Scientist of Bayer Crop Science AG are testing new active ingredients in Monheim for their suitability as pesticides. The "primary screening" method is used to test newly developed substances for their effectiveness by applying them fully automatically to plants. Transparency and the unique identification of each plant provide Turck RFID system BL ident.
In their research laboratories in Monheim, the scientists at Bayer Crop Science are continuously searching for new active ingredients using state-of-the-art technical equipment. These are developed over many years of work into powerful pesticides for global agriculture. One of the first steps towards a marketable drug is the so-called primary screening. In this process, newly developed substances are tested for their effectiveness by applying them fully automatically to plants. If an effect is detectable, further investigations follow - first in the laboratory, then in the greenhouse and finally in the field.
Fully automatic primary screening
For primary screening, Bayer Crop Science has developed a fully automated spraying line that allows more than 25.000 spray applications per year. In each application cycle, three plant sets are simultaneously sprayed with three different test substances. The plant sets each contain the host plants for eight plant diseases. "Here in the primary screening, up to one hundred new preparations in different concentrations are automatically sprayed onto plants every day," says Bernd Schulten, operations engineer at Bayer CropScience. In order not to lose track here, all software support runs. "We get test plans from the data center. We read these here, work them off and play back the results, "says Schulten.
The key to this procedure is the clear identification of the plant sets and the assignment to the applied test substances. After the planters were originally provided with barcode stickers, the system was converted to non-contact RFID technology last year. "In cooperation with the industrial service provider Tectrion, which maintains and keeps all facilities in Monheim up to date, we have retrofitted a third spray booth in our facility and provided the entire system with a new PLC. Whereas in the past the individual plant components such as spray booths, conveyor technology and pipettors only exchanged signals with each other, now we can control and monitor everything via PLC ", Schulten explains the project. "In this context, we wanted to get away from the barcode stickers that were not optimal with the corrugated shape of the trays and these environmental conditions, especially since the printer had also proven to be very maintenance intensive."
In search of the ideal RFID solution, the technical project team looked at many systems and vendors. At the end of the vendor comparison, the decision was made on Turck's BL ident RFID system, which convinced everyone involved. "We wanted an RFID system that was easy to use, robust and relatively inexpensive. That's what we did with the Turck system ", Schulten comments on the result of the competition analysis.
Easy handling thanks CoDeSys
However, BL ident still has an unbeatable technical advantage for Volker Bachmann, the control specialist in the Laboratory Automation Robotics department at Tectrion: "The Turck RFID system is programmable with CoDeSys and thus gives us the flexibility to outsource more complex actions locally to the on-site controller , This relieves the superordinate PC, which controls the experimental procedure. "
As part of the conversion to RFID, the Tectrion technicians first had to equip some 1000 planters with data carriers, which could be glued on in the middle. The data carriers have a storage capacity of 128 bytes and contain all information about the respective plant tray. "We had originally considered storing only the ID number on the tag, but ultimately we are not flexible enough. Now that we have written everything on the data carriers, the system can run autonomously and every dish can be identified at any location, even without a central PC, "says Bachmann.
The data carriers are written and read out by a Q80 read-write head directly after passing through the spray booths. Another read-write head is located at the discharge point where the planters leave the plant again. Should the system fail or a shell has to be identified for another reason, the employees can read the current status with a handheld reader.
From the read-write heads, the RFID signals go to the modular BL20 remote I / O system, which can be individually configured for each reading point. The data is recorded via a special RFID disk and fed into the CoDeSys programmable gateway, which handles all RFID communication on site, so that only the user data must be sent via Modbus TCP to the control PC.
"Working with the Turck system was pleasant," sums up Bachmann. "I do not need high-level language programming and can also rely on proven standards such as Ethernet, so that we could easily integrate the system into the system. Thanks to the modular structure, we were also able to configure everything exactly the way we wanted it. "
The author Stefan Kappel is Key Account Manager Process Automation at Turck in Mülheim.