Futureproof and backwards compatible – why do these matter so much?

1.11.2022

Every paper mill depends on a combination of several automation systems and interlinked data connections. Complexity is typical especially with web break monitoring and web inspection systems where the customer makes changes during the lifecycle of a system. To update, extend or replace a system is now a far more laborious process than in the past, as system compatibility decreases over time while the amount of connections increases. As if that weren’t enough, there may be compatibility problems with cameras and standard fast-changing models of computers and cameras. When you take all this complexity into account, the importance of having future proof and backwards compatible web inspection and web break monitoring systems becomes clear.

Imagine you are having a web inspection and web monitoring system, with more than 20 cameras for each functionality. It was set up seven years ago, using a Windows Server 2008 and operator stations running on the Windows 7 operating system. You are rebuilding the production line and need to extend the web monitoring system and enhance the web inspection in order to detect new defects with the proper classification.

If your supplier has not given careful thought to the compatibility of the cameras, camera software, PC-based video data processing units (capture units) and software life cycle, you could end up with a challenge: as the camera and computer models change, it may not be possible to make the equipment reliably compatible with it. Since incompatibility is not an option, the only way out is to replace your entire old installation instead of just extending it with new capabilities.

Real-life scenarios are likely to be even more complicated: even though your web break monitoring system and web inspection system may come from the same supplier, they still may be based on entirely different technologies. Consequently, even in the project phase, you may have a whole host of difficult problems to wrestle with: combining user interfaces, databases and systems and creating reliable and accurate upstream synchronizing capability from web inspection to the web break monitoring cameras. And, of course, servicing of the equipment over the life cycle also needs to be anticipated.

Futureproof and backwards compatible since 2002  

In my view, the life cycle of the systems used in our industry should be between 10 and 15 years, and system development and design should never lose sight of the vital need for compatibility.

At an early stage, we at Procemex made a design commitment to our customers to ensure seamless compatibility for our web break monitoring and inspection systems over their life spans. This means that all our smart cameras, LED lights, lenses, data processing and software can be extended or upgraded – including those that were purchased back in 2002 when we delivered our first systems.

Why is this important for you? The answer is simple: when the compatibility has been thought about carefully from day one, systems can be extended as needed instead of having to be replaced simply due to lack of compatibility.

How can we guarantee full compatibility? The compatibility is assured already in the camera. Unlike in all other competing systems, the image data in Procemex systems is already processed in the cameras in its own shell. Additionally, the cameras use commonly used TCP/IP protocol.

 Thanks to these features, our customers will not have any compatibility issues with servers, operator stations, or virtualized data processing platforms. This enables you to add web monitoring cameras or new web inspection measurement geometries or algorithms without any problems. The third-party communication is handled by using OPC and nowadays also with REST API offering a smooth design. It will last well into the future.

Smart cameras – the backbone of the system

Smart cameras used for both web break monitoring and web inspection are the key features that set Procemex’s systems apart from the competition and enable higher compatibility. Procemex smart cameras have integrated data processing and video storage, making it easy to communicate with other devices always in the same way.
 
Procemex has been developing both the hardware and software for smart cameras since 2002, and we always painstakingly ensure compatibility in developing new performance and features. This is especially important nowadays when AI edge processing is implemented inside smart cameras, providing data processing speeds and higher resolutions to customers in order to prevent web breaks.

Virtualization

Procemex smart camera architecture, with integrated data processing inside the cameras, fits perfectly together with our back-end virtualization systems. Virtualized systems are becoming increasingly common, and a simple way to get rid of supplier-specific and system-specific computers and to hand over hardware maintenance to IT specialists. This is valuable when expanding or upgrading the system in future, as virtualized back-end data processing simplifies project substantially.

The future

Looking back on 25 years of work in web break monitoring and inspection and looking into the future, it’s clear that systems have been getting increasingly intelligent and complex throughout that time.

Machine vision and AI algorithms are now being used more and more for preventing web breaks and classifying defects, and there is an ever-increasing need for imaging with higher image clarity and finer detail.

Additionally, different information is created by using various kinds of sensors, such as infrared sensors. The best way to handle all this increasing complexity is to integrate functionality into the smart cameras and design back end of systems so that they are independent of any particular type of hardware.

This is why, as Procemex sees it, the use of smart cameras combined with a virtualized back end is the only way to guarantee continued compatibility as the upward trend in complexity continues. 

This article is written by: Mika Valkonen, CEO