Happy’s Essential Skills: Computer-Aided-Manufacturing, Part 1—Automation Protocols

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For software, HP had already developed CAD tools for PCB design and mechanical engineering. It had data acquisition, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and test systems. The Business Computer division had developed MRP and ERP software. In 1982, HP acquired Genesis Corp. (IC-10 and six others like PC-10, software products for factory control). HP had a complete software solution for factory automation connectivity that they had developed for GM and the MAPSTM implementation. As this new software group was made into a division, they expanded their product line to include quality/test/inspection systems, CNC/machine control system, materials handling software and an industrial process control system (licensed from Mount Isa Mines, a mining company in Australia). The HP products were intended for typical factory automation networks are shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4: Industrial automation networking alternatives. (Source: Pinterest network for AB Inc.)

The interconnectivity for machine-to-machine is usually one or all of these connection standards (Figure 5):

Serial RS-232C—stands for Recommend Standard number 232 and C is the latest revision of the standard. The serial ports on most computers use a subset of the RS-232C standard. The full RS-232C standard specifies a 25-pin "D" connector of which 22 pins are used. Most of these pins are not needed for normal PC communications, and indeed, most new PCs are equipped with male D type connectors having only nine pins.

The RS-232C standard limits a cable length to 50 feet. You can usually ignore this standard, since a cable can be as long as 350 meters (1,000 feet) at baud rates up to 19,200 if you use a high quality, well shielded cable. The external environment has a large effect on lengths for unshielded cables. In electrically noisy environments, even very short cables can pick up stray signals. You can greatly extend the cable length by using additional devices like optical isolators and signal boosters. Optical isolators use LEDs and Photo Diodes to isolate each line in a serial cable including the signal ground. Any electrical noise affects all lines in the optically isolated cable equally, including the signal ground line. This causes the voltages on the signal lines relative to the signal ground line to reflect the true voltage of the signal and thus canceling out the effect of any noise signals.

Fig5.jpgFigure 5: Five typical connectivity standards for industrial automation.

Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication[2]

Important explanations and details are provided by excerpts from TALtech’s “Introduction to Serial Communications” tutorial:

There are two basic types of serial communications, synchronous and asynchronous. With synchronous communications, the two devices initially synchronize themselves to each other, and then continually send characters to stay in sync. Even when data is not really being sent, a constant flow of bits allows each device to know where the other is at any given time. That is, each character that is sent is either actual data or an idle character. Synchronous communications allow faster data transfer rates than asynchronous methods, because additional bits to mark the beginning and end of each data byte are not required. The serial ports on IBM-style PCs are asynchronous devices and therefore only support asynchronous serial communications.

Asynchronous means "no synchronization," and thus does not require sending and receiving idle characters. However, the beginning and end of each byte of data must be identified by start and stop bits. The start bit indicates when the data byte is about to begin and the stop bit signals when it ends. The requirement to send these additional two bits cause asynchronous communications to be slightly slower than synchronous however it has the advantage that the processor does not have to deal with the additional idle characters.

An asynchronous line that is idle is identified with a value of 1 (also called a mark state). By using this value to indicate that no data is currently being sent, the devices are able to distinguish between an idle state and a disconnected line. When a character is about to be transmitted, a start bit is sent. A start bit has a value of 0 (also called a space state). Thus, when the line switches from a value of 1 to a value of 0, the receiver is alerted that a data character is about to come down the line.

RS-422 and RS-485 are high speed serial protocols that can achieve 10 Mbps up to 20 meters or to 1500 meters but at 100 Kbps.


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