CATx networks. The following security benefits are important to evaluate when considering fibre for high-security networks:
No Radiated Emissions
CATx cable, the network standard, carries a risk of radiated emissions while fibre optic cables do not emit or absorb electromagnetic energy. To transmit data, CATx cable uses electrical signals which conduct an electromagnetic field. Although CATx cables might be wrapped in shielding to help prevent leakage, the risk of possible exposure of the data poses a risk to security. The effectiveness of the CATx cable shielding depends on the material, quality of construction, and necessary flexibility. Conversely, fibre does not radiate electromagnetic signals and is extremely difficult to tap.
Travels Long Distances
By using light to transmit data at high speeds and great distances, fibre optic cable has very little loss. Unlike the native 328 foot (100 meter) limit of copper, the distances possible with fibre depend on the style of cable, wavelength, and network. As noted in 8 Advantages of Choosing Fibre over Copper Cable, fibre can travel from 550 metres to 40 kilometres depending on speed and cabling. Longer distance requires fewer signal repeaters and signal boosters and therefore fewer breaks in the system that may be exploited to compromise security. The less equipment there is, the easier it will be to centralising the system, improving overall security.
Harder to Tap
Because fibre is extremely difficult to tap, it offers data security unmatched by copper. Any attempt to break the physical security of a fibre network will be immediately apparent because the leak will cause the entire system to fail. Instead of having wiring closets and equipment throughout the building, fibre networks typically feature a secure central location to house all of the network equipment.
While single-mode fibre offers the greatest bandwidth, the exact speed of transmission depends on the specific types of cable. Fibre carries more information with greater fidelity than copper at speeds of 10 Gbps or better.
Reliability and Immunity
The core of fibre is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through, providing extremely reliable data transmission. Because it is completely immune to environmental factors that affect copper such as electrometric interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, and impedance problems, fibre cable can be run next to industrial equipment without concern. Fibre is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper and can be submerged in water.
The proliferation and declining cost of media converters has made migrating from copper to fibre much easier. Media converters provide seamless links that extend the life of existing hardware. Fibre upgrades may include 12- and 24- strand MPO cassettes, cables, and hardware possibly in preparation for future 40- and 100-GbE networks.
Meeting Future Networks Needs with Fibre
Fibre optics are the right choice for most modern networks. Although other technologies may be sufficient, the capabilities of fibre are vast. As technology continues to emerge, fibre optics are making great strides, extending its superior capabilities even more.
Industrial Networking Switches are computer networking devices aimed at establishing inter-connectivity between industrial environments and enterprise business applications, joining multiple computers together within one local area network (LAN). These types of switches are built for mission‑critical applications, designed to withstand extreme temperatures and harsh conditions in a multitude of environments from factory floors to traffic controls.
Importantly, some network switches allow configuration of its settings to VLAN mode in order to group devices per working departments (for example marketing/finance), thus isolating traffic between these groups so that critical information can flow without delay to the rightfully allocated place.
Managed Industrial Switches
Managed Switches are oriented towards redundancy, offering real-time targeted communications through built-in protocols that enhance determinism and provide stable and consistent flow of data. These switches provide QoS (Quality of Service) which can prioritise bandwidth for data subsets, allowing more bandwidth to be allocated through the network to ensure IP data comes in smoothly, obtaining the sensor data without an interruption using minimal bandwidth. Managed switches also provide additional protocols like RSTP (Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol) allowing alternate cabling paths to prevent loop situations, which usually are the reason for network malfunction.
Benefits of Managed Switches
These switches excel for a vast array of features such as PoE capabilities, extended temperature range, DC power, and additional flexible SFP-slots with Din rail mounting options. In short, they add value in:
Network redundancy (network back-up plan): These switches offer the ability to run redundant power supplies, so that when a surge takes out one of the power supplies, the switch keeps on running as if nothing happened on the second power supply, suppressing any down time. By offering resilient ring protocols, it allows for alternate data paths in the event a link or node goes down.
