My experience with RTA on this development project has been very positive and I’m sure it will lead to more product development in the future. They have fantastic, knowledgeable personnel. From sales to technical support to development, every single person I dealt with was incredible.

Brad Slye / Product Integration Manager, Electro-Sensors, Inc.

Avoiding Hazards in a Hazard Monitoring System

Headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Electro-Sensors, Inc. is the industry leader in the design, manufacturing and customer support of rugged and reliable machine monitoring sensors and hazard monitoring systems for customers worldwide. It has a major presence in the grain, feed, milling, bio-fuels, power generation, wastewater, water utilities, general manufacturing and bulk material handling industries. Electro-Sensors’ products are renowned for providing years of reliable service and they bring safety, efficiency and reliability to customers’ operations. Their products have set the industry standard for ease of customer use while its worldwide sales and service team provides customers with best-in-class support.

Electro Sensors was looking for an easy way to interface their PLCs to the system managers in their hazard monitoring systems. They knew their products and services backwards and forwards, but were less knowledgeable of the Allen-Bradley PLCs they connected to: they primarily used outside integrators to get their customers’ systems up and running.

Complicating matters was the amount of data that needed to be transferred, about 6,000 Modbus registers’ worth. Off-the-shelf Modbus to Ethernet/IP gateways could not handle that much data. Another big factor was reducing the amount of programming that needed to be done by the end-user. Lastly, the data also had speed requirements for monitoring purposes. Certain critical safety data points needed to be updated more often. There just wasn’t a solution that checked all those boxes. A custom solution was needed to handle that much data and hit the required timings, and still be easy to use. Electro Sensors turned to Real Time Automation.

Brad Slye, Product Integration Manager at Electro Sensors, had discussed certain elements of the project with RTA reps at a trade show and instantly recognized a synergy between the two companies. “The solutions that RTA provided are exactly what we needed to make the outstanding systems that we deliver to our customers even better.”

The 460ETCMC gateway from RTA is a simple tool that allows integrators to use the many cost-effective Modbus TCP/IP devices available in their Allen-Bradley PLCs. However, off-the-shelf, the 460ETCMC can move a lot of data, just not 6,000 registers’ worth at high speed. The RTA custom solutions team was brought in to overcome both the large data set and the faster timing requirements.

“What Electro Sensors wanted (speed, lots of data and ease of communications for their customers) wasn’t difficult to deliver individually,” said Scott Zukewich, Product Manager at RTA. “All three together…that was the tough part. With an entire solution focused on performance, RTA customized the Modbus state machine to meet Electro Sensors device requirements and also customized it to read and write an entire User Defined Type (UDT) in the Allen-Bradley PLC of their 6,000 registers. This was the kind of challenge RTA loves to get.”

“By using the RTA gateway and the custom programming, the system manager data is written directly into pre-defined tags in the PLC and that saves the customer a lot of work,” said Slye. “Because of the work that RTA did on the front end, the control system programmers at the customer sites understand the easy-to-use setup and operation of the RTA gateway. Not only that, but the gateway also opened up our ability to quickly sell to customers who use Allen-Bradley PLCs. And, the work that RTA did can easily be translated for PLCs from other manufacturers.”

Real Time Automation has been delivering innovative communications solutions to the industrial automation market since 1989. RTA products seamlessly integrate process equipment so control engineers and integrators can collect, analyze and interpret the real-time data needed to improve productivity and maximize efficiencies.

RTA specializes in making easy-to-use connectivity products, including industrial protocol gateways, embedded source code stacks and customized OEM solutions. RTA’s products are used on factory floors all over the world and come backed by industry-leading Enginerd® tech support to help save time, money and aggravation. And, RTA products come with a five-year warranty, are made in America and are always in stock, ready to ship the same day (with orders placed before 2:00 PM CST).