Raspberry PI and Arduino in industrial environments
Raspberry PI and Arduino boards are the most famous devices for rapid electronic prototyping and DIY home applications. However, their capabilities and flexibility are still largely under estimated in the industrial environment.
Raspberry PI and Arduino flexible programming, customizable signal types and easy adaptation to the existing installations can offer many benefits to the industrial world.
For instance, they could be great low cost and flexible alternatives to the usual industrial devices for adding remote control and monitoring functionality to small legacy industrial systems.
The 3 most common concerns about the use of such development boards in the industrial environment are:
- Robustness in industrial environments
- Industrial standard communication protocols
Robustness in industrial environments
There are already several ruggedized versions of Arduino and Raspberry available in the markets.
Hardware like the
Industrial Shields Arduino based PLCs and Raspberry based panel PC provide already include the extra robustness needed to meet industrial needs.
Alternatively, there are various industrial standard enclosure specifically developed to accommodate the two boards.
Case study – Video - Blasting Robot
Blasting robot fully automated and remotely controlled with Industrial Shields, Arduino based, PLCs.
Case study - Multisensory Retail management system with Raspberry PI
Multisensory Retail management system for audio, video, lighting and fragrances synchronization developed by TairolRadio for the San Siro football stadium in Milan (A.C. Milan and Internationale football clubs)
This is probably the most controvert and discussed topic in Internet: Are Raspberry and Arduino boards, and related based hardware, safe solutions for the industrial applications? There is not a simple answer, it depends by many factors and require for sure a change in the mind-set of the engineers.
The safety of an industrial application does not only depend by the PLC; It always matter of the integrity of the full project, how the systems and software are implemented and how the safety have been considered when designing the project.
Industrial standard communication protocols
This is where the flexibility of Arduino and Raspberry PI comes over. Modbus foundation has developed specific libraries to allow the two boards to communicate via their protocol.
Modbus is a serial communications protocol developed by Modicon (acquired by Schneider Electric) for its programmable logic controllers (PLCs); it has become the most common and adopted by many automation manufacturers such as Omron, Opto 22, Schneider and Mitsubishi.
The main reasons for the wide adoptions of Modbus in the industrial environment are:
- developed for industrial use
- royalty-free and open published
- easy to use, install and maintain
- few restrictions on vendors
Modbus allows many different devices, connected to the same network, to communicate together regardless the OEMs. The needs of putting in communication different devices from different manufacturers has become even highly important with the arrival of 4th industrial revolution; The Industry 4.0 and the Industrial IoT have given a second childhood to Modbus.
Hereafter to example of Arduino and raspberry PI applications running Modbus
Video - Raspberry PI and Modbus
Video - Arduino and Modbus
The following articles show how to remotely control HVAC systems by using Arduino based hardware and SCADA.
SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) is another industrial system for remote monitoring and control that operates with coded signals over communication channels (using typically one communication channel per remote station). The SCADA library for Arduino are openly published as well.
Arduino and Raspberry PI, in their ruggedized version, can be valuable and reliable alternatives to the well-established industrial devices (especially to connect to the internet of things small legacy industrial systems) pending an ad-hoc design of project to ensure safety.
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My main concern with using the Pi is the heat from the chips on board. Broadcom devices seem to suffer badly from overheating, as they do in the BT PVR. I do not wish to have the Pi connected to LAN or to communicate with other machines, it's a stand alone application I have in mind, so I need to solve the heating issue and I suspect it will be OK.
Wow, looks like there are going to be a few electricians out of work soon ;) If you need help with Arduino or Raspberry pi you can find very cheap technicians who can work remotely over the Internet. (search at Guru.com or any hire a tech website) ie if you have some bespoke designed system and your original creator gets hit by a bus as long as you have a USB cable and original code then you have plenty of options to maintain the existing setup. It becomes more difficult when you don't have the original code, but luckily if you can show a technician your intent then the code will be pretty easy to reproduce to perform the functions needed. I say all this with some experience in developing long term solutions for customers using Arduinos, I feel comfortable in that they can get cheap help from either myself or anyone with the knowledge without requiring onsite support. Times are changing and it's exciting to be part of this change. Ensure to keep a backup of everything twice over too! The cost savings can be huge in both the cheapness of hardware and the long term automation effects on your business.
Cheers for the article!
I sympathize with the comments from the electricians above. As a small business owner I come from the other side of this. My commercial greenhouse has 12 irrigation boom controllers that are 10-15 years old. At about year 8 the first control board gave up and we have lost several more since then. The electricians and the irrigation company solution is to replace the boards at $1100 a board. These boards control one motor, 4 solenoid valves, and sense magnets using a couple of hall effect sensors. Setup is with a keypad with a 4x20 lcd display.
