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An indoor skydiving centre, just opened in Basingstoke, UK, is using CC-Link industrial communications to provide thrill seekers with an exciting, yet safe, aerial experience.

The centre is equipped with a 14ft-diameter vertical wind tunnel that suspends its flyers in the airflow, emulating the feeling of freefall. Designed by Skyventure of Texas, the centre generates wall-to-wall airflow rather than a central bubble as older tunnels do, so is far safer and more realistic and can accommodate multiple flyers.

CC-Link is a high-speed open communication network technology for automation that was originally developed for demanding industrial applications. It enables devices from numerous manufacturers to communicate with one another and is ‘deterministic’, meaning it ensures instructions are carried out at exactly the correct time, allowing precise timing of system events.

For the skydiving tunnels, Skyventure uses a Mitsubishi Q series programmable logic controller (PLC) as the basis for its control system. A CC-Link master card within the PLC rack controls the communications with four giant inverters that control the fan motors.

Via a single CC-Link communication line, the tunnel operator monitors voltage, current, power, set frequency and alarms, as well as setting the operating frequency to match each user’s weight and ability. The control system incorporates many I/O points including drives, sensors and other devices to ensure the quality and safety of the skydivers’ experience. These are all connected via the CC-Link cable, which is laid out around the facility with links to each device.

Skyventure now has wind tunnels in almost every climate and condition. The company plans to continue to build new systems and retrofit older ones with the benefits that the CC-Link network provides.

Key benefits of product application

  • Skyventure understood the need for a control system that allows for easy operator control as well as simple on-site installation. CC-Link communications improved the operator interface, controlled the users’ experience and aided the installation process.
  • Skyventure said it prefers CC-Link to other communication technologies because it provides a more interactive dialogue with the inverters and other devices connected to the network.
  • On older, non-CC-Link systems, different functions had to have individual communication cables, which were a major task to install and maintain.
  • The design of the tunnel means it and its associated control systems are simple to implement and install. 
  • CC-Link simplifies the wind tunnel control system installation — down to connecting a handful of cables in the field rather than having to wire up hundreds of separate connections. CC-Link allows Skyventure to complete 90 per cent of the control system in its Texas home base, saving costs and ensuring quality.
  • Another advantage that CC-Link provides is reliability. As an actual operational figure, the control systems — including CC-Link — operate at a rate of more than 98 per cent. 

CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA)

The CLPA is the organisation of manufacturers of CC-Link compatible products and users of CC-Link technology. The CLPA oversees and manages the CC-Link specifications, provides technical support and conformance testing and promotes the worldwide adoption of the CC-Link open automation network technologies. The CLPA was formed in November 2000. Global adoption of CC-Link is demonstrated by the following:

  • Over 12 million CC-Link devices have been installed
  • There are more than 2,100 members of the CC-Link Partner Association
  • There are more than 1,300 certified CC-Link products available from over 280 manufacturers

CC-Link is acknowledged by third party research to be the leading choice for open automation networks in Asia. By adding CC-Link to their portfolio, companies will be able to access up to 20% of the Asian market not accessible to Western technologies. To assist companies with this, the CLPA offers the “Gateway to Asia” (G2A) programme, G2A provides development and marketing assistance to companies who join the CLPA and develop CC-Link products.

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