Remote management: Mission critical networks demand remote configuration, monitoring/traps, reboot, re-imaging of OS. If there is a network issue, operators want to remotely diagnose and fix to maximise uptime. The SNMP protocol allows you to visualise and maintain an entire network remotely, providing real-time data at every node. With SNMP, it’s possible to collect and organise and also modify information from each switch in order to change the device’s behaviour without having to go through a web console and also do mass upgrades to maintain the latest firmware.
Security and Resilience: In terms of limiting access to the network to trusted devices and prevents users from setting up unauthorised sub-networks. The switches enable complete control of data, bandwidth and traffic control over the Ethernet network, allowing you to set IP/port restrictions on actual physical ports. This means you can setup additional firewall rules directly into the switch. In all, managed switches support protocols which allow operators to restrict/control port access, like the 802.1x port based network access control. In addition, managed switches support protocols to limit management plane access via user authentication such as RADIUS, LDAP and more.
RSTP (Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol): Managed switches incorporate Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol which provides path redundancy in the network and prevents loops, allowing one active path at a time between two network devices so that there is lesser downtime.
SFP (Small Form-factor Pluggable): The benefit of having multi-rate SFP slots is the network flexible expansion possibility, which allows the user to be able to use 100Mbps and 1Gbps SFP Modules for either multi or single-mode fibre optic (or copper) and mix and match as needed. If requirements change, the SFP module can be replaced and easily protect your switch investment.
Support multiple VLAN as per requirement: Managed switches allow for the creation of multiple VLANs where an 8-port switch functionally can turn into two 4-port switches (where ports 1-4 are VLAN 1 and ports 4-8 are VLAN 2). It’s possible to allow VLANs to talk to the router/NAT, but deny the ability to talk to each other. You could even lock down the wireless VLAN to only allow port 80/443 or similar so they can browse the web but nothing else.
Prioritise bandwidth for data subsets: The switches are able to prioritise one type of traffic over another allowing more bandwidth to be allocated through the network (voice and video streaming, for example).
Resilient ring protocols: Allows alternate data paths in the event a link or node goes down.
In applications such as an IP security camera backhaul, it is not practical/economical to deploy hub and spoke topology since each node has a direct connection to the core/aggregation node. With a ring network topology it’s possible to allow a loop to be constructed and avoid additional fibre trenching costs.
When and Where to use Industrial Managed Switches?
Managed switches are suitable for networks that have applications with fast response times requirements and are aimed at companies that need to manage and troubleshoot their network remotely and securely, allowing engineers to reach optimal reliable network performance and maintenance.
These switches are robust and appropriate for Industrial Network settings, made to stand up to harsh applications like extreme temperatures (-40 up to +75°), vibrations and shocks; and contributing to a cost-effective, reliable, and secure network. Managed switches should be used on any network backbone switch so that segments of network traffic can be monitored and controlled such as:
Black Box Industrial Network INDRy Series
The Black Box INDRy (Industrial DIN Rail Switches) series are designed for the far edges of an industrial network, delivering an easy and cost-effective way of integrating legacy networks, eliminating the need for additional configurations and modifications, and reducing deployment time. These switches allow redundancy in mission critical systems by rerouting the traffic over a backup link within milliseconds overcoming situations like the cut-off of communication of the traffic control system of some infrastructures.
Additionally they are characterised by a DIN rail feature which is an effective mounting option that offers a metal rail of a standard type widely used for mounting circuit breakers and industrial control equipment within equipment racks.
Our customers are very satisfied with the INDRy solutions. Uses include strengthening substations’ network connections, effectively increasing electric energy distribution, and monitoring and controlling security camera functions in the field.
These switches are extremely easy to install, however should you need help, our specialised technical support staff can assist you by offering you the best advice in terms of individually optimised applications, completely free of charge. Learn more about our Tech Support Centre by visiting our Black Box Tech Support Centre page.
