The Ethercan gateway by Kvaser (Sweden) enables CAN monitoring in container port cranes.
With 90 percent of what we wear, eat, and consume transported by ship today, container ports have become a mainstay of our industrial infrastructure. A world away from the manual-labor dominated models of 50 years ago, container ports have become intermodal transport hubs that work in an increasingly competitive business environment in which efficiency and speed are key. For some years, terminal operating systems (TOS) have been used to help ensure the smooth running of container ports. TOS address issues such as documentation, operations, and administration, starting with the acquisition of data related to containers. However, there’s more to managing a port terminal than knowing what containers are coming and going.
According to Kvaser, a port’s success primarily depends upon efficient use of equipment and personnel. A focal point is the cranes, which are becoming increasingly state-of-the-art and consequently, valued in the millions of euros or dollars each. Just like any other expensive assets such as drill rigs, agricultural, or construction equipment, machine monitoring via CAN has the potential to enhance container terminal operating efficiency by minimizing downtime due to maintenance issues, said the company.
Datamatics’ Neptuno TOS solution integrates data, generated by the port’s many machine sensors with container-related data, providing an overview of the entire terminal’s activities. Kvaser’s Ethercan Light HS CAN-to-Ethernet gateway is used to connect the crane’s CAN system to a rugged PC in the cabin. Datamatics combines CAN data with inputs from proprietary sensors, cameras, and positioning information, to create a crane telemetry system that feeds information to the TOS.
Carmelo Occhipinti, Sales Manager for Datamatics Group explains: “CAN allows us to collect data in real-time on the crane’s operating parameters, such as fuel consumption, crane lift angle and extension, load weight, move duration, grasp engagement etc. We use this information to produce a variety of dashboards and KPIs to analyze operating conditions and provide feedback to help the customer optimize the use of their cranes. For example, an alarm is transmitted to the maintenance director if the crane’s tyre pressure goes below a certain threshold, as tyres at optimal pressure save at least 10 % of the fuel used. This type of real-time monitoring applies to all the crane’s main components, avoiding unplanned stops and reducing the risk of equipment damage.”
A challenge when connecting any computing equipment to heavy machinery such as a crane is dealing with the physical conditions: vibration, dust, and dirt ingress being the most commonplace. In this application where there is a high level of vibration, maintaining a constant connection is imperative - there is simply no way that a crane operator or maintenance engineer has time to keep checking the connection - so Datajob, Kvaser’s Italian qualified sales representative, recommended a CAN-to-Ethercan interface over CAN to USB.
Gustavo Gasparini, sales director at Datajob says: “The Kvaser Ethercan provides greater stability of connection than USB because Ethernet permits a small disconnection from time to time.” A crane system typically has five or more ECUs (Electronic Control Unit), connected by a CAN gateway, to which the Kvaser Ethercan connects. Also connected to the rugged PC is the Ethernet cabling for the camera on the crane arm, which in most cases, takes high resolution images to document the state of the container before and after a maneuver, though some customers require real-time video for each operation. According to Kvaser, real-time information is an important feature, not least because the container corridors are small and constant position monitoring helps ensure that minimum safety distances are met.
Datamatics telemetry system is fully integrated with the Neptuno TOS system, providing an ‘Internet of Things-style system’ for the port. All crane movements are transmitted in real time to the TOS, including critical data such as the exact route taken by the crane to place the container in the stack (so that the cost of every movement can be calculated). The Datamatics TOS solutions can be seen in action at the TOC Europe global container supply chain conference between June 27 to 29, 2017 in Amsterdam (Netherlands).
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