NEXCOM Provides Reliable WiFi Infrastructure in Harsh Factory Environment

Fremont, California (EastBayDaily) — A Taiwan-based medium-scale steel and iron factory, where high temperature and dusty conditions are the norm, had deployed an ERP and shop floor control system as centralized management to manage work flow. It worked well until the customer needed a mobile operation that can deliver seamless anywhere, anytime coverage. The commercial grade WiFi APs (Access Point) they originally implemented were not reliable enough in the harsh indoor and outdoor environments. Moreover, without a central WiFi management mechanism, the MIS staff had difficulties in managing APs deployed widely throughout the factory.

Challenge When the factory MIS team approached NEXCOM, they expressed that they expect their workers to be able to freely roam throughout shop floors with rugged hand-held terminals connected to the ERP system and upload and download information remotely in real time. The challenges presented to NEXCOM were:

1) How to keep the WiFi communication running non-stop in critical shop floors? The previous commercial grade AP often failed to work, especially the ones near the operating areas and during hot summer seasons. The APs were installed inside shield boxes that were placed outdoors with an ambient temperature higher than 70 degrees Celsius.

2) How to easily & quickly expand the WiFi coverage? Some outdoor areas and recently planned work sites like material incoming/receiving areas were difficult and costly to install wired networks.

3) How to efficiently manage factory-wide WiFi APs? The MIS staff found it was difficult to access or manage APs deployed in high floors and dangerous areas. The upgrade and maintenance of these APs were troublesome to the staff located in the central MIS office as the shop floors operated 24 hours daily.

Customer's Needs To resolve the unreliable AP operation and unexpected shutdowns during summer, the customer sought for a reliable and manageable industrial-grade WiFi infrastructure. Flexible and integrated AP deployment without extra licensing is also another concern. Hence, the requirements NEXCOM had to meet were: industrial-grade AP solution, full and reliable WiFi coverage, flexible expansion, and centralized management tools.

Why NEXCOM Solution NEXCOM's centrally managed WLAN control solution perfectly fulfilled the customer's needs and allowed headroom for future expansions such as point-to-point communication and wireless video surveillance.

First, NEXCOM's IWF 8405 Central Management WiFi Solution met the requirements with the following attributes:

AAA certified WLAN controller. The IWF 8405 WLAN controller utilizes proprietary protocol to manage IWF series of APs and simplify the IT manager's administration tasks of monitoring, configuring and maintaining the APs remotely, even across other factories.

No license fee for future WiFi APs management & expansion. NEXCOM IWF 8405 manages up to 150 APs without extra license fees.

Next, the IWF 3320X Industrial Grade AP offered the following:

Protection against high temperature and dust. IWF 3320X can operate in wide temperature ranges of -30 to 80 degrees Celsius. The unique conformal coating on the motherboard can resist dust, rain and chemical erosion.

Dual RF supports reliable, flexible and redundant WiFi deployment. NEXCOM's APs are armed with two radio cards supporting 2.4GHz/5GHz for flexible WiFi deployment.

Point-to-point (P2P) and point-to-multi-point (P2MP) wireless bridging. NEXCOM IWF series of APs provides up to 4 connections of Wireless Distribution System (WDS) to easily bridge nearby APs.

Application Scenario Stage 1: PAN-based factory with mobility operation & central management: An IWF 8405 WLAN controller was used to monitor the IWF 3320X APs located within the factory. Each IWF 3320X established a CAPWAP tunnel between the access controller to transmit its AP status, and data tunnels between mobile clients to exchange WiFi traffic.    

Stage 2: WiFi coverage expansion for video surveillance and automation data acquisition of new plants: More outdoor APs, IWF 5320, and light-duty indoor APs, IWF 2220, will be deployed in the field and office.

Conclusion After 6 months of deployment, NEXCOM's centrally managed industrial WiFi solution has delivered zero downtime. With the great success of NEXCOM's IWF solution, the customer plans to install IWF 5320 for outdoor IP surveillance and IWF 2220 for the office in the upcoming second stage of the project. Utilizing NEXCOM's manageable WLAN controller and industrial-grade AP solution, the customer can easily manage their WiFi infrastructure remotely from the office without having to worry about the wireless APs running in harsh environment.


Khang Pham