In a control-room, mission critical application, security, reliability, and network availability are three fundamental concepts that network administrators strive relentlessly to deliver. The switch between systems is just as important as the information technology systems themselves. Black Box partnered with a prime government contractor to install secure, stable hardware switching systems in up to 150 locations. The switches add real power to the physical layer of the network, where they control access and provide nearly instantaneous backup and immediately available switching systems.
To ensure 24/7 uptime, users run two separate and fully redundant automation systems in parallel. In order for the two separate automation systems to provide instantaneous back-up to users, the switching system in between them needs to be reliable, secure, and available to an IP network for remote access. Enter the Pro Switching System of intelligent Layer 1 A/B gang switching.
Because of the way the Pro Switching System works, it is an incredibly reliable switching system. Since it only looks at physical connections, it avoids misconfigured network protocols and has no firmware or software to manage. Additionally, air-gap isolation of the system ensures secure network connections for high-security applications.
Pro Switching systems are the superior choice for network access control and backup switches, providing ultra-reliable, hardware driven security. Capable of supporting more than 4,000 network users, Pro Switching Systems ensure a controlled access environment using rugged and precise mechanical and optical movements that deliver the unequaled reliability of hardware. System administration is simplified and fast for easy monitoring of individual users with automatic shut-off control when tampering is detected.
IP-video security and surveillance for a city road-works department.
The problem: preventing theft
A city road-works department in Germany is responsible for installing and maintaining traffic lights and street lights. The department houses its raw materials, including lampposts and cable reels, in an outdoor area on its premises. Until a few years ago, there was never any problem with the outdoor storage area. But, as metal prices rose, the department found itself the victim of metal theft, not once, but multiple times. Lockers and barriers set up to protect the materials proved to be an unsuccessful solution as the thieves were quite professional. The city needed a better solution to secure its outdoor storage area.
An IP video network
To improve security, the department turned to Black Box for an IP-video surveillance system.
The first step was to perform an on-site survey to determine the best locations for the security cameras. The next step involved the implementation of the IP infrastructure. The plan called for three distributed camera locations, each equipped with an Ethernet switch connecting the IP cameras. For convenience, it was decided to use a PoE switch to power the cameras over the Ethernet lines instead of running separate power lines. In addition, each camera location was furnished with a wireless Ethernet extender providing a remote, wireless connection to the city’s central LAN. Black Box delivered the wireless Ethernet radios fully pre-configured for an easy plug-and-play installation by the customer. Because both the switches and extenders are being used outdoors, they are designed with IP-rated cases and are capable of withstanding extreme temperatures.
A legal regulation demands that the system have the capability to be shut down on demand. To meet this requirement, Black Box provided on-site training to instruct the security team how to control the cameras over the web interface on the Ethernet switch. The operation is quite easy and the team understood quickly how to switch cameras on and off and how to change the viewing angle. Monitoring the video the IT team still needed a solution for displaying the video from the surveillance cameras. Black Box suggested and installed a 2×2 video wall with four HD screens at the gatehouse for 24/7 monitoring.
Because the customer had experienced theft, everyone was worried about the security of computers in the gatehouse. Black Box suggested that the customer back-rack these computers to a secure location inside the main building. The advice was highly appreciated and the customer moved the computers to a secure location and connected them to the gatehouse using a KVM extender.
Black Box products
Industrial Managed Gigabit Ethernet PoE+ Switch: LIE1014A
Taking a look back at 2015, it’s clear that Black Box provides end-to-end infrastructure, professional AV technology, and networking solutions. The variety of products that made our Top Products’ list is representative of many different walks of IT and AV. Let’s take a look at our best sellers from 2015, and how they fit your applications.
