33 Replies Latest reply on May 14, 2019 8:42 AM by craigbrainboxes

    Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses

    Tony Beck

      I am interested to know what experience others have had using a Raspberry Pi in industry?  I would love to hear about:

       

      • Any issues with short and long term reliability?
      • Connectivity with Industrial control systems -
        • Have add on boards been used?
        • Have custom PCB's been made to interface 24V based I/O on PLC's / DCS systems etc?
        • How has it been hooked up to power?
      • Issues with EMI?
      • Long term SD card reliability?
      • Has a Pi been used to actually control some industrial equipment rather than for monitoring or HMI?
      • What version of Pi was used - eg. Compute module
      • Why use a Pi vs a PLC or industrialised PC?
      • What were the biggest challenges?
      • Was there any challenge from peers or management in using something that could be viewed as an educational tool rather than industrial control equipment?
      • What OS has been used?
      • Have there been any concerns around security? Especially if connecting to a Process Control Network.
      • What security precautions have been taken?

       

      I can see lots of advantages to using a Pi in industry - for example the amount of power and versatility for such a low cost!

       

       

      Even if you don't have experience using a Pi in industry - it would still be great to hear people points of view! 

       

      I look forward to some interesting responses!

       

      -------------------------------------------

      Tony

        • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
          mp2100

          I’ve been watching for this too. Searching around the ‘net ive seen a German company selling rPi Hardware as a PLC equivalent system. Sorry, the link is on my rPi, I’ll look for it. They have discrete and analog I/O cards.  An rPi on it’s own only has discrete (on/off) control, and serial/i2c/spi communication, so you need additional components if you want analog control.

           

          My concern is reliability in hot environments or vibration. I’d consider using an rPi for monitoring first, before trying it for controlling something. I’ve considered the BBBlack Industrial from element 14, it has a better temperature rating.

          BeagleBone Black Industrial

          6 of 6 people found this helpful
            • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
              shabaz

              Hi Allen,

               

              This is the device you're maybe referring to:

              https://www.netiot.com/netpi/industrial-raspberry-pi-3/

              A preview of it from a trade show is here:

              A New Ruggedized Raspberry Pi 3 –  netPI!

              9 of 9 people found this helpful
                • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                  mp2100

                  Shabaz, thanks for that very interesting link.  It's not the one I was thinking of, but I really like what Hilscher and e14 have done here.  One of my top worries with IIoT is security, and security looks to be a top design consideration with this system.  It's not what I would call a direct PLC replacement, if I'm reading it right, it can send and receive data using industrial protocols (EtherIP and Profinet).  But I don't see analog and digital I/O hardware.  I'm sure it could use another PLC's I/O boards though.

                • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                  Tony Beck

                  Hi Allen and Shabaz,

                   

                  Thankyou for your responses! 

                   

                  I had come across the netPI in the past - it looks like a fantastic product where they have almost thought of everything.  One thing that does appear to be missing on this board is the CSI camera interface, although I guess there is potential to connect a USB camera.  The ability to take and analyse pictures is something that I believe could be very useful in machine vision applications.  

                   

                  This device looks very geared up for interfacing and communicating with control systems.  The RS232, RS485, Digital IO add-on boards are a brilliant addition. 

                   

                  That is a really great point with regard to how a standard Pi could be used - it may be ideal for monitoring something, but maybe not for use to actually control something.

                   

                  With regard to the BeagleBone Black Industrial - I had not come across the industrial version - but again this looks like a great device!  I have been aware of the BeagleBone SBC's for a while, but have not ever delved into them - this community is probably a great place to start!    Have you used them for any projects?  Does the BeagleBone board have any distinct advantages over the rPi?

                   

                  Another board that I have come across and am actually looking into using for a project I am working on is the: MyPi Industrial IoT Integrator Board from Embedded Micro Technology. 

                   

                  This board uses the Compute Module and has been designed for integrating into industrial equipment.  There is an extended temperature range version for use in very hot or very cold environments.

                  It has 2 CSI camera connectors and a host of add on I/O boards.  They will also design and supply custom I/O boards for a specific requirement.  They have made a custom I/O board for me to aid in the project development phase. 

                   

                  Perhaps one disadvantage is they do not offer a hardened software platform such as the Yocto based Docker host platform on the netPi, although there is nothing to stop someone taking this approach themselves and using a similar software platform or using the Ubuntu Snappy core. 

