How to Diagnose a Controller Area Network (CAN)

Apr 29, 2022 9:00:00 AM / by Gary Marrs posted in CAN networks, CAN protocol, CANbus, PCAN

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In 1991, the Mercedes-Benz W140 was the first production vehicle to feature a CAN (Controller Area Network) based wiring system. By 2008 almost all passenger cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. used CAN bus networks.


CAN Bus

CAN-bus-intro-tutorial-controller-area-network

 courtesy of CSS Electronics

 

 

Before CAN bus gained popularity, vehicle wiring harnesses could contain miles of copper wire which significantly added to the cost and weight of the vehicle. CAN bus was originally designed to minimize copper wiring in automobiles by multiplexing electrical signals over a simple two wire network. By using a high-speed twisted pair cable, the amount of wire necessary to allow sensors, actuators and controllers to communicate was greatly reduced.

When people talk about CAN, there are really 2 main but distinct areas that make up a CAN bus network.

  • The lower-level CAN bus network
  • The CAN Protocol used to pass messages


The lower-level CAN bus

The lower-level CAN bus is a two-wire, half duplex, high-speed network system. The CAN standard defines the lower-level details (the physical layer) of the CAN bus. The physical layer is responsible for bit timing and synchronization, message framing, arbitration, acknowledgement, error detection and signaling, and fault confinement. 1

There are basically 2 versions of the CAN standard that cover the lower layers, CAN 2.0 and CAN FD.

CAN 2.0 was published in 1991. This specification has two parts (Referred to CAN 2.0A and 2.0B);

  • part A is for the standard format with an 11-bit identifier
  • part B is for the extended format with a 29-bit identifier

The CAN FD protocol was released in 2012 and increases the effective data-rate by allowing longer data fields (up to 64 bytes per frame compared to the 8 bytes of CAN 2.0).

Think of the lower layer of CAN bus as bits transmitted at defined speeds on the wire itself.

 

The CAN Protocols

While the CAN standard defines the physical layer a higher layer protocol is required to manage the communication messages on the CAN bus. The higher layer protocol handles details such as node addresses, flow control, fragmentation of data messages larger than 8-bytes, and establishment of communication among other things. Think of the higher layer protocol as the way the messages (data) are formatted, transmitted and received.

Currently, there are many higher layer protocols for the CAN bus. The most common ones are listed below:

CANopen - Industrial automation
  • IEC 61375-3-3 (use of CANopen in rail vehicles)
  • DeviceNet Industrial automation
  • EnergyBus - battery–charger communication
  • ISOBUS - Agriculture
  • NMEA 2000 - Marine industry
  • SAE J1939 - In-vehicle network for buses and trucks

All of these CAN protocols communicate over the CAN bus.

 

CAN Bus Diagnostics

Diagnosing CAN bus problems can be challenging. Even so, with a little practice you don’t have to be highly technical to perform basic diagnostics on a CAN bus network. Grid Connect sells a wide variety of tools from Peak Systems to help analyze and troubleshoot CAN networks.

 

Troubleshooting a CAN Bus network

Here are some of the most common CAN bus failures: 2

  • Device configuration settings
  • Missing termination resistors
  • CAN Hi and CAN Low wired backwards
  • Damaged CAN port due to lightning or welding

It is possible to manually troubleshoot the lower-level CAN bus. This can be done using a little vigilance and a multimeter to test and verify. All modules on a CAN bus network need four things to function properly: power, ground, a CAN data connection, and a proper device configuration.

Here are some simple things to investigate:

  • Check the CAN Device configuration. Make sure the baud rate of the CAN communications is the same as all other devices on the CAN bus.
  • Check the CAN bus termination resistance. A CAN bus has to be terminated on both ends with a 120-ohm resistor to prevent reflections from interfering with the data transmissions. In some cases, the termination resistor may be located inside the CAN device.
    • Turn Power off
    • Measure resistance between CAN Hi and CAN Low. Should be around 60 ohms.

  • Check the CAN bus voltages and ground connection.
    • Disconnect all CAN devices from the CAN bus except for the device being tested.
    • Power on the CAN device to be tested.
    • Measure voltage between CAN HI and Ground. The voltage should be between 2.5 and 3.0Vdc.
    • Measure voltage between CAN LOW and Ground. The voltage should be between 2.5 and 2.0Vdc

  • Check / Verify ground connection
    • Turn Power off
    • With the meter on the lowest resistance scale, measure the ground wire to earth ground. The meter should read less than the minimum 0.1 ohm that most meters can read.

  • CAN Transceiver Resistance Test – you can test the CAN port on a device to see if it is damaged by measuring resistance to ground. Damage from lightning or transients typically causes a short to ground on one or both CAN lines.
    • To test, disconnect the device (under test) from the CAN bus.
    • Make sure power is off to the CAN device under test.
    • Measure resistance from CAN HI to Ground and from CAN LOW to Ground. The result should be Mega ohms or open. If it is lower than this range, the CAN transceiver is probably faulty.


Troubleshooting the CAN Protocol

For troubleshooting the CAN protocol and communication message issues it gets more complicated. There are software and diagnostic tools that range from free software with basic functionality to expensive tools that provide very detailed data and analysis.

To start out, a simple solution is to use a USB to CAN bus adapter to connect to the bus and Windows based software tool to monitor CAN traffic. In this example, we use the Peak System PCAN-USB adapter with their free Windows software for displaying CAN and CAN FD messages (called PCAN-View). 3

pcan usb diag 2

 

pcan view1

 

pcan view2

 

For this example, we use the following equipment and devices.

  • Laptop running PCAN View (free download)
  • PCAN-USB adapter to connect to and monitor a CAN bus network
  • At least one CAN device talking on a CAN bus Network, in this example we used an Arduino board with a CAN-BUS Shield V2 from Seeed Studios. (Recommended that CAN bus be terminated with 120-ohm resistors on each end).

