Sept. 1, 2009
Wireless technology discussions have dominated magazine articles and blogs for several years. 

Conversations centered on process industries—specifically on sensor networks. It seems almost obvious, given the large spaces of a refinery or a petrochemical plant, that the ability to add more sensors without the costs of trenching for conduit, running wires and connecting wires offers huge paybacks. But what about a machine on a packaging line?

The first thing to notice is wireless in this context just means devices communicating without a wire connecting them. This may mean a level sensor on an oil storage tank on a remote tank farm in a refinery installation. It may also mean technicians and engineers carrying laptops—or even iPod Touches for that matter—and having instant access to process or machine data. Or maybe even using these wireless devices as data entry points for people walking the plant noticing things to call to the attention of maintenance.

Automation World has been very early in the adoption curve with our coverage of wireless technologies. We can’t point to many successful implementations, yet, because these applications are so new. But articles such as the one in this issue help alert you to possibilities, and I’m sure by next year, we will be reporting on many benefits experienced by all of you.

Whenever I meet someone new and say I am with Automation World, they invariably say, “Oh, robots?” The robot market has unfortunately shrunk with the contraction of the automotive industry, and we don’t run many stories. Manufacturers have developed new robots or adapted existing ones that meet the needs of packaging machine manufacturers and their customers. In this issue of the Packaging Automation Review, we include an article from Packaging World’s Anne Marie Mohan describing these applications. Packaging World is our sister publication.

Changes are coming to machine safety standards. In an Automation Minutes podcast interview, Gary Mintchell, Editor in Chief, talks with Mike Miller, Business Development Manager with Rockwell Automation, about these new standards, which will become effective Dec. 29, 2009. http://www.automationworld.com/podcast-5771.

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