Transmit DVI, USB, and audio signals in real time over an Ethernet LAN with the Agility IP-Based KVM Switching and Extension System. Standard CATx cabling delivers IP traffic via the Agility transmitters and receivers up to 100 m. For longer distances, add a network switch, which will give you an additional 100 metres.
With the Agility Controller Unit turn your IP-based Agility system of transmitters and receivers into a managed matrix switching system with this component at its center directing traffic over your LAN.
2. MediaCento IPX Solution
Distribute digital video signals, including HDMI, over IP to multiple screens. This system is big in hospitality, retail, and other applications where you need to share video. Lossless HD video means crystal-clear images on every display. Check out this digital solution for the future, which comes at an analog price.
The MediaCento IPX solution integrates easily into your local area network. Transmit HDMI video and audio over an Ethernet network to a virtually unlimited number of screens as far as your network reaches. The MediaCento Controller adds many features to the solution, including flexible control of video walls, up to 8 x 8. In addition, the LPB2900 Series Gigabit Ethernet Managed PoE+ Switches can be outfitted with the MediaCento Controller software for HD video extension and switching. It’s the market’s first network switch that enables users to remotely control and switch AV from any source to any display. Three switches plus the software is available at Black Box.
All cabling solutions offer performance designed to last the lifetime of your system, whether in the data center or at the desktop — or beyond. Visit our CATx cable selector or our cabling home page for more choices.
For example, look at the Multipower Miniature Media Converters. The autosensing MDI/MDI-X copper ports of these small converters means you don’t need to worry about what kind of cable to use. Easily migrate networks from Ethernet to Fast Ethernet all the way to Gigabit Ethernet. Compact in size, and still supports distances up to 10 kilometres.
Extend digital video signals and USB functionality over CATx or fibre cabling in order to streamline workflow, improve operator efficiency, and benefit from reliable signal distribution without interruption.
KVM extenders that support digital signals enable you to reduce noise and heat in the workplace, which improves productivity. Secure your hardware and secure your data by backracking vital workstations. A few examples are the ACX300/310 Series KVM Extenders, Wizard SRX DVI Extender for USB, and the Dual-Head DisplayPort KVM Extender over CATx. Digital signals are higher in quality, interconnectivity is more reliable, and the technology is future proof in regards to connected devices. Remain competitive by integrating KVM solutions across the enterprise.
To choose the right KVM extenders for your application, visit our KVM extender selector, or call one of our tech experts at 00800-CALLBBOX (00800-2255 2269).
6. Video and multimedia extenders enable you to distribute audio and video signals for digital signage, enhance presentations, and extend video beyond the boardroom. With Black Box video extenders, you can send video and audio signals farther than with conventional cabling. Deliver pixel-perfect video and high quality audio to remote displays.
7. Copper Patch Cables, 3-Series Lockable Patch Cables
Our high standards shine through with our 3-Series patch cables. These CAT5e/6/6A cables give you three levels of security, depending on the optional locking pin you choose. Secure your network ports, but only when you need to. Guaranteed for life!
These cables offer easy Layer 1 security for many environments, including healthcare, education, finance, government, retail, transportation, and more. Choose from locked (Red), secure (Green), or protected (no pin) to get the level of security that suits your application best.
Ensure maximum uptime with out-of-band management console servers, sometimes called terminal servers. They give network managers a single-point-of control to remotely monitor, manage, and troubleshoot critical IT infrastructure from anywhere in the world. Console servers offer backdoor management for business continuity, multiple applications for multiple industries, and problem solving for distributed sites.
See our selection of console servers here, and find one to fit your application.
Demanding users trust Black Box USB extension products for applications like pro audio visual, industrial automation, education, medical diagnostics and imaging, remote desktop extension, security, surveillance, and military systems.
Learn more about extending USB over CATx, fibre, and IP networks, and how to deploy USB extension in applications including healthcare, manufacturing, security, and harsh environments. USB extenders are simple to use and cost-effective.