                   

                  Cheers

                  -----------------------------------------------------------

                  Tony

                  6 of 6 people found this helpful
                • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                  lui_gough

                  While a Pi might seem to be an attractive solution, I can't exactly advocate its use in true industrial circumstances for a number of reasons:

                  • Raspberry Pi is for the most part, a low-cost consumer product. While they could be applied in industrial situations, they're not designed to be as robust as true industrial solutions. When in industry, you might be controlling extremely expensive equipment, controlling something that could involve safety-of-life or you might be dealing with clients with high expectations, so failures are not acceptable. Further to this, the cost of providing support (e.g. a truck-roll to premises to fix the equipment) could very much outweigh any savings that you might get. Additionally, clients may demand systems which are built with reputable parts to alleviate risk regarding lack of support, satisfy their stakeholders that they're making an appropriate choice of equipment and allow service personnel from different companies to work on the equipment to bring it back into operation whenever a failure occurs.
                  • Consumer products typically do not cover the same level of operating temperature range, nor do they have things like conformal coatings to handle the dusty, greasy and sometimes humid environments encountered. They're also potentially not able to handle high vibration environments, along with potential voltage/current spikes/surges which can occur in automotive/industrial equipment settings. EMI from a heavy current-handling contactor could be sufficient to reboot or cause strange operating behaviour of microcontrollers/SBCs.
                  • Raspberry Pi SBC itself is very much "naked", so I suppose some of these points can be alleviated through careful treatment of the board with conformal coating, enclosure in an aluminium chassis for heatsinking and shielding, using specially designed HATs etc. But then that's a lot of work, it voids warranty and it's not guaranteed.
                  • Depending on how you utilise the Raspberry Pi - if you're just running a regular Linux OS, there are a few issues - for example:
                    • It's a fully-fledged operating system, it takes a while to start up which can be unacceptable.
                    • It also is based on open source code that evolves rapidly - this can break software as it is updated, and there can be security holes that need to be urgently patched at time without any centralized management mechanism.
                    • It is a multitasking operating system - so the delay involved when servicing requests can vary depending on CPU load and how the I/O is being performed (e.g. interrupt or polled) which could be unacceptable.
                    • The board itself also uses regular consumer RAM without any error correction - in case of memory corruption (which can happen organically due to charged particles, or due to power fluctuations), the board could crash or execute incorrectly - are there any failsafes that stop people from getting hurt or equipment from getting damaged?
                    • The board is pretty sensitive to power - how are you going to supply good quality power to the board at all times and ensure that it never improperly shuts down (at the risk of corrupting the SD card requiring intervention)? Even having a UPS is no guarantee as batteries fail and servicing can be missed.
                  • You might need to develop your own software to network them "safely" - a lot of existing proprietary solutions have evolved over time which have helped their safety, but of course, some process controls stuff is not safe by design (e.g. vulnerable to replay attacks) and is only safe due to air gapping, but you'd always hope to advance the state of the art.
                  • SD card issues can be common. Early Raspberry Pis had contact issues with full-sized SD cards, whereas the later push-push type sockets with microSD generally work well, at least when not being vibrated. The big issue is the variance in flash memory quality - many consumer SD cards are TLC/QLC flash with very low endurance, meaning that they cannot sustain more than about 100-500 full cycle writes before they fail. Many are also optimised for large block writes rather than small block writes, making for a slightly reduced user experience when it comes to updating the OS for example. Opting for a high-endurance MLC industrial flash card is a better option, but these cards often have to be specially ordered at a higher price.
                  • Sometimes you can be caught out by unexpected issues - e.g. use a small microSD card with slightly wrong settings and you might find your system logs somehow fill up the storage, making the system completely unworkable. Besides, even things like system logs often will eat at flash write cycles whenever the unit is operational and something happens.
                  • Long term reliability is an unknown - I've had no major issues with well made boards, but early Raspberry Pi Model B boards had some BGA soldering issues, and some late boards are seemingly having some through-hole soldering issues with some Pi 3 B+'s failing randomly ... but since most of my critical stuff still runs on the original Model B, I've had very good luck with most of my Pis with the 5V supply failing frequently before the board does.

                   

                  If you're looking to RPi as a money saving option, better think twice. In industry, the downtime could indeed eat up any savings, along with the need to engineer custom interfaces, treat boards specially, run updates, provide failsafes, provide documentation/support, ruggedize the unit and cover your legals.

                   

                  - Gough

                  9 of 9 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                      Tony Beck

                      Hi Gough,

                       

                      Thankyou very much for your response - you have made some really good and valid points! 

