Ethernet Equipped Industrial Scales and Local Area Networks
Weight is a parameter that must be determined in virtually any aspect of manufacturing or distribution. This is certainly the case in the formulation of chemicals, where each ingredient must be accurately weighed in order to achieve good quality control of the final product. Platform scales will often be used for that purpose. It is also the case when formulating inks and dyes, where very accurate dispensing of pigments must be achieved for good color matching. Ultra precision bench scales would be suitable for that.
Keeping track of weigh is also important in order to keep good inventory control Liquid gas cylinders are often placed on scale platforms so that they may be monitored for remaining content. Totes or bins may also be placed on large floor scales for a similar purpose.
In the simplest type of situation, an operator could keep track of the weights by writing down values on a chart. This could be done on a daily, or hourly basis, or even more often if necessary. Of course, there is always the risk of a user error. And there can be a significant amount of time required to do this, especially if there are many different scales that must be monitored.
Better recording accuracy may be obtained if the scale is equipped with an output port. One example is an RS-232 communication port, which may be connected directly to a printer. The scale may now print the weight on the platform at any pre-determined time interval. These printouts may be collected from any number of scales as required.
But it would often be more convenient to use the data communication port to direct the data directly into a spreadsheet or database table on a computer. While it is possible to do this with the RS-232 protocol, a more modern method is to use a USB interface from the scale. Some high quality industrial scales, such as Arlyn Scales, offers this option.
Often, the ideal solution would be to send the scale data over the Internet into a database system. This could provide password protected, but widespread availability of this data, through any Internet browser. Data from scales in many different locations could all report to the same database. This would allow central offices to use this data for a variety of purposes.
While it is possible for a central web server to access data from many scales at many different locations on different Local Area Networks, it could require extensive setup at each of these locations. Each location could require special work so that the firewall can be safely passed through. Port forwarding would have to be established. Significant networking skills would be required.
Arlyn Scales has established a method where any of their Ethernet equipped industrial scales can be connected to any Local Area Network. A special protocol allows communication to be established with the central web server without any user intervention. While this method is highly secure, it also allows the benefit of web interface for users who may not have the skills or time to use more complicated setup methods.
Currently, Arlyn Scales offers this communication method with some of their Parts Counting Scales. This is ideal for keeping track of parts inventory in a parts bin system. It is also be used with a line of their agricultural scales to keep track of animal weight. While it is simple enough to use in even a farm environment, the value to the farmers can be quite high, as animal weight gain is a critical parameter to monitor.
Other industrial environments that would be well suited for web monitoring include liquefied gas cylinders in semiconductor process plants. Arlyn gas cylinder scales may also be equipped with Ethernet ports for this purpose. The process gas must be carefully checked to make sure that each gas is available at the appropriate place during processing. Any empty gas cylinder could cause a complete loss of the semiconductor wafers being processed. As a batch of wafers represents hundreds, or even thousands of integrated circuits, the economic loss could be quite severe. In fact, duplicate cylinders are often kept on a duplicate set of scales, with automatic switchover as the initial cylinder depletes its supply.