10. Black Box networking products make the list with ethernet switches, industrial solutions, and console servers. Find what you need to connect and improve your network, including USB switches for increasing network speeds, such as the USB-Powered Gigabit 4-Port Switch, pictured above. Expand a small network without breaking the bank. Increase to Gigabit speeds via four autosensing 10-/100-/1000-Mbps ports. This compact and convenient switch can be powered via a PC’s USB port or the included AC adapter.
For more information about integrating and deploying infrastructure, networking, and extension products for your organisation, please contact Black Box pre-sales application engineers. Call 00800-CALLBBOX (00800-2255 2269) to talk to a technical expert today. Visit the Black Box store to see all our products, and shop for your end-to-end solution now.
Machine vision technology—the image-based automatic inspection process—has matured greatly and is now becoming an indispensable tool in manufacturing to increase quality and profitability. USB 3.0, with its 5-Gbps throughput and ability to send power and data over the same line, has greatly contributed to this growth.
What is machine vision?
Machine vision is an image-based, automatic inspection and analysis system for applications, such as process control. It automatically takes pictures to inspect materials as they come down the assembly line.
Other machine vision applications include:
Medical vial inspection.
Robot guidance and orientation of components.
Engine parts inspection.
Machine vision uses a small industrial camera and lights mounted near an assembly line to take pictures of product as it passes. The images are then analysed by software to determine if various aspects of the product meet acceptable specifications. For instance, if a label is misplaced, the bottle will be rejected. All of this is done at incredibly high speeds—fractions of a second.
Years ago, machine vision systems were very expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in the last 15 years or so, advances in technology have brought the cost of machine vision down, making it a practical solution for 100 percent quality control. And the cost for implementing machine vision keeps decreasing as technological capabilities increase.
Machine vision is now an indispensable tool for quality assurance, sorting, and material handling in every industry, including electronics, food processing, pharmaceuticals, packaging, automotive, etc. It is an economical way to make sure sub-spec product is rejected. Machine vision can be used to inspect for geometry, placement, packaging, labeling, seal integrity, finish, color, pattern, bar code, and almost any other parameter you can think of.
USB 3.0 and machine vision
USB 3.0 brings a number of advantages to machine vision systems. Because of its 5-Gbps throughput, ten times more than USB 2.0, it eliminates problems of stability and low latency for image transmission and camera control. USB 3.0 enables the transmission of higher-resolution, higher-frame rate video with no loss of quality.
USB 3.0 also sends data and power on the same line. This is enough to power a camera without worrying about a separate power supply or power line.
In addition, compared to older systems, USB 3.0 is plug-and-play, making it easy to swap out cameras and other hardware, such as USB 3.0 extenders, and other devices.
KVM matrix switching gives multiple users access to a variety of target devices, including but not limited to CPUs, digital signage, and servers; the ability to monitor workflow; and flexible control of visual and peripheral elements.
Deploying KVM extension that operates over a LAN/WAN (local area network/wide area network) and incorporates virtual and physical CPUs gives retailers access options, reduces clutter in the workplace, and saves on energy costs.
In retail and inventory management systems virtualized remote computing is especially advantageous. Receiver units at the cash registers can access information on a virtual machine that runs on a server appliance.
This remote virtual system gives users access to their Active Directory accounts that is incorporated into a connection broker, with no need to set up a separate directory on the KVM system. The receivers gain access to virtual machines via Microsoft® Server 2008 or Microsoft Server 2012. By utilizing a connection broker, the virtualized machines can be easily duplicated, enabling workers to connect to the first available target without having to identify the target. This streamlines workflow and simplifies processes in busy retail applications.
In addition, a KVM system that works over a LAN/WAN this way supports NLA (network level authentication) for security. It also can continue to support physical CPUs while expanding into virtualization.
As is seen in KVM technology, other benefits include a low total cost of ownership (TCO); improved operability and quick ROI; maximum, scalability, and improved reliability; and green IT solutions with energy-saving design and distribution.