The PCAN-USB plugs into a USB port on the laptop. You need to download and install the USB driver from Peak. 

One minor limitation of this method is that the data rate of the CAN network must be known and the PCAN-USB has to be configured with this information. The Peak PCAN-Diag 2 can be used to determine the data rate on the CAN bus. (see below for an overview of the PCAN-Diag 2)

To start the connection to the CAN bus, click on the link icon in the top left of the window. 

PCAN view 7

This will bring up the configuration page.

 

PCAN view 4

 

 

To set the CAN bus data rate, click on the dropdown box and select the correct bit rate. In this case, we selected 125 kbps.

 

PCAN view 5

Then select the OK button. You should start to see packets arriving.

 

PCAN view 6

Here, we are seeing some packets from CAN ID 0x01. With PCAN-View there is quite a lot of functionality that can assist with monitoring and troubleshooting a CAN Bus. Here are some of its monitoring and diagnostic capabilities:

  • Displays all received CAN messages with ID, Data Length, and data bytes in a list.
  • Data messages or Remote Request frames can be transmitted on the CAN bus. These messages can either be transmitted manually, automatically in fixed time intervals, or as answers to received Remote Request frames.
  • Error Frames on the CAN bus are detected and shown.
  • Contains a Tracer (data logger) that can be used to record and store the data communications on a CAN bus.

 

 

download full CAN Diagnostics Guide

 

Handheld CAN Bus Diagnostics Unit

For more powerful trouble shooting there are hand held units that provide a lot more information that is very helpful when diagnosing a problem on the CAN bus. 

 

PCAN-Diag2_Catalog2011-1 PCAN-MiniDiag FD_Banner PCAN-Diag-FD_Manual-Title
PCAN DIAG 2 - Handheld Diagnostic Tool

SKU :  GC-CAN-DIAG2
MPN :  IPEH-002069-V2

PCAN MiniDIAG FD - Handheld Diagnostic Tool 

SKU : GC-CAN-MINIDIAG-FD
MPN : IPEH-003070

PCAN DIAG FD - Handheld Diagnostic Tool for CAN FD Networks

SKU : GC-CAN-DIAG-FD
MPN : IPEH-003069

 

An integrated handheld CAN diagnostics unit can provide a wide range of functions to allow investigation of a CAN bus, such as:

  • Auto detection of the CAN bit rate
  • Bus load measurements displayed by a time diagram, including a switchable display of error frames

Diag screen 1

  • The termination resistance measurement even while the system is running. Also measures Voltage for all pins on the CAN Bus (connected to handheld unit)
  • Receives and displays the CAN messages on the network

Diag screen 2

  • Send / transmit either individual messages or entire sequences of them to the network. In addition, the internal memory card allows tracing and playback of the CAN traffic.
  • The integrated two-channel oscilloscope enables visualization of CAN signals.

Diag screen 3

 

  • The CAN frames can be decoded from the recorded packets to help detect errors in the frame.

One of the biggest benefits of a handheld tool is that it can analyze the CAN bus network at both the lower-level physical layer as well as the protocol level. This saves time and helps to get to the source of the error quickly.

 

 

Download PDF version

 

 

Download CAN Diagnostics Guide

Reference

  1.   Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN_bus#Data_transmission
  2.   CAN BUS Troubleshooting Guide (with Video), Enovation Controls. https://support.enovationcontrols.com/hc/en-us/articles/360038856494-CAN-BUS-Troubleshooting-Guide-with-Video-
  3.   Peak System PCAN-View softwarehttps://www.peak-system.com/PCAN-View.242.0.html?&L=1
  4.   Peak System PCAN-USB module, https://www.gridconnect.com/products/can-usb-adapter-pcan-usb
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Custom vs Off-the-Shelf: The Pros & The Cons

Feb 25, 2022 9:45:00 AM / by Rick Rockershousen posted in custom engineering

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Ask our Engineers Anything:

 

What makes highly-custom projects different from Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) or custom componentry?

 

A custom-designed product can break through a crowded marketplace, and open a business to a whole new sector of consumers. When you search for a path to achieve this, however, you’ll find many options, from standard, commercial off-the-shelf (aka, COTS) components, to custom parts, to highly-custom projects. When considering creating a custom IoT application, how do you make the decision between the multitude of options?

What’s The Difference?

 

GC-Net485

In a recent post, we discussed the difference between commercial off-the-shelf components, or COTS, and custom componentry. To summarize, COTS components are simply pieces that are sold direct-to-consumer with a standardized set of features. An example of this would be the Grid Connect NET485 - RS485 Ethernet Adapter, which allows a serial communications technology to connect to Ethernet, and therefore become web-enabled. However, this Ethernet adapter may not fit the physical constraints of the technology it is being integrated into, or may include superfluous firmware features. To remedy this, the adapter can also be customized to precisely match the desires of the customer.

 

However, the additional option of a highly-custom project also exists. This begs the question: What is the difference between custom components and a highly-custom project?

 

“It’s about whether or not we’re taking an existing product and customizing it, or if we’re starting from scratch and creating a brand new product,” said Adam Justice, CEO of Grid Connect.

 

While custom components are essentially current products modified to a customer’s specifications, those components still need to be integrated into the customer’s technology on their side. highly-custom projects, on the other hand, are the creation of a complete product, from determining the best solution to the customer’s problem at the beginning, all the way to a boxed, ready-to-sell product at the end.

 

Considering Highly-Custom?

 

Seeking out and initiating a highly-custom project is most often done when the customer wants to expand their current line of products, or modify one of their existing products to compete in a new market sector.

 

“These highly-custom projects are usually a new business, segment, or market for our customers to sell their products into. Because of that, there’s more investment and time involved, because the specs have to be exactly what they want,” said Rick Rockershousen, Grid Connect’s Vice President of Sales.