With electronics and robotics as a hobby as well as teaching robotics to teens at the local library I knew that the electronics could be duplicated for a lot less. I recreated the board functions with a Arduino Uno, a high current motor control breakout board and a opto isolated relay board. The programming was no more complicated than the robot code my teens make. I did all this for under $100. The prototype has been working for over a year in the greenhouse heat with no issues. Yes my electrician just scratched his head when I showed it to him. It is my hope that the next generation will take these open source controls as just regular components to work with.
In the book "Exploring Raspberry PI" by Derek Molloy (Wiley), the author points out that, as he understand it, "...the Broadcom bootloader license explicitly sates that its redistribution in binary form is only permitted if it will "...only be sued for purposes of developing for, or using a Raspberry Pi device.: It is unlikely that such a license would transfer to a product of your own design."
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I'm an industrial electrician with 15 years experience. I am familiar with a large variety of brand name control hardware and associated software - from PLC and HMI running production lines to individual programmable and configurable control components.
I love to tinker with Arduino and Pi and have used Arduino based designs for a variety of small, very non critical applications and for cheap prototyping.
Here's the thing: Maintenance. Everything I install or modify has to be maintainable. Pi, Arduino and other bespoke solutions just aren't.
Bespoke embedded solutions based on Pi and Arduino may work really well for the manufacturer and be up-front cost effective for the installer/customer, but they are a black box nightmare for maintenance staff. Electricians (by-and-large) are not programmers. They know "Ladder" and wiring diagrams. Any who know Ladder can work their way through Sequential Function Charts and Function Block Diagrams. Few would know Structured text, let alone "c" (Arduino) or Linux command line functions (Pi).
I do not know of any enterprise small enough to think a Pi/Arduion based solution is a good idea that is also large enough to have an engineer on site who can fault find the thing. Most such enterprises will have an electrician at best (or have one they use routinely).
There is a link in this article to a HVAC installation based entirely on open source Arduino and Pi based kit. Lord help the owners in 5 years. All the HVAC techs I know are baffled by Schneider "smart relays". This stuff is black magic to them. The owners of this system presumable got a cost effective install. Now they are locked into obtaining support from the original installer for the entire lifetime of the system, unless they want to employ a suitable experienced engineer (if they can fined one) to take it on at a substantially greater cost.
I have experienced first hand what it is like to be left with such a HVAC system. 5 years after installation, I had to explain to the increasingly frustrated owner that nobody on earth but the original installer (now not returning the owners calls) could do anything to fix it. We then set about the long and expensive process of slowly replacing each component as it failed with off-the-shelf, standardised, well documented MAINTAINABLE components.
Yes, the Raspberr y Pi is excellent for use within industrial environments. I am in the process of converting all of my PIC industrial controllers to Raspberry Pi boards together with opto/galvanically isolated input output boards and 24-bit isolated ADC boards.
The 3 opto isolated interface boards were designed for direct connection to all versions of the Raspberry Pi, including the RPI2 and new RPI3. This is to allow the Raspberry Pi to be used in schools, colleges, universities, industry and hobbyists so that the Raspberry Pi can be safely connected to the outside world without the danger of causing damage or glitches due to earth loops and different potentials on the inputs and outputs.
The 3 boards received excellent reviews in the Dec 2014, Feb 2015 and Apr 2015 issues of EPE (Everyday Practical Electronics) Magazine and are also included in their 'Teach-In 6' book. A very detailed manual of over 100 pages comes with them and software is included with the boards so as to get the user going quickly.
The boards also connect to ALL micros, embedded systems, Microchip PICs, Atmels, Arduino boards, etc, to allow full isolation between inputs and the micro boards and between the micro boards and outputs. Everything can be at different potentials as found in industry.
The 3 interfaces are:
• RPI16IN: 16 channel 5V AC/DC opto isolated inputs with LED channel indicators, 8 boards allow 128 inputs.
• RPI16OUT: 16 channel 100V at 60mA opto isolated outputs with LED channel indicators, 8 boards allow 128 outputs.
• RPIADCISOL: 6 channel 24-bit ADC, where 4 are isolated (with their own individual on-board power isolated power supplies) and 2 are direct connect. All inputs are differential input 24-bit ADC channels, uses MCP3913 ADC, with Programmable Gain Amplifiers to give a differential input range from ±0.01875 to ±0.600V, Programmable Sampling Rate and Phase Delay Compensation between channels. There are an additional 8 digital opto inputs and 8 digital opto outputs for use in other applications such as PWM.
The boards are manufactured in the UK by Zeal Electronics Ltd who are based in Chesterfield and are a UK ISO9001 Accredited Company, testing traceable to UK calibration standards and these can be seen at www.zeal-electronics.co.uk/rpi
I am enjoying using the Raspberry Pi in all future projects.