To see details about Black Box’s virtualized solution, visit our InvisaPC pages. Contact our application engineers to see how this next-generation KVM can improve your organization’s workflow and ergonomics.
PoE is a technology that works well for wireless access points, video surveillance, building management, retail video kiosks, smart signs, and retail point-of-information systems, making it possible to easily move a device with minimal disruption. Additionally, if your LAN is protected from owner failure by a UPS, the PoE devices connected to your LAN are also protected from power failure.
Using Power over Ethernet can save hundreds of dollars per Wi-Fi access point (AP) locations compared to a non-PoE solution.
In a non-PoE installation, in addition to the Ethernet backhaul link, power must be wired to the access point. Depending on factors such as AP location, distance from the AC circuit, and local safety codes, the savings from using a PoE solution can be $250-$500 per AP. In harsh, outdoor, or industrial environments, you can save $750-$1500 per AP by using Power over Ethernet.
PoE Mid-Span Injectors add power to Ethernet for powering PoE powered devices ranging from wireless access points to IP cameras. PoE enables you to easily move equipment from room to room without costly, time-consuming rewiring.
Power over Ethernet is also the answer if you’re doing a high-density phone conversion from keyed phones to VoIP phones. There’s a much lower installation cost—all you need to do is provide the Ethernet connection. We have a variety of PoE PSE equipment including switches,media converters, and injectors.
Plus, using PoE can improve VoIP phone system availability. Power over Ethernet PSE gear can be located in data centers with uninterruptible power supplies and battery backup. This arrangement means that your PD VoIP phones will remain working if there’s a power failure. On the other hand, wall-powered phones will stop working when the power goes out.
Industrial connectivity and KVM control room solutions for upstream, midstream, and downstream environments.
As the oil and gas industry continues to grow, more and more well sites, pumping stations, pipelines, processing plants, and refineries are being built. Along the entire route, safe, reliable networking and industrial automation are critical to smooth operations, efficiency, and productivity.
In 2014, the United States produced 9.2 million barrels of crude oil a day. The U.S. is now the largest producer of oil and gas, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia due to production from the Marcellus Shale. However, reservoirs of oil are becoming more difficult to access and increasingly less productive. To keep pace global consumptions, oil companies must constantly look for new sources of petroleum, as well as improve the production of existing wells.
Read more about industry solutions for the oil and gas industry at our website.
Digital KVM Control and Monitoring Solutions for the Energy Industry: Automation, processes, and workflow
Black Box is committed to helping our customers succeed as they transition to the digital media environment. We help clients in the energy industry design and deploy mission-critical solutions.
In drilling operations, KVM systems provide high-quality and instant access to video and control signals from multiple sources to multiple users. In oil and gas exploration, rapid access to graphical data and processes throughout a seismic survey and the ability to respond quickly to status changes are crucial for safe and efficient operation. Remote monitoring solutions in control rooms provide users with better overview, quicker access to data, and failover connectivity. With KVM solutions, users can switch and extend real-time HD video and USB HID over LAN/WAN for remote monitoring.
Black Box KVM Solutions
KVM and hybrid KVM peripheral switching platforms
Virtual desktop remote management
Signal conversion and signal distribution
KVM extension to improve ergonomics by reducing heat and noise in the workplace
KVM extension over fiber for long distances
Benefits for you:
Updating current analog systems to faster and more reliable digital KVM.
Remote monitoring operations reduce risk for injuries in dangerous areas.
Reduced risk for downtime and accidental environmental disasters.
Asset Integrity Management (AIM)
Maximize human capital by running parallel tasks with fewer users who have instantaneous access to critical resources.
Learn more about high-performance KVM solutions for the oil and gas industries.
As the world’s largest appliance maker, Whirlpool Corporation knows a thing or two about innovations. But the company recently looked at its factories’ mixed networking devices and realised that their backend infrastructure needed some innovating too. An unstable wireless network set-up was costing the company money, was difficult to troubleshoot and simply could not keep up with new technologies.