 

The process of creating a highly-custom project begins when the customer approaches Grid Connect and describes the problem they are trying to solve with their new product. While the degree of collaboration varies on a case by case basis, Grid Connect’s engineers will use ground up engineering to develop a concept based on the information gathered from these initial conversations.

 

“I think, in the best cases, we’re trying to understand the problem and then we’re going to go out and propose a solution,” said Justice. “We do best when the customer can trust us to figure that out.”

 

As part of this development process, Grid Connect performs end-customer research in addition to product development. They seek out potential purchasers of the product being developed, inquire what they would want in the product, and incorporate that feedback into the solution created.

 

Once all of this consumer feedback has been taken into consideration, and the client approves of the solution presented to them, Grid Connect will manage the product’s manufacturing, production, and even packaging from end to end, providing the customer with a complete, ready-to-sell item at the end of the process.

 

Incredibly useful and successful products have resulted from highly-custom development. For example, Grid Connect worked closely with Schlage, who specialize in manufacturing locks, to develop technology that would allow its users to manage their home locks remotely from their smart phone or watch.As-seen-in

 

Grid Connect also collaborated with Wayne Water to create their new IoT Sump Pump. The pump uses Web connectivity to provide its owner with information about the pump’s life cycle, as well as real time alerts if the pump may potentially fail due to flooding.

 

The Pros & The Cons

 

However, many companies already employ teams of engineers for development, maintenance, management, and more. Why not make projects like this in house, rather than buy something from a third party? 

 

There are a number of reasons to consider investing in a highly-custom project even considering this. Even if a customer has a dedicated team of engineers, they may not want or be able to divert them away from critical business toward making something new. The current shortage of job-seeking engineers may certainly exacerbate this issue and further contribute to the decision to invest in a highly-custom option. This was the case for Schlage. Their engineering department needed to remain devoted to their daily business, which is their locks. Hence, Grid Connect was asked to develop a Wi-Fi adapter, enabling the connectivity Schlage desired to integrate with their locks. 

 

On the other side of this, Wayne Water’s engineers did not have expertise in  developing wireless connectivity solutions, and so they approached Grid Connect to partner in developing  their connected sump pump.

 

“Working with Wayne Water, the relationship there is they are the pump experts. They’re in charge of everything around pumps, and explaining that to us,” said Justice. “Meanwhile, we’re the networking and hardware experts, and we’re bringing all that to the table.”

 

An important thing to consider when debating about buying a highly-custom project is time to market. highly-custom lead times average around six to nine months from initial consultation to finished product. Grid Connect tackles time-sensitive challenges, and can complete development on a custom IoT application in as little as three months. Even projects with longer lead times get completed faster than if the customer chose to develop internally.

 

“For Schlage, we delivered from project start to shipping a product in just under a year,” said Justice. “They said, ‘Wow, this is the fastest project we’ve ever shipped.”

 

A highly-custom application definitely requires keeping many factors in mind. However, for custom IoT applications, Grid Connect has the expertise and experience to make the process smooth, quick, and successful.

 

Questions To Keep In Mind:

 

  • Do we have access to experts who can help develop our desired product in house?

  • Can those experts be devoted wholly to product development?

  • How important to the business is total ownership of the product being sold?

  • What is the desired timeframe to get the product to market?
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Using radio waves as slip ring replacement

Feb 18, 2022 9:36:00 AM / by Schildknecht AG posted in PROFIBUS, Profibus network, slip ring systems, slip ring rotary systems, rotary electrical contacts, Slip ring, electrical slip ring, Slip ring assemblies, Slip ring collector, where is a slip ring used, collector rings, rotary joints, electric rotary joints, sliding contacts

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Wireless as a reliable and wear-free option for data communication

 

How do you transfer electrical power and data between a fixed part of a machine or device and its moving or rotating parts, for instance in cranes or wind turbines? Obviously, cables won’t do the job, so this is where the electrical slip ring comes in.

 

Where is a slip ring used?

Slip rings have been around for ages, and they are used in all industrial branches. They have many names, such as collector rings, rotary joints, electric rotary joints, sliding contacts, rotary electrical contacts etc. Apart from cranes and wind turbines they’re used in industrial plants, mechanical engineering, robots, engines, and medical technology, just to name a few applications.

 

How slip rings work

As mentioned, slip ring assemblies are used, where you need to transfer power and/or data between stationary and moving parts. In the past such slip ring transmitters have helped solve tricky challenges in designing moving applications, for instance rotary tables.

However, its functional principle requires permanent electrical contact, and as such it has limits regarding data transmission: While you don’t have to worry about short interruptions when it comes to power supply, interruption of data communication in control systems means delayed or lost data packages, leading to errors and often to downtime.

 

Faulty slip rings? Time to modernize

Another weakness of data transmission via electrical slip ring is the wear and tear of the materials rubbing against each other. This means the slip ring assemblies require regular servicing and replacing, which leads to productivity loss. It gets even worse, if a slip ring suddenly malfunctions. That often leads to production coming to a standstill, resulting in high costs, angry customers and frustrated employees. To avoid that it is crucial to act before accidents happen, and to look into how you can replace slip ring assemblies with reliable and maintenance free data communication.

For instance, plants that previously were equipped with slip ring transmitters for PROFIBUS can be modernized, leading to improved plant availability and production efficiency. For power transmission only, sliding contacts and rotary transmissions continue to be a good option. But they can be complemented nicely with radio solutions. This separation of power supply and data transmission leads to more stable solutions and reduced risk of EMC disturbance.

In most cases, combining slip ring systems for power transfer and radio solutions for data communication is even significantly cheaper than slip ring assemblies that transmit power and ethernet protocols like PROFINET simultaneously. Moreover, this retrofit approach enables step-by-step updating of existing slip ring assemblies without large investment.

 

Radio is a fast and reliable alternative to rotary transmissions

In addition to the problems coming from wear and tear, rotary electrical contacts reach their limit when a rising number of sensors are integrated into networks and IoT solutions, and when high data rates, failure safety, and real-time communication is required.

