Jul 15, 2014

Interview: Kepware's John Harrington Uncovers the Details of Omron NJ

Posted by Joanne Bacharach

Sysmac NJ is the new series of Machine Automation Controllers (MACs) from the device vendor Omron. The MAC is Omron's complete machine automation solution that combines logic, motion, vision, safety, robotics, and sensing. This means only one controller is needed for an entire machine or production cell.

On July 22, Kepware released KEPServerEX version 5.15, a communications platform designed to talk to everything on the plant floor. The release includes a new Omron NJ Ethernet Driver that enables users to get data from these advanced MACs.JH_JB_Omron

Joanne Bacharach, one of Kepware’s Senior Applications Engineers, spoke with John Harrington, Kepware’s Product Manager for Manufacturing Solutions, to learn more about the Sysmac NJ MAC and the new driver for KEPServerEX.

[Joanne:] Where are Omron Sysmac NJ MACs used? Who is using them, and how or why?

[John:] We have primarily heard from our customers performing complex assembly procedures like automotive assembly who are in the process of implementation. Take auto-assembly, for example. There are a lot of moving parts and users may gravitate towards a solution with the “whole package.” Omron’s new NJ platform is a series of PLCs that Omron developed to perform complex integrated operations for this reason. Omron classifies it as a “Machine Automation Controller” because it combines motion, logic, and vision into the same platform—without needing add-on modules. I have also been contacted about its use in a wastewater plant, so it can be used in wide range of automation applications.

What type of performance improvement does Omron expect users will see moving from FINS to NJ?

As I understand it, with other products, users would need a controller and other add-on modules for vision, safety, motion, and so on. For the Sysmac NJ, users get this out of the box and already integrated. The complete integration of the various automation tasks will boost communication power and speed.

How does the Omron NJ Ethernet Driver for KEPServerEX communicate with the device?

The Omron NJ platform utilizes EtherNet/IP for its primary communications with the sensors and the software layer. KEPServerEX’s Omron NJ Ethernet Driver utilizes Ethernet/IP to communicate with the controller, which increases the speed of communications and reduces the number of layers that communications go through—thus reducing potential failures. It also contains various deployment features.

Does KEPServerEX help users with setting up or optimizing communications with the MAC in any way?
By leveraging the EtherNet/IP communications, we are able to automatically generate tags from the device. This greatly speeds up deployment because it both removes the need to enter the tag names in multiple systems and decreases the possibility of errors. The controller utilizes symbolic identification of data tags and the server can import basic data types and retrieve structured tags.

Does the development of this driver roll into any larger plans Kepware has in the future for this industry?

Kepware has a strong coverage of the leading manufacturing-focused automation controllers. Manufacturing has been a very strong industry for us in the past and will continue in the future. As the hardware products evolve, we must also evolve KEPServerEX and continue to support the newest controllers and technologies. Kepware invests 60% of its engineering into existing products because we recognize the investment our customers have made in our products and their need to keep the communications current. The Omron NJ Ethernet Driver fits within this strategy of investing in existing products to enable current and future customers stay on the front lines of hardware innovation.

Download the Omron NJ Ethernet Driver for KEPServerEX