Whirlpool turned to Cisco and the appliance company’s service provider, Black Box Network Services, to come up with a plan to update their network architecture.
Beginning with five pilot sites—including one of Whirlpool’s largest plants—Cisco employed designs to modernise the network. The products included in the plans were:
Cisco Catalyst 3750X switch
Cisco Catalyst 2960X Series switches
Cisco FlexStack and StackWise cabling
Cisco Aironet 3600 Series Access Point with Cisco CleanAir technology
Cisco 5500 Series wireless controller
Additionally, network traffic was collected and analysed by Cisco IOS Netflow, while Cisco Prime centrally managed the entire network.
Operations at the five test plants have soared as information now moves faster than ever. Networks are better equipped for video, which is speeding up innovation design and time to market. Issues can be dealt with quickly, before business can be impacted.
Whirlpool workers have been happy with the changes.
“Some engineers say they never realised how bad the old network was,” said Whirlpool program manager Greg Fisbeck. “Jobs that used to take a half an hour now take just a few minutes.”
Whirlpool was so pleased with the initiative in the five pilot plants that it will be upgrading their remaining 80 plants worldwide at a clip of 20 locations a year.
To learn more about the Whirlpool Corporation solution, please visit the case study page.
There is a new industrial revolution. It’s combining advancements in machines and controls with advancements in computing and communications from the Internet revolution. Today’s technology is being applied in ways not even thought of even 10 years ago to solve problems and increase industrial productivity.
That’s where the challenge of mixing new and existing technologies in an industrial environment comes in. Here are four problem-solving technologies for industrial networking.
Fiber for distance and EMI/RFI immunity.
Fiber optic cable is often the preferred cable choice in industrial environments because it can cover very long distances and offers immunity to electrical interference.
Fiber doesn’t have the 100-meter distance limitation of twisted pair copper, so it can support distances from 300 meters to 40 kilometers, or more, depending on the style of cable, wavelength, and network.
Fiber also provides extremely reliable data transmission. It’s completely immune to many environmental factors that affect copper cable. The fiber is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through. It is not affected by electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. You can run fiber next to industrial equipment without worry.
A ring topology for redundancy.
Although Ethernet is usually thought of as having a star topology, it’s possible to build an Ethernet network as a ring. This is often used in applications where it may be difficult to run fiber in a star formation from a central switch, such as in industrial or even traffic signal applications.
One industrial networking scenario involves connecting industrial devices, such as computer numeric controlled (CNC) machines, to hardened Ethernet switches. The switches are set up in a ring topology for maximum reliability with a failover time of less than 30 ms, which is virtually instantaneous. The ring has the advantage of providing a redundant pathway if a link goes down. If one part of the ring fails, traffic will automatically reverse direction.
Machine vision and USB 3.0.
Machine vision is an image-based automatic inspection technology that is now an indispensable tool for quality assurance, sorting, and material handling in every industry, including electronics, food processing, pharmaceuticals, packaging, automotive, etc. Machine vision technology incorporates cameras, PCs, software, and other hardware to automatically take pictures and inspect materials as they pass along an assembly line.
Machine vision is an economical way to make sure sub-spec product is rejected. It can be used to inspect for geometry, placement, packaging, labeling, seal integrity, finish, color, pattern, bar code, and almost any other parameter you can think of.
USB 3.0 greatly enhances machine vision systems. Because of USB 3.0’s 5-Gbps throughput, ten times more than USB 2.0, it eliminates problems of stability and low latency for image transmission and camera control. USB 3.0 enables the transmission of higher-resolution, higher-frame video with no loss of quality.
Industrial serial connections.