Radio transfer is the perfect replacement for data transfer by sliding contacts. Radio technology offers reliable and secure data transfer for all serial Fieldbus protocols, like PROFIBUS or CAN, and also for ethernet communication such as PROFINET. Radio is easily made operational without costly installation and commissioning, and can handle complex networks and long distances. Moreover, Fieldbus converters allow new and older components to run in the same system and to be integrated into one single infrastructure. As a result, with wireless you can build complex networks for Fieldbus communication, with numerous controls and IO modules.

Contrary to other wireless systems like optical data transceivers, inductive systems or optical fibers, radio communication is flexible and absolutely wear-free. No maintenance means maximum availability of machines and production systems.

 

Which radio solution for replacing slip rings?

There are huge differences between the radio solutions available, and therefore large variations in transmission security and reliability. With DATAEAGLE Schildknecht offers a patented technology combining fast and easy plug & play installation with the highest degree of transmission stability. This eliminates Fieldbus errors coming from disturbances in data transmission, because data packets are analyzed, pre-processed and prioritized before being transmitted. Due to short-time storage of commands and configurable filtering time, short-time radio interference can be bypassed. This makes the data connection stable and reliable, even under harsh surrounding conditions.

 

Find the ideal solution for your application

Radio data systems with stabilized transmission are reliable, durable, maintenance-free, with secure communication and robustness against transmission errors. This makes them ideally suited for industrial machines and plants. In addition, the patented DATAEAGLE product family offers maximum flexibility and easy plug & play installation. This enables you to swiftly find the ideal wireless data transfer solution for your specific use case.

 

Does your application have special requirements? We’re looking forward to finding the ideal solution together with you!

Please reach out to arrange a meeting about your project – free and noncommittal

 

Contact Us

 

At a glance: Replacing slip rings with wireless

  • Ready immediately due to plug & play installation, even in complex networks and multi point connections
  • Stabilized radio paths with DATAEAGLE enhance security and reliability, due to pre-processed data and prioritized transmission
  • Maximum system availability, radio solutions are wear-free and maintenance-free
  • Ideal for modernization and retrofit, older or faulty rotary transmissions are quickly and easily replaced by radio modules. This allows for step-by-step modernization without steep entry costs.

 

 

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This is your quick and cost-effective entry into condition monitoring

Feb 11, 2022 8:31:04 AM / by Schildknecht AG posted in Cloud services, IIoT, IoT, IoT devices, IoT-enabled, IoT solutions

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Sensors can keep your machines and systems healthy and efficient. Being able to closely and continuously monitor the condition of production equipment in a factory will allow for targeted servicing and maintenance, fewer breakdowns and an increase in overall efficiency. The Schildknecht IoT Ready-To-Use system offers a quick and cost-effective entry into condition monitoring.

 

If you are new to the concept of condition based monitoring, it can be difficult to determine where to start. And what about the costs? And how to avoid turning it into a big and complex project with too many stakeholders?

 

There are many questions to consider before embarking on a condition monitoring project. At Schildknecht, we know how to answer them. Over the years we have built more than 500 proof of concepts together with our customers, and we have learned that you have to be pragmatic and focused to succeed.

 

Based on our experience, we have developed the Schildknecht IoT Ready-To-Use systems. They offer you a quick, easy and cost-effective entry into condition based monitoring, and we recommend a step-by-step approach to deploying them.

 

DataEagle Condition Monitoring System diagram

 

First steps for introducing condition monitoring

A good way to get started is to focus on the weak spots of your factory. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the weakest parts of my production setup?
  • Where do breakdowns occur most frequently?
  • Where do failures have financial consequences?
  • Where do breakdowns have widespread effects, e.g. because several production lines are blocked as a result?

 

Very likely you’ll be able to point out specific pumps, motors, or other equipment that constitute critical weaknesses in need of constant monitoring. This is the place to start.

 

The next step is to determine what you want to measure. The most common values are temperature, vibrations and noise level. However, the IoT Ready-To-Use system enables you to measure much more if necessary. Its CISS multi-sensor for harsh environments contains 8 sensors:

  • accelerometer
  • gyroscope
  • magnetometer
  • digital light sensor
  • pressure sensor
  • microphone
  • thermometer
  • humidity sensor

This versatility allows you to experiment and to adjust the setup along the way, until you have found the best parameters to monitor on your machines and equipment.

 

DataEagle Condition Monitoring System Product Images

 

Start with monitoring one application

To get started, it is important to focus on one application or machine. Don’t think too much about integration or turning this into a multi-functional system. Save that for later. The initial phase is all about focusing and building a strong case around one single application. This also lets you control costs and installation time.

 

From this point on you can adjust and expand your condition monitoring solution easily, as the Schildknecht wireless concept with decentralized sensors and central gateways gives you the flexibility to change your setup along the way.

 

For instance, you might have a number of older machines in your factory, with all the problems that go with them in regards to repair and spare parts. It would make good sense to monitor them closely to ensure maximum uptime and to extend their life span. A non-invasive system like IoT Ready-To-Use ensures easy retrofitting with the least possible installation efforts and disruption to production.

 

Or you can work towards the convergence of your IT and OT infrastructures. As IT and OT move closer together you might want to get a simultaneous overview of both worlds. For this, Schildknecht is partnering with PAESSLER, data from the Schildknecht system can be easily integrated into the PAESSLER PRTG Monitor.

 

Install the condition monitoring system

Getting a condition monitoring system up and running doesn’t have to be complicated and time consuming. We have designed our system explicitly with ease-of-use and flexibility in mind.

For instance, no integration is needed, and its multi-sensor has magnets for easy installation. Also, to avoid the hassle of installing extra wiring, the system’s gateway uses radio communication to send monitoring data to a cloud portal.

