Weighing company Hardy Process Solutions has added Profinet communications to its HI 6200 single-channel weight controller/indicator.
The decision to implement Profinet came about because of growing local market demand, and the fact that Hardy is increasingly supporting world markets where Profinet has achieved significant market penetration. Hardy is also pursuing the growing trend of IoT (Internet of Things) adoption, which is easily supported by netX.
“We’ve always been protocol agnostic,” says Tim Norman, Hardy product manager. “For example, back in the days of the fieldbus wars, we were one of the first North American companies to introduce Profinet into our products, to complement the protocols used here in North America. We strongly believe that our customers should be free to use whatever communications protocol they prefer.”
HI 6200 details
The HI 6200 has been available with EtherNet/ IP, ModBus, and Ethernet TCP/IP communications since launch. The decision in 2020 to add Profinet came about because a significant amount of product sales now come from European, Asian, and South American markets. Norman says there’s a clear need to support the widest range of international standards. “The increasing trend towards deploying IoT, particularly remote monitoring, means that our products must have the latest technologies available,” says Norman. “That requires ever more and better connectivity. We see Profinet as key in those global mark ets.”
The HI 6200 is an ultra-compact, DIN railmounted device measuring just two inches wide and three-and-a-quarter inches high. It allows for high-density panel designs compared with traditional weighing instrumentation, reducing both machine costs and control cabinet footprints. It has a 32-bit ARM core for processing which, along with Hardy’s proprietary WaveSaver technology and a single-button-press calibration method, delivers accurate, stable, and fast weight readings in the type of adverse conditions that plague process control.
The HI 6200 supports proactive maintenance strategies while delivering the benefits of IIoT device-level connectivity though built-in web servers or directly via the UDP transport layer. It can also be used as a co-processer for a control system such as a PLC, DCS, or PAC, delivering 100 updates per second of processed weight data at resolutions exceeding 1:10,000.
Integrating Profinet proved to be a bigger challenge than expected, mainly because the ultra-compact design meant there were limited resources available on the motherboard. Norman says, “We initially purchased a Profinet software stack to reside on our existing Ethernet platform. However, the stack required an extensive rework and optimization, and after many months of engineering effort it still wouldn’t pass Profinet certification. As we were in a hurry to get the product released, we decided to stop that approach and look for an integrated hardware and firmware solution.”
Hardy evaluated several possible options and chose to use the netX 52 chip from Hilscher. “Our engineering staff already had experience with this chip from an earlier product upgrade to our HI 4050+ single-scale weight controller,” says Norman. “That’s quite an old product but we were able to add Profinet using the netX 52. So, it made sense to use the same chip when upgrading the HI 6200.”
Inside the netX 52
Part of Hilscher’s netX family of network interfaces, the netX 52 is a Profinet node device. The netX range is unique in that it supports all popular industrial networking protocols by deploying appropriate firmware. The netX 52 supports up to 14 industrial networking protocols. Fully certified stacks are available for all supported protocols and simply loaded into a chip as needed.
Using netX devices enables an OEM to create a single hardware platform and install the communications protocol after manufacture to meet a customer’s particular requirements. Hilscher provides starter kits for developers and offers full engineering support.
Engineers from Hardy Process Solutions visited Hilscher North America in Chicago to receive local engineering training and guidance. With the netX 52, it took Hardy less than six months to achieve a certified Profinet weighing solution for the upgraded HI 6200.
Now the company is looking to use the netX 52 a third time, in a future flagship product designed to meet the growing demand for a weight controller that can support IoT-compliant systems and strategies.