Sartocheck 4 - Network-Enabled Measuring Device under Linux
Two developments have accelerated the use of Linux in automation technology in the form of so called "embedded Linux". Firstly, the trend towards the networking and vertical integration of technical systems on the basis of internet standards should be mentioned. In the future, many computer-controlled products will be connected directly or indirectly via telecommunication networks with each other and with the business processes of their operators. A common requirement is, for example, that a machine has an integrated web server and that settings can be performed via the operator's intranet.
Secondly, dependence on manufacturer-specific special technologies from device and machine manufacturers is increasingly being seen as a technical and economic disadvantage. Large areas of information distribution and signal transmission in the field of automation technology are still characterized by a lack of (open) standards, limited technical transparency and licence costs for development software and every product sold. As a reaction to this, in recent years there has been an increasing use of open network standards (e.g. Ethernet and TCP/IP) as well as open source software (e.g. Linux), also in the area of product, manufacturing and process automation.
Licence-cost-free Linux supports all common communication protocols as standard and can therefore easily be integrated into data networks. Interfaces to the special networks used by automation technology are also available. Linux thereby unites an open operating system standard with diverse (open) communication standards. It thus makes possible new product characteristics as well as network-based functions. This is underlined by a development from Sartorius AG, an internationally active manufacturer of laboratory and process technology, with emlix as the external development partner.
With "Sartocheck 4" Sartorius AG has developed a Linux-based, network-enabled device for testing the integrity of membrane filter systems. The field of application of the worldwide-marketed system is the production processes of the biopharmaceutical industry. The device is operated using a large colour display (touchscreen) with a multi-lingual, graphical user interface.
The test results, which are important for quality assurance, are stored in a database on the Sartocheck 4 and can be transferred in a way that is secured against manipulation to the electronic data processing system of the pharmaceutical manufacturer via a local network. The same method can be used to transfer test configurations between various devices. Maximum interoperability and the authentication of individual devices are ensured by the internet data transfer protocol that is used. All the procedures necessary for the test are carried out fully automatically by the measuring system. Inside the device, the embedded Linux system communicates with a whole range of pneumatic components and sensors, and then processes the data obtained.
Unlike Linux, the control software of the Sartocheck 4 from Sartorius AG is not free software. This example therefore also shows that the protection of know-how is not excluded by the use of an open source operating system and communication standards.
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