                       

                      I guess that there are a whole host of factors that would need to be taken into account when selecting some hardware for a particular task whether it be consumer based or industrial based.  Following on from the points you have made, some considerations could be:

                       

                      • Will it be used for monitoring and / or control? - If it is only monitoring, early failure may be acceptable risk, for control maybe not.

                       

                      • What environment would it operate in? - If it is operating in a semiconductor fab plant the conditions are going to be pretty good, if it is on an oil rig in the North Sea then probably quite the opposite!

                       

                      • Does it interact with any safety-of-life functions and does it need to meet SIL requirements?  A pi in its standard form certainly does not meet any SIL requirements.

                       

                      • Where is the board going to be mounted - will it be housed in a control panel, metal enclosure or would it be exposed?  If it can be mounted in a good quality metal enclosure then perhaps some environmental issues could be alleviated.

                       

                      • What sources of EMI are nearby? As you say there is risk from EMI causing issues - certainly on a 'naked' board and in a factory where there may be noise generated from large drives, contactors, switchgear etc. EMI would be a big issue.

                       

                      • What software / OS will it run?  - There are a number of options that could be used on a Pi - Rasbian, Ubuntu Mate, Ubuntu Snappy Core, Windows IoT Core, Risc OS.  As is in the case of the netPi board highlighted above, a customised hardened platform could be used based on Yocto and Docker. I guess software selection again depends on a number of factors:
                        • What start up time is acceptable? - in some scenarios it may be left running for years.  In the plant I work in, some of our machinery can take days to start up - which is acceptable as it is only taken down for overhaul every few years and start-up times are factored into machine startup planning - it is otherwise left running all the time.
                        • What I/O response time is required?  Some machinery will require very quick sub second response times, other equipment may only need a response within a minute or more.
                        • What would be the consequences of software failure due to a bug in the code or even RAM errors?  If the device is used purely for monitoring a non critical system then this may not be a problem, but if it could lead to a safety incident or machine damage then operational reliability may be really critical.

                       

                       

                      • What power supplies are available?  How robust are they?  At the plant I work at, there is lots of process control equipment - PLC's, DCS controllers, bespoke controllers etc. that are sensitive to power supply issues.  For anything that is critical, quite often it will be fed with 2 supplies where one supply might be UPS backed.  As you say though, batteries can and do fail and as you have pointed out improper shut downs can be an issue.

                       

                      • How would the board be connected to other systems?  Does it need to be networked, or can it accomplish it's function as a standalone device? If used for an IoT application then probably not, but if used to give a discrete output based on some other input such as analysing an image from a camera then it may not need network connectivity.   If it is not connected via ethernet / WiFi then the risk of attack through the network is virtually eliminated.  There is of course always the risk of attack if someone has physical access to the device.

                       

                      • What type of storage is required?  In the case of the Raspberry Pi Compute module it has an on board 4GB eMMC flash chip which I believe is MLC memory so should offer better reliability and lifetime than a standard pi.

                       

                      • What is the required life-cycle time?   It may be expected to last for the lifetime of the plant - which could be 20 years or more, or it may only be required for a short term monitoring application to collect some data on a machine to determine a specific problem or optimise a process. This may require something quick, cheap and with high flexibility.

                       

                      I have based the above points on what you have highlighted, but I am sure that many more factors could be listed here.

                       

                      You make a really great point that downtime, engineering custom interfaces, covering legals, ruggedizing, running updates, providing failsafes and providing adequate support could soon eat away any savings that would be made in the cost of the device alone.

                       

                      IMHO I don't believe a device like this should be completely written off for use in industry however - I think it really does depend on the application and considerations above.  Certainly in some circumstances, it would be a definite DO NOT USE - especially if it will effect safety, but others uses in industry may fall into a grey area.  Also with the likes of the netPi, myPi and other industrialised versions, some of the issues with using a standard Pi in an industrial environment are solved.

                       

                      Thanks again for your response - it has been very thought provoking reading through your response and replying!

