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All of a Piece

The seamless integration of automation technology is key for successful RFID applications at manufacturing plants.
By Markus Weinländer
Key Use Cases Must Be Fulfilled
A third aspect concerns some use cases (application scenarios) of special importance in the automation environment. The RFID systems must provide specific support for commissioning, diagnostics and maintenance, as well as enable device replacement without loss of parameters, and feature a defined startup behavior. During commissioning, users require comprehensive information regarding system status—such as transponder signal strength, the system's detection quality, and communication check of the controller. While special PC tools can be employed during this process, diagnostics and maintenance while in operation require integration into the control systems—a human machine interface (HMI)—such as WinCC. After all, an RFID specialist cannot be called for every minor malfunction.

The RFID architecture bridges the gap between IT and automation systems.

The backup of parameters is important whenever a device needs to be replaced (due to mechanical damage, for example). Since time is always valuable, immediate commissioning without complex reparameterization must be possible in order to avoid prolonged plant downtimes. Subsequently, an automatic and defined restart of the total system (both automation and RFID components) is necessary, including the precise resumption of production processes.

As a leading provider of automation and RFID components, Siemens has implemented many of the abovementioned requirements as system attributes. For RFID products, the portfolio extends from the compact SIMATIC RF200 system, utilizing stock high-frequency (HF) transponders, to the SIMATIC RF300—considered the fastest HF RFID system for automation—and the SIMATIC RF600 solution that enables the use of EPCglobal's standard in production and logistics, with a long range utilizing low-cost smart labels. All RFID systems, as well as SIMATIC code-reading systems for reading optical codes (1D or 2D), are connected to the fieldbuses by means of communication modules.

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