The Flexi Soft platform from SICK has been enhanced with the introduction of Flexi Link, a flexible networking function that allows for the linking of up to four Flexi Soft safety controllers.
SICK has developed Flexi Link as a simple and intuitive method for exchanging safety relevant information between individual plant components, eliminating the need for expensive gateways or complicated and fault-prone wiring.
No special hardware is necessary to use standard Flexi Soft safety controller systems with this new networking function. Flexi Link provides supplementary functionalities that permit machine constructors to plan the complete creation of the plant with a modular concept, whilst also being able to operate individual parts, or retroactively add parts to a network of machinery.
The interface also allows machine constructors to remove plant parts from the network of machinery, if required for maintenance purposes for example, while the plant parts that are not affected can continue productive operation.
This is achieved via a teach-in function that is controlled using a local input on one of the Flexi Soft safety controllers.
The SICK-specific Enhanced Function Interface (EFI) that makes this possible permits each station to provide up to 52 bits of safety-relevant data to all other stations within a network, over distances of up to 100m.
Data is transferred both forwards and backwards in this way, allowing each station to receive 156 ‘in’ data and supply 52 ‘out’ data. The flexibility offered by, for example, removing one station and replacing it with another station, simplifies the production of variants.
Stations can be added without having to transfer the configuration of the previous system structure again, whilst predefined information is used for stations that are absent.
Flexi Link is based on the same hardware as Flexi Soft safety controllers, so configuration takes places by means of the Flexi Soft Designer configuration software.
Configuration and administration of the components in a Flexi Link system can be achieved via a single project file. The hardware configuration for each station is created jointly with the logic, and thereafter the stations are named and integrated in the Flexi Link network.
The Flexi Soft Designer also supplies a complete wiring diagram and an I/O matrix showing the relationship between the inputs and outputs for validation.
Flexi Link is thus an intuitive and flexible network solution that offers many benefits for users. Simple project planning and rapid commissioning can be carried out without the need for supplementary hardware or an immense wiring effort.
The interface also allows for parallel operation, ensuring rapid throughput times become more straightforward as a result of reduced failures. Projects can be planned in advance and individual machine parts can then be delivered and set in operation after production by means of the teach-in function.