                       

                      Cheers

                      --------------------------------------------

                      Tony

                      6 of 6 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                      Tony Beck

                      I would also be interested to know what methods are used to make a device such as a Single Board Computer more suited for an industrial use?  Some methods I am aware of:

                       

                      • More PCB layers for EMC compliance and better heat dissipation - as used on the netPi
                      • Components with larger temperature ranges
                      • Conformal coatings
                      • Use of Enteprise Multi-Level Cell (eMLC) or Single Level Cell (SLC) flash rather than Triple Level Cell (TLC) flash
                      • Isolation circuits - eg. Opto Isolation
                      • ESD protection cirucuits
                      • EMI shielding - eg. metal enclosure
                      • Ingress Protection - eg. High IP rated enclosure
                      • Hardened OS - Use of Docker containers, no SSH access etc
                      • ECC memory
                      5 of 5 people found this helpful
                        • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                          lui_gough

                          You might also consider adding an RTOS to the list, as properly written software for RTOS can meet critical latency and jitter requirements.

                           

                          In addition to ECC memory, some of them will also have separate OS level fault tolerance, say by modularising the OS kernel and being able to hot reload any module on the fly for downtime-free updates (e.g. think telecommunications equipment often is capable of this).

                           

                          Sometimes, what makes something industrial may simply be the use of parts with a known long market lifetime - i.e. commitments from suppliers that the components will remain available so that you can offer assurance to integrators that your solution may still be serviced 15-20 years down the track.

                           

                          Cherrypicked unit testing may also be used to qualify units met required standards prior to shipping as industrial. Sometimes this entails better inspection as well (e.g. Xray).

                           

                          Sometimes there are design differences to allow for better (more rapid) field service testing/debugging through LCDs, test points and integration of better cooling solutions.

                           

                          But otherwise, it seems you've covered all of the main ones I'm aware of.

                           

                          - Gough

                          7 of 7 people found this helpful
                            • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                              Tony Beck

                              Some other really good points - thanks! RTOS's can certainly be very beneficial on an industrial platform.  This is an area I would really love to learn more about as my knowledge on the use of an RTOS is very weak.

                               

                              Some of the equipment (VFD's, DCS controllers / IO cards, PLC's etc)  where I work will have a published lifecycle from the vendor, which in some cases could be 15 to 20 years 

                              Siemens will even take an excel list of your existing installed equipment and provide you with a report on where each item is on its lifecycle.

                              With this information it is possible to create a life cycling plan for the equipment in the plant.

                               

                              It is funny though, that some industrialised equipment is so reliable that it ends up in service well beyond its supported life cycle!  We still use a number of Siemens S5 PLCs and Simovert P drives installed - but because they are so reliable, they are kept in place.  In some cases the engineering effort to update can be huge, and with limited resource, other projects can take priority.

                               

                              I had thought of one more things - Use of a hardware watchdog.

                               

                              Cheers

                              ------------------

                              Tony

                              3 of 3 people found this helpful
                          • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                            rsc

                            Hi Tony,

                            We have deployed the raspberry pi as a motion stabilization platform controller for a ship based LiDAR system.

                            I'm using a 5VDC 4A power supply that I can adjust to 5.3 along with the new Pi3 B+ running Raspbian lite.

                            There have been 3 revisions in 2 years, with many little issues resolved such as weather-proofing, networking, start-up, fault and emergency-stop conditions.

                            The RPi has done a good job so far, and has survived several months at sea running 24/7

                            Scott

                            5 of 5 people found this helpful
                              • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                                Tony Beck

                                Hi Scott,

                                 

                                Thanks for your input! This sounds like a really cool project.... I would love to read more about this in a Blog if you have done one on it?

                                 

                                That is impressive that you have been running this 24/7 at sea!

                                This has to be up there for harsh environmental conditions!

                                It is sometimes surprising how well a non industrial device can last in a harsh environment. 

                                I have been using a Pi to control my central heating and hot water system at home for the past year - it has not skipped a beat!  I am hoping to find some time to write a Blog on this.

                                 

                                Also, we have used a standard Pi for some development work in the factory I work in and installed it in a hot and oily environment.  It has been installed for almost a year and is still running! I would highlight though, it would not cause any major issues if it were to fail, such as machinery damage or safety risk.

                                 

                                Cheers

                                -------------------

                                Tony

                                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                              • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                                peteroakes

                                Another alternate product is the Revolution PI, based on the Raspberry PI 3 compute module on a custom motherboard, this has 61131-2 compliant IO , DIN rail mount, with Real time patches though still running Raspbian and reasonably priced. See

                                 

                                https://revolution.kunbus.com/

                                I have a set of these and am currently putting together a review (From a different distributor ) but in the mean time, I thought I would show you the vendors site, these are awesome units and utilize a distributed processing architecture as well as Real Time patches to Raspbian to achieve its processing needs, it also utilizes many fully compliant IEC 61131-2 components

                                 

                                Definitely worth a look

                                6 of 6 people found this helpful
                                  • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                                    mp2100

                                    Peter, yes, that's the system I was trying to remember (in my first post, above).  They have really tried to make it look like a PLC, which will help to assure stubborn industrial engineers that it could be acceptable in their factory.  They have

                                     

                                    https://revolution.kunbus.de/shop/en/

                                     

                                    They have a good collection of hardware.

