Infineon and the Next Generation of Industrial Automation

Industrial automation as we now know it is a modern iteration of a greater movement that has been making an impact for decades. The Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) was created in 1968 as a replacement for traditional hard-wired relay systems that were controlling industrial automation systems at the time. The flexibility of the PLC allowed for the automation of typically industrial electromechanical processes, such as the control of machinery on factory assembly lines, in amusement parks, and in power generation reliability.

Control Level 

As the industrial automation movement marches on, engineers are finding versatile ways to add increased computational ability to their systems, allowing for more intelligent behavior in their designs. At the epicenter of modern PLC design is the XMC 32-bit MCU family from Infineon. This scalable family features flexible digital and analog mixed-signal peripherals and outstanding real-time performance in an economic package. The XMC solutions combine a 32Bit ARM core with advanced peripherals targeting specific applications. By incorporating state of the art embedded flash processes and high volume wafer tabs, Infineon offers high performance products while achieving the aggressive cost targets of the customer.

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Engineers are now innovating beyond the traditional control system by focusing on expanding communication options within the system. Higher speed network protocols in more compact and simple solutions are already making inroads in industrial networks—Infineon already offers the first flash based MCU with an EtherCAT peripheral allowing easy connection to an EtherCAT network without ASICs or external memory.  EtherCAT® makes efficient use of Ethernet PHYs and cables for automation applications like the control and regulation of physical processes, where high data integrity, security, and synchronicity are required. The MCAN peripheral in XMC MCUs allows for connection on up to six CAN networks. The XMC4800 supports EtherCAT, CAN, USB OTG, Ethernet, SPI, I2C, I2S, UART (e.g. RS232 & RS485) and LIN making it a perfect fit for Industrial I/O and controls. 

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Control takes many forms in modern industrial automation, where high data integrity, security, and synchronicity are required.

Flexibility within Design Control

Allowing flexibility within control is at the forefront of PLC design. Using the XMC1400, XMC4300, or XMC4800 as the core of various I/O modules allows for design reuse and commonality between modules. The ability to reuse code throughout a consistent architecture speeds up development time and reliability.

At the same time, designers want to control as much as possible. “Infineon solutions allow for compact protected power switches that now host up to 8 individually controlled channels. They are designed for inductive, capacitive, or resistive loads, so engineers no longer need to worry about the specific load type. Resistive works for heaters, inductive for motors and transformers, and capacitive for applications like flash bulbs and defibrillators. No matter the application, many of these solutions have built in protection to help the system survive edge case situations like overload, short circuit, reverse polarity or loss of ground, which could otherwise compromise the network design.” – Karthi Gopalan, Infineon Technologies 

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Related parts: ITS42008-SB/D, ITS4200S-ME-O

Field Level

 Industrial automation systems at the field level rely on self-preservation, self-assessment, and intercommunication. Quality sensor components are integral to field level work, and industrial automation has greatly benefited from the ongoing sensor revolution. Hall-effect and angle sensors like Infineon’s TLI/TLV496x and TLE5012B, and 3D sensors like the TLV/TLI493D-x1B6 enable exacting torque and speed control, as well as provide general positioning information. Modern systems are increasingly using brushless DC motors because they offer greater efficiency, higher reliability, and greater power density, but they also make it difficult to determine current position, which is important for evaluating system state, safety, and most efficient control schemes. Adding angle sensors to your solution, especially sensors with resistance to stray magnetic fields and those that have integrated calibration, makes it easy to incorporate more information into the overall design, achieving higher efficiency and reliability.