 

You can mount the multi-sensor directly on the engine or machine. It transmits measurement data via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to the DATAEAGLE 2730 IoT gateway, which is able to receive data from up to 8 sensors simultaneously. The gateway then pre-processes the data and transfers it via wireless 3G/4G to the cloud, where it is stored and ready to be visualized and analyzed via the DATAEAGLE Portal.

 

The DATAEAGLE Cloud Portal provides a ready-to-use dashboard to get an overview of the data coming in from the sensors. At this point you can analyze the data. Depending on the use case, you can set different transmission intervals of the sensor values to the cloud, or you can set alarms for individual sensors.

 

Request a demo

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information about how to get started with condition based monitoring. We invite you to request a demo or a test system – we are looking forward to helping you to a quick, easy and cost-effective entry into condition monitoring.

Contact Us

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Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) vs. Custom Products

Jan 25, 2022 8:22:18 AM / by Rick Rockershousen posted in custom engineering

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Ask our Engineers Anything:

What are the pros and cons of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) versus custom componentry?

Let’s say you work for a company developing a new product that uses a Serial interface, and you have been tasked with finding a way to integrate Ethernet connectivity. You research all the different options for exports, components that can convert connections like Serial into other interfaces, and come across a number of options. 

 

For example, the Grid Connect RS485 Ethernet Adapter can be purchased directly. This would be the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) version of the product. However, the protocol on RS485 can also be customized to exactly match the company’s desired specifications. What are the differences between these two options, and what should one think about when the choice between COTS and custom is presented to them?

 

COTS products:

The nature of COTS products lends a number of benefits. Because a COTS component gets produced on a larger scale, they are standardized, providing identical features across the board. If the specifications provided in the component meet the needs of the customer, then that COTS will make the most business sense, saving time and capital to develop a custom piece. For that same reason, it likely would not be prudent to invest in a custom component for a small volume order.

 

“You aren’t going to do a custom if you only need a few,” said Rick Rockershousen, Vice President of Sales for GridConnect. “If you can’t find the perfect solution, but if you only need one or two or ten, it often makes more sense to take the nearest thing and work with it.”

 

Another benefit of COTS products is that they can easily be applied in a trial setting, testing to confirm if the technology achieves the intended goals of the project. That said, because COTS components come standardized, they may have too many features, or be physically unsuitable.

 

Custom products:

This potential for incompatibility makes COTS components more difficult to use in larger applications. For this reason, Grid Connect offers the ability to customize every component made under their brand name, so each piece can conform perfectly to the desired specifications for the project. 

 

“It could be anything, changing the firmware to hide the configuration of the parts they don’t want. It could be to add things that aren’t in the standard firmware, perhaps like supporting multiple Ethernet connections,” said Rockershousen.

 

The physical size and shape of each piece are commonly desired to be altered, whether for aesthetic reasons or practical concerns. Take this example of a customer who wanted an export for their new product, but had a physical constraint that required the customization of the export:

 

“A company that makes airline boarding pass and ticket printers contacted us about a custom version of the NET232. Their printers are serial, but they wanted to have them Ethernet connected,” said Rockershousen. “The customer didn’t have an easy way to plug-in/power the standard NET232, since available outlets are hard to find in airline terminals.”

 

To rectify this issue, Grid Connect customized the NET232 to receive power from the serial side of the device - so in this case the power is supplied by the printer itself. This resulted in a small, easily installable custom NET232 that converted  the serial cable coming off the printer into an Ethernet connection without having to power the new part separately.  

 

One of the biggest pros of customization is the ability to have full control over the user’s end-to-end experience of the product. Customization allows for the component to be branded precisely, allowing the company to determine how much they want the customer to know about how their product comes together. Components can even be added to set their product apart from their competitors.

 

“It’s a competitive advantage to have something custom that exactly fits the need, where everybody else is using off-the-shelf things to fill it,” said Rockershousen.

 

Costs for customization vary, but most minor customizations run in the $1,500 to $15,000 range.  Things can go up from there if extensive redesign is required to achieve the desired result.

 

Grid Connect can help with customization of many products, especially those that are under the Grid Connect brand, or include parts from Espressif or Lantronix.   Here are just a few:

gc-net485-01

NET485 Enhanced - Serial to Ethernet Device Server

SKU : GC-NET485-ENH

MPN : GC-NET485-ENH

net232-plus_1500x1500_3

NET232+ Serial to Ethernet Intelligent Cable Adapter 

SKU : GC-NET232-PLUS

MPN : GC-NET232-PLUS

can_usb

CANUSB COM FD - USB CAN FD/CAN Interface 

SKU : GC-CAN-USB-COM-FD-ISO

MPN : GC-CAN-USB-COM-FD-ISO

 xpico_2_web

GC Enhanced xPICO™ - Serial to Ethernet Embedded Device Server

SKU : GC-XPICO-ENH

MPN : GC-XPICO-ENH

ESP32-WROOM-32UE

ESP32-WROOM-32UE - WI-FI/BT/BLE Module 

SKU : GC-ESP-WROOM-32UE

MPN : ESP32-WROOM-32UE

 

Shop all customizable products.

 

Ultimately, asking questions about the product and application being considered are crucial to making the best possible business decision when it comes to COTS versus custom. Some questions to think about include:

  • Do the available COTS products meet the needs of this project?
  • How many units of this product are required for the project?
  • How time sensitive is this project?
  • Do our competitors offer a similar product?
  • How much control should be exerted over the end-to-end user experience?

Contact us for more information on how we can help. 

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EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, or both?

Dec 14, 2021 8:00:00 PM / by Rick Rockershousen posted in Ethernet TCP/IP, industrial networking, PROFIBUS, PROFINET

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Ask our Engineers Anything:

Should I implement EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, or both in my device, and how?

EtherNet/IP and PROFINET are two protocols that utilize and add value to standard ethernet technology.