Industrial control is a designation for the devices that interface with machinery such as packaging machines, generators, lathes, and even scales. Although most of today’s IT runs on Ethernet, industrial devices often use an RS-232, RS-485, or RS-422 serial interface. To capitalize on the investment in the industrial equipment and machinery, interface converters and line drivers can be used to provide the link between older RS-232/422/485 equipment connections and newer USB and Ethernet networks.
RS-232 transmits data at speeds up to 115 kbps and over distances up to 50 feet, although higher distances can be achieved by using low-capacitance cable. Both sync and async binary data transmission fall under RS-232. Although the original RS-232 connector is DB25, DB9 and RJ-45 connectors are now more common. Also, industrial devices often use a terminal block instead of a connector for the RS-232 interface. RS-232 is somewhat restricted as an industrial interface because of its restricted range and because it only supports point-to-point links.
Copper CATx cable supports Ethernet distances up to 100 meters. That’s not a problem when you’re connecting workstations in a building. But what happens when you need to extend the reach of your LAN beyond 100 meters to connect a distant department, a building across campus or across town, Wi-Fi access points, IP security cameras, or even remote monitoring stations in industrial environments.
That’s where Ethernet extension comes in. Depending on your environment and application, there are three ways to extend your Ethernet LAN beyond the nearest closet.
LAN extension over fiber optic cable with media converters
Media converters are a popular and economical solution for converting Ethernet cable runs from copper to fiber. They can be used in pairs (near-end/far-end) or with Ethernet switches.
Fiber optic cable offers the best performance for long-range network extension. That’s why the telephone and cable companies made such a big deal about using it. Multimode fiber has a range of 550 meters for 10/100/1000 Ethernet links. Single-mode fiber offers distances of more than 30 km for 10/100/1000 Ethernet extension.
Fiber also offers the advantage of being immune to electromagnetic interference (EMI), surges, spikes, and ground loops. That makes it well suited for connecting buildings across campus, across town, and in industrial environments.
There are a number of different types of media converter options ranging from simple, unmanaged, compact converters that mount on panels or DIN rails to managed converters that mount in equipment racks. There are also converters available for commercial and industrial applications. A common industrial application is to use a media converter with PoE capabilities to power and backhaul an IP camera signal over fiber.
LAN extension over existing copper cabling with Ethernet extenders.
In some cases, it’s possible to use existing facilities to extend your LAN. If there is an existing twisted-pair copper or coax cable run, then you can extend your network with a pair of Ethernet extenders. Use one at each end to convert Ethernet to DSL (digital subscriber line) and back again to Ethernet. Extenders can deliver 50-Mbps speeds over 300 meters or about 10-Mbps at 1400 meters.
A common application is a security checkpoint services upgrade. The checkpoint may have originally been connected only with twisted-pair cable to support an analog phone. By using a pair of Ethernet extenders (near-end/far-end), the checkpoint can be upgraded to support an Ethernet LAN connection, a VoIP phone, and an IP camera.
Another common application is a security camera network upgrade. When you replace older, analog security camera systems with newer, digital IP cameras, you can save a lot of installation time (and labor costs) by using the existing coax cabling with Ethernet extender on each end.
Wireless Ethernet extension
2.4-/5-GHz radio extension
Wireless Ethernet extenders provide a very cost-effective method for extending a LAN/WAN beyond 100 meters. They eliminate the need to buy new cable, dig expensive trenches for fiber cable, and also the time-consuming waits for rights of way.
Wireless Ethernet extenders are the most seamless way to extend LAN connections up to several miles across office parks; on business, educational, and medical campuses; in enterprise business complexes; and in industrial settings, such as factories or oil/gas field drilling operations, and even in traffic control.
Wireless Ethernet is frequently used to connect line-of-sight networks that are miles apart. While wireless extension is often used in enterprise business applications, where it really shines is in industrial applications, such as data acquisition, control, and monitoring; HVAC controls; and security and surveillance, to name a few. The extender radios can also be PoE powered to simplify installation.