“Traditional analog measurements using potentiometer or optical solutions have limited life expectancy, larger form factors, and are often expensive. The TLV493D-A1B6 offers a high-performance, low cost, non-contact alternative for applications that require accurate 3D measurements in combination with low power consumption. This new line of 3D magnetic sensors reliably measures three-dimensional, linear and rotation movements along all three axis, in a small, 6-pin package. The use of 3D sensors also opens up options to detect stray movements and vibrations that might damage the system over time, thereby aiding in maintenance and failure avoidance.”  – Karthi Gopalan, Infineon Technologies

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Infineon’s motor control solutions achieve more using less. The NovalithIC™ family in particular lets engineers create extremely compact solutions in motor control with high power capabilities. With integrated over-/under-voltage, over temperature, and overcurrent protection, as well as embedded analog current sense and status flag diagnosis, NovalithIC™ brings high-current motor drive capabilities in a small package—with low path resistance down to 6mOhm and high-current capability up to 68 Amps.

Related parts: NovalithIC™, IFX9201, TLV493D-A1B6

NovalithIC™ smart control inputs allow for microcontrollers to tune the motor for specific applications while monitoring for any problems that may occur; the solution has power and intelligence, which is the hallmark of modern industrial automation. Solutions must go beyond high-performance in a small form factor; systems now need to work smart. Along with the NovalithIC™, Infineon offers a line of Intelligent Power Modules which integrate gate drivers, bootstrap, and switch components into a single package that offers short circuit, current sensing, and over-temp protection. These types of self-diagnosing solutions are UL certified and look to be among the integral components in the next wave of industrial automation innovation in motor control and power switching. 

Simplification is key in motor system design—it increases reliability and decreases time to market. Power Modules (IPM) and iMotion™ families are developed to help system designers improve system performance and energy efficiency by delivering increased power density, enhanced system ruggedness and reliability. The compact and flexible evaluation system provides a scalable design platform for 3-phase motor drives in the range from 20W to 300W. It includes controller and power boards available with or without sensors. This kit lets you design a fully functioning motor system within an hour using only a few steps: simply plug the cards into your PC, motor and grid, then download, install and parameterize the software. 

Security and Protection

Advances in industrial automation have moved with such speed and proven so innovative that their applications now underpin many of the staples of modern society. In fact, many of the solutions that make modern society “modern”, from manufacturing and power generation to purification and filtration systems, only exist in their present form because of advances in industrial automation. Unfortunately, innovation has outpaced security. Industrial automation is deeply intertwined in applications that have historically been isolated and where digital security hasn’t been prioritized, if it’s been addressed at all. Even protocols as simple as ensuring that the default password on systems has been changed is not guaranteed in some cases.

As these once isolated industrial automation systems are brought online and exposed to connectivity, they are also exposed to more hazards. Threats have evolved to capitalize in this rapidly changing environment. The Stuxnet and Flame viruses are examples of sophisticated attack programs that can hijack entire systems, and there is evidence that in some cases this type of hostile malware is sponsored by nation states. The Stuxnet virus was particularly effective—and damaging—in that it was able to sabotage the PLC system at the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in Iran to such an extent that it destroyed centrifuges while hiding itself from technicians. Stuxnet has since gone on to infect an enormous percentage of systems, highlighting just how weak general security is around industrial facilities.

Recently, manufacturers have been stepping in to plug security holes. The OPTIGA™ TRUST P from Infineon is one such solution that requires unique authentication to ensure that messages are secure and from a known sender before users have a chance to load them. OPTIGA™ solutions provide mechanisms for secure updates to prevent malicious code changes and have memory integrity checks to prevent buffer overflow attacks that allow hackers to modify other areas of code. Because these solutions have the ability to encrypt stored data, system administrators are able to protect confidential information or configuration code from getting into the wrong hands. 

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The OPTIGA™ TPM from Infineon is a multifaceted solution that offers security at every level.

Industrial automation is among the fastest growing fields in electronics today, but innovation within industrial automation applications is nothing new. Engineers have been developing versatile industrial automation solutions for decades. Recently, the focus has moved from simply creating increasingly more effective solutions to developing intelligent solutions. Infineon continues to tackle the challenges of improving industrial automation intelligence across all points of a system with solutions that are powerful and compact, but also connected and secure. 

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