                                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                    • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                                      Tony Beck

                                      Hi Peter and Allen,

                                       

                                      This looks like another really great Pi based product. Thanks a lot for sharing!  Looks very nicely engineered and well thought out.

                                       

                                      I would be really interested to read your review when you have published it. 

                                       

                                      It is true, that some of those stubborn industrial engineers can take quite a bit of convincing to use certain equipment in a factory! This is definitely a challenge I have faced!!

                                      I like to challenge 'the status quo' when it comes to solving engineering problems in a factory, but at the same time, I wouldn't  want to use some equipment for a task if it was not up to the job.  It is often a fine balance between a cost effective solution and the total cost of ownership.

                                       

                                      Cheers

                                      --------------

                                      Tony

                                    • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                                      Tony Beck

                                      Thanks everyone for your responses on this post!

                                       

                                      I have been really impressed with the responses received. I did not expect to get so many really helpful and informative replies!

                                       

                                      Looking forward to lots more discussions!

                                      Cheers all!

                                      ---------------

                                      Tony

                                      • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                                        jomoenginer

                                        Here is a link to a recent article on whether or not the Raspberry Pi is ready for the Industrial arena.

                                         

                                        It does mention MyPi as well as netPi by Hischer.

                                        https://www.automationworld.com/raspberry-pi-ready-industry?oly_enc_id=0462I5044034F1U

                                         

                                        It seems like it is getting more traction.

                                        2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                        • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                                          shabaz

                                          I've been collaborating with a colleague to build up a Pi-based edge compute device.

                                          It is not complete yet, but we've put a high-level story on Medium about VIKI to try to reach non-tech people too.

                                          V.I.K.I. is short for Versatile Intelligent Controller for Industry : )

                                          Circuit diagrams and any source code will be published, once we've constructed it and tested (main board PCB arrived today).

                                          Here's what it should look like (we stole jancumps and balearicdynamics diagram style):

                                          2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                          • Re: Raspberry Pi for Industrial Uses
                                            craigbrainboxes

                                            Hi Tony

                                            This is Craig from Brainboxes, I hope a direct message from a manufacturer is okay?

                                             

                                            Brainboxes are a data and IO connectivity developer and manufacturer selling through Farnell.  We have just released a new Edge IO Controller that covers the majority of your questions.   Our part number is BB-400 (Farnell reference: 2990602).   The Controller is powered by a Pi Compute 3+ module and Arduino.   These sit on our own board and within our own design  which provides the following:

                                            • Power management system supplying correct voltage to Pi
                                            • 5-30VDC Dual Redundant Power Input ideal for factory floor
                                            • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) making sure the Pi shuts down cleanly, preventing corruption of the disc

                                             

                                            • Custom heatsink over the Pi
                                            • Tests show no throttling even at 100% CPU usage
                                            • Doubles the performance of the Pi compared to no heat sink

                                             

                                            • We give the job of real time I/O to the dedicated on-board Ardunio.
                                            • The BB-400 comes with firmware designed to monitor and control the I/O lines through the Ardunio.
                                            • This open source firmware can be modified should you need.
                                            Preloaded with: Raspbian Lite, Open protocols, and a mobile ready secure web admin interface

                                             

                                            Sample code for: C#, .NET Core, Python, Node Red, Node.JS

                                             

                                            • -25°C to +80°C op temp range,S, DIN rail mountable
                                              Integrated Connectivity: Wifi, Bluetooth, 2 Independent Ethernet, 8 Digital IO, RS232/422/485 Serial, NFC

                                             

                                            All of our products are designed and made in house (in the UK) and come with direct Lifetime Warranty and Support.
                                            You can view our dedicated BB-400 page, specs and related FAQs on our website:http://www.brainboxes.com/industrial-edge-controller

                                            http://www.brainboxes.com/product/bb-400/neuron-edge-industrial-controller-8-dio-rs232-422-485-serial-bt-wifi-nfc-usb-2-…

                                            http://www.brainboxes.com/faqs/search/bb-400

                                             

                                            All the best, Craig