Flash Memory Solutions for Factory Automation
Modern factories no longer rely on an assembly line of workers to get jobs done. Instead, automation is the key to efficient operations. New automation systems are constantly being added. Thanks to the evolution of the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, automation systems are increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Flash memory plays a key role in this evolution of automation. Because factory environments often have rugged conditions with high levels of shock and vibration, as well as temperature extremes, any data storage used has to be able to accommodate the demands of the environment without risk to the data. Any disruption in the automation systems in factories can be costly and even dangerous to workers. For this reason, finding the right flash memory solutions for factory automation is critical.
Requirements of Flash Memory Solutions for Factory Automation
Although every factory automation application has its own unique requirements, there are some shared characteristics that are required across the board when it comes to flash memory solutions for factory automation. One requirement is that the components be easily available for a long time. The reason for this is that changes to a flash memory component can require retesting and recertification. This can be costly and disruptive. It’s also important for no critical components of the flash memory to be changed without advanced notification. That way, when such a change is necessary, the developer can make appropriate adjustments, rather than discovering the change after a failure occurs in the field.
Another critical characteristic of flash memory solutions for factory automation is a minimal chance of data loss during a sudden power failure. Power failures cannot fully be prevented. As such, having flash memory that can withstand such failures is an important part of protecting data. Flash memory solutions for factory automation should also have low power demands.
Endurance is another essential characteristic of flash memory used in factory automation. If a flash memory device wears out quickly, it will need to be replaced too frequently to be efficient.
SLC Flash for Factory Automation
Generally, flash memory used in automation should be industrial grade. Industrial flash memory is designed using SLC NAND flash. SLC stands for single-level cell and describes flash technology in which one bit of data is stored per cell. There are several reasons for using SLC flash memory in factory automation, including the following:
- SLC flash can tolerate extreme temperature conditions. Most industrial SLC flash products can withstand temperatures ranging from -40° C to 85° C, without any loss of data integrity or functionality. They can also withstand temperatures that fluctuate quickly. Factory environments are prone to extreme temperatures, so this feature is extremely important.
- The lifespan of SLC NAND flash is longer than that of any other form of flash memory. Storing only one bit of data per cell reduces the charges that are necessary for read and write operations. In turn, this reduces the wear and tear on the memory device. SLC flash has a lifespan that is thousands of times longer than other flash memory solutions.
- SLC NAND flash is the fastest form of flash memory available. This is again because only one bit of data is stored on each cell. This design allows for lightning-quick read and write operations. In a factory environment in which operations have to occur quickly or entire product lines could be damaged or delayed, having flash memory that works this quickly is essential.
MLC Flash for Factory Automation
There is one potential drawback to SLC flash memory solutions for factory automation, and that is capacity. Only storing one bit of data on each cell means that data storage is limited by the number of cells that fit within the memory device. Making the flash storage device larger is usually not realistic. In fact, developers are continually pushing for smaller and smaller memory devices. As a result, it is not possible to increase capacity beyond a certain point. For industrial designers who need a higher capacity memory device, switching to MLC NAND flash is sometimes possible, as long as the device is designed with an extended temperature range. With MLC NAND flash, two bits of data are stored per cell. This dramatically increases the potential storage capacity of the memory device.
Typically, MLC memory devices that are appropriate for use in industrial operations are called utility grade. These devices usually have extended ranges for temperature, shock, and vibration. However, they still carry some of the disadvantages of MLC flash. These include a shorter lifespan and slower speeds than SLC flash. However, the increased capacity is worth the trade-off in some instances. By working with an experienced flash memory supplier like Delkin, you can get personalized advice regarding how to balance the need for capacity and lifespan for your factory automation system.
Advantages of Locked BOMs
A key feature of industrial and utility grade storage is locked BOMs. With a locked BOM, or bill of materials, you get the confidence that no critical component of the memory device will be changed without advanced notification and without changing the product number.
There are several advantages to having a locked BOM. One is that application developers will always know that the flash memory devices they are using have a stable design that will not be suddenly changed and end up causing failures in the field. Another is that advanced notification allows developers to reorder memory devices before they are discontinued. This means they will have extra time to make any necessary device modifications before the new memory design is released. As a result, there will be minimal downtime during the transition. This helps to prevent widespread automation failures in the factory and to ensure that there is no downtime that isn’t accounted for in the budget.
Flash Memory and the IIoT
The IIoT is impacting businesses, including factories, in much the same way that the IoT is affecting personal lives. Within factories, many systems are connected to each other via the IIoT, allowing for the transfer of mass amounts of data between machines and increasing the amount of automation that is taking place in the factory setting. These smart machines communicate with each other, triggering responses that allow operations to occur as efficiently as possible without human interference. There are several advantages to this, from increased productivity to reduced rates of human error and boosted factory safety.
Flash memory has to manage this massive amount of data efficiently and seamlessly. Generally, flash memory is part of a broader system that includes cloud-based storage, so real-time data and historical data can be processed as efficiently as possible without corruption or failure.
When it comes to factory automation, industrial flash memory is at the core of success. Let Delkin’s customer applications team guide you to a customized solution. For more information about our rugged storage products and flash memory solutions for factory automation, call us today.
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