New Module From Grid Connect and RTA Gives Equipment Makers a ‘Universal Translator’ for Industrial Communications
June 07, 2022
At Automate 2022, Grid Connect, Inc. and Real Time Automation (RTA) have partnered to bring original equipment makers a new embedded module that serves as a universal translator for enabling serial devices (RS-232, 422, 485, SPI, I2C) to communicate via protocols such as EtherNet/IP, Modbus TCP, PROFINET, BACnet/IP and others.
OEMs also gain the capability to push data from plant-floor and field devices to analytical and business applications via OPC UA and MQTT.
“Imagine an OEM that makes a micro-controlled actuator limited to serial ports, but its customers have standardized on PROFINET,” said Rick Rockershousen, vice president at Grid Connect. “Until now, the customer either couldn’t use the OEM’s actuator or the OEM had to spend time and money with an R&D team developing a PROFINET capability for the device. Now, OEMs can integrate our module into their device to provide the communication protocol to match the customer’s automation system.”
To develop the highly integrated, compact module (33mm x 23mm x 3mm), the companies combined RTA's protocol stacks with Grid Connect’s know-how of hardware and IIoT. The companies will market the module separately as Grid Connect’s GRID32 and RTConnect from RTA. The module offers device makers a quick-to-market, affordable and simple solution for adding a full array of industrial protocols to any new or legacy device a manufacturer uses. If an OEM’s device is interacting with the factory in, say, Modbus, the module enables the equipment maker’s device to communicate in a next-gen protocol like PROFINET.
With the module, a device also has the option to communicate via protocols for cloud applications, the device maker can analyze data about the device from beyond a factory’s walls. That said, the wireless protocol would not control a device in a closed loop application. The ability to communicate wirelessly via the MQTT or OPC UA protocol simply enables the device maker or owner to collect data in the cloud.
“Embedding the module into a device is a way to future proof it, too; OEMs don’t have to put a new board into their device to collect data wirelessly when they’re ready to take that step,” Rockershousen said.