Building Connections in the Sand
Here's how one of the largest producers of industrial sand developed an industrial Ethernet redundancy ring to control its mining facility
Ohio's Fairmount Minerals is one of the largest producers of industrial sand in the U.S., and its Illinois-based subsidiary, Wedron Silica, has been hard at work for more than a century. The sand is mined from the St. Peters Sandstone, which is a 200 million-year-old sand deposit that runs from Minnesota to Oklahoma. Recently, Wedron Silica chose high-security Lynx switches engineered for harsh industrial environments to develop a full industrial Ethernet redundancy ring to monitor and control its entire mining facility. Lynx switches are manufactured by Westermo, an industrial data communications leader headquartered in Sweden. The company says the switches have a 20-ms reconfiguration time considered the best off-the-shelf performance of Ethernet switches.
Wedron Silica produces high-purity round-grain silica sand.
The Wedron Silica plant operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All production is managed through its industrial Ethernet network. This network exchanges data from hydraulic high-pressure mining canons. Additionally, data from cameras linked to the control center via fiber-optics help to control and adjust truck loading as well as the sand drying rooms. The data monitoring and control systems need to have the highest reliability levels, specifically in such a harsh industrial environment as mining.
High-security Lynx switches are engineered for harsh industrial environments.
The ring portion of the network consists of 11 Lynx 1400 Series switches with six Lynx 400 Series switches on branch runs. The ring switches are located in the plant process buildings and are named for their location. All are mounted in dust-tight boxes and powered by two 24 VDC power supplies connected to a battery backup. The ring network is kept powered for more than two hours in the event of a power outage. All the control and monitoring information is passed on Westermo's network.
Lynx switches have no moving parts or electrolytic capacitors.
The Lynx switches support QoS (Quality of Service) with four priority queues and strict priority scheduling as well as HoL (Head of Line Blocking Prevention). This is also a key issue for process applications such as Wedron's implementation because it achieves determinism for real-time critical applications.
The 1400 and 400 Series switches have a military design with full-metal IP 40 housing. They operate under a wide temperature range from -40° to +158°F and have a wide DC power range from 19 to 60 VDC. In addition, they have no moving parts or electrolytic capacitors, boast low power consumption with redundancy, and are DIN rail-mounted.
More information about Westermo's Lynx switches is available from Gross Automation, 1725 S. Johnson Rd., New Berlin, WI 53146, calling 262-446-0000, or visiting www.grossautomation.com  or www.westermosales.com .