Transporting 1500 passengers per hour to a height of 400 feet with safety and reliably is an awesome responsibility. Continuing it 14 hours per day, 365 days per year requires the utmost confidence in the control system vendor. That’s why the Coca Cola Orlando Eye trusted a fully integrated Siemens SIMATIC suite to assure passenger safety, as well as year-round, all-weather reliability and availability.
The Orlando Eye is a remarkable feat of modern engineering. It supports 30, three-ton air-conditioned observation capsules that can each offer up to 15 tourists an unobstructed 360-degree view of the surroundings. From the top, they can see the entire Orlando landscape, including Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and all the way to Disneyworld and beyond. Yet the capsules continue to be loaded while the wheel revolves. Only precision motion control could safely provide this capability.
That’s why Orlando Eye turned to Siemens to provide the automation technology behind this modern wonder. This includes the Siemens SIMATIC controls system, with Safety Integrated, including motion control with SINAMICS drives and SCALANCE wireless communications.
“I’ve been in the amusement and entertainment industry for 43 years, and the amount of value that Siemens packs into every one of its automation products never ceases to amaze me,” says Bill Kivler, vice president, Facilities and Engineering, for I-Drive 360, the owner of the Orlando Eye. “With Siemens controls, drives, and communications in the Orlando Eye’s wheel, our confidence in passenger safety and the wheel’s reliability and availability couldn’t be stronger.”
The Orlando Eye is carefully engineered to safeguard passengers and provide uninterrupted high performance. The structure has to cope with extreme torsion points, shear forces, and bending moments. In addition, the wheel must be extremely well grounded to protect against the lightning strikes which plague Central Florida.
The massive structure was built by Intamin Amusement Rides, the company behind the Coca Cola London Eye in the UK. Intamin demanded only the finest in automation, control, and motion precision to create a fully integrated, end-to-end system. It selected the Siemens SIMATIC S7-1500 Software Controller, SIMATIC ET 200SP remote I/O, and SCALANCE W wireless.
The SIMATIC S7-1500 Software Controller is a PC-based automation solution that can be used for both standard and safety-oriented applications. It is deployed on dual, redundant Windows 10 PCs with automatic failover. The controllers have functional independence from the operating system, however. During a Windows restart or failure, they continue to be fully functional.
The Siemens controls system offers technicians a full view of the wheel, inside and out from cameras mounted on the wheel’s superstructure and inside each capsule. The Orlando Eye can be instantly brought to a complete stop either manually or automatically if certain conditions occur.
The S7-1500 controller affords operators the ability to monitor wheel and capsule speeds, motion control drive status, capsule weight, motion, A/C temperature, and more. As it is the first TÜV-certified fail-safe software controller, it includes integrated safety functionality, certified in accordance with EN 61508, for communications with the SIMATIC ET 200SP Remote I/O, which provides local control of the Siemens SINAMICS drives on each capsule.
Siemens SIMATIC ET 200SP remote I/O modules are located inside each passenger capsule. They communicate with the S7-1500 controls over the PROFINET industrial Ethernet protocol via Siemens SCALANCE wireless technology. These provide local motion control together with 14 Siemens SINAMICS S120 and G120 motor drives, which are arranged in a 7×7 counter-opposed configuration. This configuration keeps capsule motion to a minimum, enhancing the user experience.
An industrial wireless LAN enables communication between the SIMATIC ET 200SP remote I/O modules and the master SIMATIC S7-1500 Software Controller. It consists of Siemens SCALANCE W 802.11n radio access points and client modules transmitting over PROFINET. Multiple-input, multiple-output technology multiplies radio channel capacity to bandwidth throughputs of up to 450 Mbit/s. Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) is harnessed to minimize cabling, and authentication and data encryption prevent unauthorized access.
Kivler worked for almost a quarter of a century at nearby Disney World, where more than 14,000 Siemens automation products have been deployed. He was delighted to hear about Intamin’s decision to sole-source the Orlando Eye’s controls, remote I/O, drives, and communications from Siemens. This, he said, has greatly simplified wheel operation, maintenance, sparing, and operator training.
“With Siemens components, everything is so well integrated and self-diagnostics in the components are so deep and wide, problems get resolved in a small fraction of the time, compared to what a multivendor environment would require, with all the guessing and trial-and-error going on,” he says. “Every Siemens component is smartly designed, engineered, manufactured, and supported with safety, reliability and self-diagnostics built into it from the start,”
These components are part of Siemens Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) portfolio. That brings with it self-diagnostics, and seamless, end-to-end integration. Software engineering for this project was also done using the SIMATIC TIA Portal as a common framework for programming. This offered a drag-and-drop interface as well as turnkey libraries of proven software code, saving Intamin many weeks in controls programming time during development of the Orlando Eye.
“Although choosing Siemens might cost a bit more initially, it more than pays for itself in the long run. With many automation and controls vendors, you truly get what you pay for. With Siemens, you always get much more than you pay for.”
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