Speed is often mentioned as a key benefit of PROFINET, while interoperability often goes into the EtherNet/IP column. Yet when it comes to one over the other, it's not so black and white. For product design and development, you may want to hedge your bets and support both.

The global industrial ethernet market is growing at 7.2% CAGR and expected to surpass $15 billion by 2027. Looking at market share, PROFINET is overall the leading Industrial Ethernet protocol worldwide, yet EtherNet/IP (EIP) is becoming more popular as an industrial networking standard.


Source: Global Industrial Ethernet Market, published by KBV research.

Since both PROFINET and EtherNet/IP are  widely adopted, this article will present some background information and offer three primary options for including them into your product design.

About EtherNet/IP (EIP) and PROFINET

With backing by Wisconsin-based, North American giant Rockwell Automation and others, EtherNet/IP has a strong presence in the US and Canada. Rockwell Automation has been in the game for years through ongoing development of their control networks.

PROFINET is very strong in Europe, with backing by Siemens and others. As mentioned, it is strong worldwide, including substantial market share in North America. While PROFINET is based on the PROFIBUS standard, it is not simply PROFIBUS over Ethernet. PROFINET is generally faster overall than EtherNet/IP, but it can require special hardware for some applications.

Open standards with governance

Part of the appeal of EtherNet/IP and PROFINET is that both are open standards, yet both also have governing bodies in place to guide development and ensure certain requirements are met.

PROFIBUS and PROFINET International (PI)

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Known as PI for short, this organization has about 1,700 member companies globally and offers PROFIBUS and PROFINET competence centers, training centers, test labs and certifications, and various working groups and technical committees.

Visit the PI website to learn more

Open DeviceNet Vendors Association (ODVA)

ODVA-logo-r

Known as ODVA, the members of this global association are leading industrial automation companies. The stated mission of ODVA is to advance open, interoperable industrial automation technologies. ODVA's network protocol, the Common Industrial Protocol or CIP, is core to its mission, supporting the adoption of commercial-off-the-shelf products and standard internet and ethernet technologies.

Visit the ODVA website to learn more.

Note that Grid Connect is both a PI member and ODVA member.

 

EtherNet/IP and PROFINET considerations

As mentioned already, EIP and PROFINET are both open source for greater interoperability and more options to use off-the-shelf components. Following are important considerations when assessing these protocols for your product development plans.

Certification requirements

An important point to remember when adding one of these protocols to a device is that the device must be certified by the appropriate body, ODVA or PI, in order to be sold on the open market as an EtherNet/IP or PROFINET capable device.

This involves testing of the device in a certified lab, which runs a standard set of conformance tests on the product. There are costs associated with this testing and manufacturers should consult with the appropriate body to understand the timing, costs, and documentation needed.

Three implementation options

Device manufacturers looking to add industrial protocols to their device have three main options for getting this done.

1. Do-It-Yourself (DIY)

You can develop or buy a PROFINET or EtherNet/IP stack and run it on the native microcontroller of the device.

The DIY approach makes sense when the projected sales volumes justify the additional development expense. If the device manufacturer has a willing customer who has time to wait for the R&D and will buy sufficient quantities, then this approach makes sense.

Adding a new protocol stack to a device’s existing software base may require making hardware changes to the device as well. For example, adding a protocol stack to the software will increase the load on resources such as RAM and Flash memory. If the load is too much, then additional RAM and/or Flash will have to be added to the microcontroller PCB. Another reason for needing to change the PCB is if an Ethernet RJ45 Connector needs to be added to connect the device to the PROFINET or EtherNet/IP network.

When you consider this plus the learning curve for understanding the protocol plus certification costs, the DIY approach is not for the faint of heart. The trade-offs are lower Bill of Material (BOM) costs vs. longer time to market and much higher R&D costs.

2. Buy-the-stack-on-board

You can buy a chip or module with the stack already developed and interface it to the microcontroller of the device.

A buy-the-stack-on-board option avoids the long lead time and R&D expense of the DIY approach. It can be accomplished with a single protocol embedded module. Such a module typically interfaces with the device’s native microcontroller via a serial or SPI connection. This does not avoid the hardware R&D expense as the device’s PCB needs to be redesigned to accommodate the module, but this is typically a relatively simple and straightforward modification.

The interface through the serial port is also relatively simple and is typically done using the serial Modbus RTU protocol. Many devices have support for this already developed within the device microcontroller, so software development is often minimal. This makes time to market much faster than the DIY approach with much reduced R&D expense.

In addition, these modules often have been pre-certified (depending on the protocols certification rules), which makes certification of the OEM device faster and less costly. An example of such a module is Grid Connect’s EtherNet/IP XPort. This module is a cost-effective and quick time-to-market approach to adding EtherNet/IP to a device.

Note that we are working on a next generation EtherNet/IP module that adds wireless capability.

3. Future-proof-module

Finally, you can buy a module that has multiple variants supporting a variety of Industrial fieldbus protocols where all versions of the module have the same footprint.

Building on the module approach, this is the multiprotocol module with a uniform footprint, allowing for multiple fieldbus / industrial networking protocols to be added to a device without redesigning the PCB. Simply plug in a module with the desired protocol and the device is multilingual. Additional accommodations may be needed if the chosen field buses have different physical interfaces, such as RJ45 for Industrial Ethernet protocols or a DB9 connector for a fieldbus such as PROFIBUS. With these module families, the device microcontroller interfaces through serial or SPI interfaces to the module just like with the previous approach.

Typically, however, no other modifications to the device’s software are needed when switching from one protocol module to another. So instead of designing to add one or two protocols, such as EtherNet/IP and PROFINET, suddenly all of the major protocols—like PROFIBUS, DeviceNet, and Modbus TCP, to name a few— are available with little to no additional cost, other than certification.

This approach makes sense when the volume is low, as the modules are typically more expensive than the other two approaches, or when maximum flexibility is needed.

