Wireless communication in glass production: Overcoming obstacles, saving costs

Overview

Quartz sand, raw material of glass  

Quartz sand is the main component of glass, accounting for 60% of the composition

  • The NSG Group manufactures glass products for the automotive industry and construction industry.
  • To save energy during the production process, the relevant values are recorded via more than 70 electricity meters.
  • The meters installed on the extensive premises are coupled with the control room via the Radioline system.
  • Using the wireless system, which also functions reliably without a visual connection, delivers a significant reduction in connection costs.

Customer profile

NSG Group factory in Gladbeck  

Around 520 people are employed at the NSG Group factory in Gladbeck

As one of the world’s leading glass manufacturers, the Japanese NSG Group employs 27,000 people worldwide and generates a turnover of around €4.65 billion.

In the Gladbeck factory in Germany, two production lines produce flat glass and high-quality insulating and solar protection glass using the float glass process and the offline coating process.

Application

Pumping station with low accessibility  

Status messages are transmitted wirelessly from the pumping station to the control room

To save energy during glass production, an energy management system is essential. For this reason the NSG Group introduced a corresponding solution for the clear and efficient evaluation of consumption data at Gladbeck in 2013. For the purpose of recording the required values, more than 70 new electricity meters were installed. Some of the Modbus-based devices installed in the production halls were able to be integrated via the existing distributed control system.

“The meters, located throughout the extensive company premises proved to be a greater challenge,” says Björn Niemann, Head of Technical Services at the NSG Group factory in Gladbeck. Therefore, Niemann and his colleague Manuel Romberg, who was responsible for project planning, came up with the idea of networking the meters wirelessly. “And that brought us up against our next challenge,” recalls Romberg. “Normally, wireless systems require a visual connection in order to function reliably, but this was not the case with any of our meters.” With these general conditions in mind, they became aware of the Phoenix Contact wireless solution and asked for technical support.

Solution

Radioline module in the control box  

The energy measuring devices are connected to the RS-485 interface of the Radioline modules via a two-wire line

Because of the demanding ambient conditions, wireless specialist Stefan auf dem Graben visited the site in advance with all the equipment necessary to test the wireless path. And after just one hour it was already clear that all of the measuring points could be reached wirelessly. “We were delighted with the fast and professional help,” Niemann explains. The energy measuring devices are connected to the RS-485 interface of the Radioline modules via a two-wire line. The wireless system transmits the Modbus protocol to the control room. By recording energy consumption, it is now possible to analyze the flows of energy in the NSG factory in Gladbeck in precise detail. The comprehensive energy management system has reduced the amount of energy consumed on the site, which will have a positive environmental impact.

With the flexible wireless solution, both serial data and I/O signals can be transmitted without requiring a license, meaning that there are no extra costs. The modules, which use robust Trusted Wireless 2.0 technology as the basis for transmission, were specifically developed for signal exchange over long distances. With a clear line of sight, distances ranging from several hundred meters up to 20 kilometers can be covered between two wireless devices. The NSG Gladbeck factory uses Radioline modules that function in the 868 MHz range. And device versions are available for the 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz frequency band. To overcome long distances, the data rate of the wireless interface can be specified on an individual basis, thereby increasing receiver sensitivity. Much longer distances can be covered with a low data rate than with a high transmission speed. Users can therefore perfectly adapt the devices to fit the corresponding application. Trusted Wireless 2.0 also features good diagnostic options and coexists with other wireless systems transmitting in the same frequency band.

Summary

The wireless connection established at the NSG Gladbeck factory has been operating reliably for more than four years. There has not yet been a communication failure. Thanks to the positive experience the company has had with the Radioline system, a wastewater pumping station that is difficult to access was also wirelessly linked up to the control system in the summer of 2016. “The wireless system has exceeded my expectations in terms of stability and possible applications”, concludes Niemann. “Because it is so flexible and operates reliably, we intend to incorporate many more less accessible stations into the wireless network.”

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