Available EIP and PROFINET modules 

Grid Connect offers the Unigate IC module family from Deutschmann Automation, a German company that's been making network components for industrial data communication for over thirty years. As pre-certified communication interfaces, Unigate IC modules can be directly integrated into the electronics of the terminal device without changes in the firmware, which is important when the firmware has been certified. UNIGATE IC is an excellent alternative to developing your own interfaces. 

 

 

I hope we have answered some of your own questions about these popular industrial networking protocols. If not, please don't hesitate to contact us to discuss your questions or concerns.

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PEAK System CEO on future of CAN bus

Oct 25, 2021 9:43:52 PM / by Grid Connect Team posted in CAN FD, CANbus, Classic CAN, Interviews

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As a company that specializes in the CAN (Controller Area Network) fieldbus, PEAK-System has a clear view of the CAN horizon. Since the company’s launch in 1999, PEAK has been a leading provider of hardware, software, and services for mobile and industrial communications.

Peak Founder and CEO Uwe Wilhelm shared his thoughts with us on the future of the CAN networking protocol, including his view of classic CAN and CAN-FD.

Spoiler alert: The reports of classic CAN’s death are greatly exaggerated!

 

Q: What are your thoughts on this industry sampling of CAN market share projections into 2027?

 

Source: Cognitive Market Research. Request sample or purchase report.

Answer:

CAN FD is the current choice in the automotive sector. The new CAN-XL will certainly be added as a second, new CAN bus standard, with a different usage approach, and classic CAN is still the standard in automation technology and mechanical engineering, though it's gradually being replaced by CAN-FD.

Whether and when there will also be a change to CAN FD cannot really be foreseen.

With its CANopen FD, the CiA (CAN in Automation) group of international users and manufacturers created a standard years ago that is unfortunately not properly accepted in practice. We hope that this will change in the next 1-2 years. There are currently few certified CANopen FD products to buy and customers mostly use the proven CANopen based on the CAN2.0 protocol for new systems. The classic CAN is hard to think of in electronics development. 

Regardless of the area, the proportion is constantly increasing. Whether in medical technology or in consumer devices such as washing machines or air conditioning systems, simple sensor / actuator connections can be implemented quickly and inexpensively. A huge selection of components can be used, and operating systems such as Linux have included the CAN protocol as an integral part of their distributions for years.

 

Q. When do you think FD shipments will overtake classic CAN, and are there any advance preparations or considerations?

Answer:

Classic CAN (2.0a / b) will probably always be justified and will remain with us for many years to come. In some applications, the CAN-FD simply doesn't make sense. If you don't really need the increased transmission rate and the larger user data, the standard CAN remains the right choice. It's robust, easy to implement, and inexpensive. 

Likewise, the classic CAN networks, through the CAN transceivers you use, can also cover very low speeds and also support longer CAN networks where it is not about speed but about robustness and network length.

 

Q. What are some industrial examples of CAN usage?

Answer:

Today, CAN is actually used in all technical devices, regardless of the industry. 

  • Agricultural technology
  • Construction machines
  • Robotics of all kinds
  • Medical technology
  • Wind turbines
  • Military vehicles and systems (also known as MilCAN)
  • Planes (CANaerospace)
  • Submarines
  • Satellite systems

You will also find CAN in many niche applications, like the latest planetarium projection systems. We have been working for 15 years with a leading company in this market. 

Of course, the automotive sector is a major user of CAN networking and the most well-known CAN applications are in vehicles—trucks, cars, buses, and trains. The simple network topology and the EMC (ElectroMagnetic Compatibility) safe transmission method are certainly the decisive factors here. 

Likewise, almost every microcontroller family today has derivatives that have integrated one or more CAN buses. There are sensors and actuators from all areas that use CAN, as well as dozens of hardware and software tools for the PC to develop these applications quickly and inexpensively.

 

Q. Let’s shift to PEAK-System—Can you share any new product development plans or product launches?

Answer:

PEAK-System is currently finishing the last work on a new product range to offer service tools for marine applications following the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) standard. Based on CAN, this standard sets the requirements for a serial data communications network to interconnect marine electronic equipment on vessels, creating the ability to share data, including commands and status, with other compatible equipment over a single channel.

We are also developing solutions under the J1939 open standard for networking and communication in the commercial vehicle sector, focused on the networking of the powertrain. The J1939 protocol, from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), is a set of standards that define how electronic control units (ECUs) communicate via the CAN bus in heavy-duty vehicles.

We hopefully can begin selling the new Diagnostic Tools in the first quarter of 2022.

Q. How would you describe the relationship between PEAK-System and Grid Connect?

Grid Connect Founder Mike Justice and PEAK Founder Uwe Wilhelm

Grid Connect President Mike Justice (left) with PEAK-System CEO Uwe Wilhelm (right)

Answer:

PEAK-System and Grid Connect have been working very closely together for many years. We still know each other from the days when Grid Connect was still Synergetic.

Mike Justice and I met for the first time in March 1998 at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, and from then on we always had contact and worked on joint projects together.

Products such as the DeviceNet Detective (first and second generation), which are based on our diagnostic devices, are, for example, only available exclusively from Grid Connect.

Adam (CEO Adam Justice) and Mike (President and Founder Mike Justice) are two reliable business partners, especially in the current situation with the shortage of materials, where we have experienced the importance of our cooperation.

Q. Any final comments about the changes in the automotive industry and development of self-driving vehicles? Will CAN continue to play a role?

Answer:

The number of sensors and the resulting amount of data in current vehicles is increasing from year to year. The security-relevant systems require more and more bandwidth to transmit the information required for this system. CAN and especially CAN-FD are certain to play a not insignificant role. Likewise, the new CAN XL standard will certainly be an enrichment to self-driving cars and will continue to support the whole thing with its new features.

IP-based networks are also used, but simply cannot replace the classic CAN here. The simple connection of sensors and actuators is too great an advantage with CAN that an IP network cannot replace. The main reason is the network topology and costs per node.

For more about PEAK-System

Get a fascinating look at PEAK-System in one of the great videos on the company’s YouTube channel, which starts with footage of Mr. Wilhelm driving his vintage Volkswagen in the scenic German countryside. We highly recommend viewing it for a better understanding of PEAK-System products and capabilities.

 

For more about CAN

The Controller Area Network (CAN) was created in 1983 by Robert Bosch GmbH to provide synchronous communication between processors in automobile systems. While the automotive industry has been a key sector for CAN networking, as the market research above shows, its use has expanded to a variety of industrial and consumer products and processes.

CAN products available from Grid Connect

PEAK-System company website

Development of the CAN bus

About CAN FD

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The Smart Power Cord instantly links legacy industrial machines to the cloud

Dec 18, 2020 12:17:55 PM / by Grid Connect Team posted in monitoring

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Grid Connect's ConnectSense Smart Power Cord creates a link between equipment makers, owners and operators, their legacy machines and the cloud.


Grid Connect, Inc. has a new ConnectSense® Smart Power Cord that turns non-networked machines like commercial kitchen appliances, industrial pumps and healthcare equipment into IoT devices that stream operational data as it happens to machine makers, owners and operators, so they can predict maintenance, track usage and manage energy consumption.Smart Cord (1500x1500)

“As an example, a beverage-machine maker or owner could connect to the internet with the Smart Power Cord and learn how many drinks, and of what size, employees are making; owners can even see which sizes are filled the most or learn when the unit was last cleaned,” said Gary Marrs, solutions architect at Grid Connect. “If you’re an engineering manager, CIO or anyone in an organization trying to securely collect data on a legacy device, this is a quick, cost-effective method that’ll reap outsized returns.”

Grid Connect supplies its industrial-grade, UL- and RoHS-certified Smart Power Cord with a cloud-based application that machine builders and operators can use to monitor an unlimited number and array of remote devices such as ovens, espresso machines, motors and EKG equipment. Plugging in and setting up the Smart Power Cord takes approximately five minutes. Once a machine is plugged into The ConnectSense smart AC power cord and connected to Wi-Fi, machine makers and operators receive emails or texts about data such as voltage consumption, operating temperature and excessive loads. Users can also enable settings via the cord to remotely shut down a machine. Using an API, Grid Connect can securely link data from the Smart Power Cord to other critical software systems of interest to machine operators.

iot-enable-furnace-3aAccording to Marrs, equipment manufacturers and product marketing managers who want insights from the field about their products can plug in the Smart Power Cord and begin streaming data to perform predictive maintenance, track usage or even build a better product.

“Equipment-leasing companies are another excellent use case for the Smart Power Cord,” adds Marrs “Owners can monitor their equipment use and ensure that it is being properly maintained.”

The Smart Power Cord network interfaces include Wi-Fi (802.11bg) and comes in several standard models, including 15, 20 and 30 amps and accommodating input voltage ranging from 100 AC to 240 AC. Smart Power Cord pricing starts at $129.95. To purchase the cord or schedule a demonstration, visit http://devices.connectsense.com/plug-and-play-remote-machine-monitoring-news/

About Grid Connect, Inc.
Naperville, Ill.-based Grid Connect Inc. is an ISO 9001:2015 company and has been a leader in the embedded and networking marketplace for more than 20 years. Grid Connect’s products range from smart devices, including its ConnectSense branded smart power cord, and security controllers to bridges, switches and diagnostics tools. Along with the products Grid Connect makes, the company also distributes and supports complementary products from other high-quality technology makers. Learn more at https://www.gridconnect.com/

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FREE Webinar : How To Build A Better PROFIBUS Network Using ComBricks

Sep 10, 2020 9:57:43 AM / by Grid Connect Team posted in ComBricks, Events, PROFIBUS, Webinar

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Join us for our free webinar on How To Build A Better PROFIBUS Network Using ComBricks.


Date
:
Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020Register Now

Time : 10:30 AM CT (8:30 AM PT)

 

In this 1 hour session we will examine traditional PROFIBUS network design and look at modern alternatives to improve reliability and predictability while reducing downtime.

 

Course Agenda

  • Traditional PROFIBUS Network Design
  • How repeaters/segmentation help network reliability
  • Challenges from highly segmented networks
  • Measuring networks for preventative maintenance or troubleshooting
  • ComBricks overview
  • Example of new network designs
  • Example of a retrofit of an existing network
  • ComBricks Demo
  • Q&A

 

Presented By : 

Rick_headshot_tealbackground

Rick Rockershousen

Vice President of Sales at Grid Connect

Register Now

 

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FREE Webinar : How To Cloud-Enable Any Product - Quickly And Securely

Sep 9, 2020 4:01:38 PM / by Grid Connect Team posted in Events, Industrial IoT, IoT cloud, IoT devices, IoT-enabled device, Smart Devices, smart products, smart tech, smart technology, Webinar

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Join us for our free webinar and learn how you can quickly upgrade your product with an IoT solution.


Date
:
Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020Register Now

Time : 10:30 AM CT (8:30 AM PT)

 

In this 1-hour session you will learn about some of the pitfalls to developing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. We will discuss how using off-the-shelf solutions can yield quick and powerful results. In particular we will review the ConnectSense Smart Power cord and how you can simply plug your product into an IoT solution.

 

Why You Should Attend

  • Add IoT capability to your enterprise applications
  • Quick IoT solutions for beta or qualification testing
  • IoT-enable your legacy products
  • Get your questions answered by experts

 

Presented By : Guest Speaker :
Gary_Headshot Adam_Headshot(2)

Gary Marrs

Solutions Architect at Grid Connect

Adam Justice

CEO at Grid Connect

 

Register early, seats are limited!

Register Now

 

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