John Young, APAC director EU Automation, discusses the benefits of bringing legacy control systems into the fourth industrial revolution.
The cyclopic is an electric, foldable bike that’s set to be the most compact on the market. The invention takes inspiration from the Penny Farthing. Its handles are fixed upon the larger front wheel, and the back wheel folds inwards so the bike can fit into a portable bag that rolls along. The cyclopic is designed to offer users with a space-saving, lightweight solution to city travel.
While manufacturers don’t use equipment that has been around as long as the original penny farthing, most facilities do still rely on older equipment in their production lines. As the first generation of factory automation comes to an end, the future of many control systems may seem bleak. In fact, a 2019 survey carried out by Dell Technologies found that 91 per cent of midsize and larger organisations face major hurdles to digital transformation. The notion that these organisations should scrap all their legacy systems in favour of new infrastructure is impractical. Instead, manufacturers should consider how their existing equipment can connect to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Out with the Old?
“The programmable controller’s time was right. It invented itself because there was a need for it, and other people had that same need.” Those are the words of Dick Morley, the father of the programmable logic controller (PLC) as he reflected on his invention, 40 years later. When the PLC was invented in the late 1960s, it was built to give manufacturers better insight into their plant’s processes. This need hasn’t changed very much in subsequent years. Real-time machine control is still a necessity, but the adoption of new technologies means that older PLCs may be lagging behind.
So, are these legacy systems destined for the scrap heap? Not necessarily, they just need to be able to monitor more processes. If we consider the monitoring needs of a variety of industries, it is clear that each one has its own set of requirements. A water utility may be required to monitor the health of its phonelines to make sure they’re working in case of an emergency; while a packaging facility that uses injection moulding may need to retrieve data on the speed of its machines.
While control systems such as the PLC won’t be made redundant any time soon, their functions and capabilities will need to extend in order to manage these increased data requirements.
Manufacturers may need some support to take their control systems into the future. Modern PLCs often come with an Ethernet interface, which older or less expensive systems do not have. Instead, many legacy systems adopt a sometimes-bewildering range of serial communications and proprietary protocols that lack the interoperability most manufacturers require.
In collaboration with Netherlands-Thai Chambers of Commerce (NTCC), KUKA is hosting a webinar as part of the NTCC Industry 4.0 series: “Embracing Robotic Applications in Boosting Economic Performance within APeC” on Wednesday 30 September 2020 from 16:00 – 17:15 (ICT).
This sharing session will emphasise on Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing, Market Intelligence for Robotics and Trends for APeC countries, including case studies, opportunities and challenges. Guest speakers include; Mr. Alan Fam, Chief Regional Officer of KUKA Robotics – APeC, Mr. Neoh Sin Joo, Regional Sales Director of KUKA Robotics – APeC, and Mr. Tawiwat Reongpunyaroj, Chief Executive Officer of KUKA Thailand & Vietnam.
Date: Wednesday 30 September 2020
Time: 16:00 – 17:15 (ICT)
Platform: Zoom (webinar link will be sent to you after registration is completed.)
CNC specialist NUM has launched digital twin technology that enables machine tool manufacturers to reduce their time to market dramatically, by using powerful Industry 4.0 simulation techniques.
Powerful 3D simulation realistically illustrates the dynamic operation of the machine.
Originally known as pairing technology, and first used by NASA in the early days of space exploration, digital twin technology is now rapidly gaining industry acceptance as one of the most cost-effective means of accelerating the development of products, processes and services.
For automation products such as machine tools, a digital twin is a virtual model that uses simulation, real-time data acquisition/analysis and machine learning techniques to allow full evaluation of a machine’s dynamic performance before constructing a physical prototype. The same technology can also be employed for customer presentations, virtual commissioning and operator training purposes – and all well before the actual machine itself has even been built.
NUM offers two versions of digital twin technology, to best suit customers’ needs. Both versions are designed for use with NUM’s, open-architecture Flexium+ CNC platform. One version uses a naked Flexium+ controller and resident virtualisation software running on the system’s industrial PC to simulate the twinned machine automation. The other version uses the actual Flexium+ controller that will eventually be incorporated in the machine, linked via EtherCAT to a standalone PC running specialist high speed hardware simulation software to represent the mechatronics of the twinned machine.
The virtual controller version includes a software development kit for creating the software model of the machine. The model is a standalone PLC program that uses predefined components to simulate individual machine elements, such as sensors, spindles, pneumatic cylinders, etc. It is loaded into the integrated PLC of the Flexium+ controller. The Flexium NCK in the controller executes the NC programs and simulates the changing position values of the machine’s axes. To help users visualise the process, NUM’s package includes the CODESYS Depictor software tool produced by CODESYS GmbH, which is used to produce 3D visualisations from the IEC 61131-3 code created by the simulation.
The other version of NUM’s digital twin technology package accommodates real-time data acquisition and analysis. It is based on the ISG-Virtuous hardware simulation software produced by Industrielle Steuerungstechnik GmbH (ISG). The Flexium+ controller that is intended to be used in the physical machine is connected via an EtherCAT network to a standard PC, and interacts with the simulation software in real-time. The PC acts as the twinned virtual machine – with all simulated, virtual components behaving like real components in terms of their interfaces, parameters and operating modes – to accurately replicate the structure and dynamic performance of the real machine. The movements of the machine are displayed realistically on the PC, using the supplied 3D simulation software.
NUM’s new digital twin technology provides machine tool manufacturers with a very powerful and cost-effective means of reducing their developments costs and accelerating their time to market. The virtual controller version is especially useful for the early development stage of a project, before the CNC system has been finalised, while the real-time hardware simulation version has the advantage that all sequencing (PLC) and motion control (CNC) programs that are created during development can simply be transferred to the real machine as soon as it becomes available.
Helping manufacturers build a position of strength to operate in a COVID-safe world remains mission critical for this year’s Industrial Transformation ASIA-PACIFIC – A HANNOVER MESSE EVENT (ITAP) from 20 to 22 October.
The event, in its 3rd edition, comes at a time when business transformation is pivotal to survival, scalability and sustainability. The COVID-19 situation has brought tremendous disruption to all industries and economies, forcing manufacturers and businesses to rethink their business strategies, relook business operations, recalibrate their resources and reskill their workforce. There has never been a more urgent need for a deeper understanding and adoption of Industry 4.0 (I4.0) solutions to emerge stronger in a post COVID-19 world.
Going digital-first for expanded outreach and growth opportunities
Amidst global travel and border restrictions, ITAP 2020 is poised to stage a first hybrid edition yet as it goes virtual with a custom-built interactive platform and physical bolt-on activities to optimise engagement and knowledge transfer opportunities beyond physical event barriers of time, language and geography. With ‘Forging Ahead with Industry 4.0 In the New Normal’ as the driving theme, ITAP 2020 devises innovative ways in the virtual space for stakeholders to continue to explore I4.0 solutions to aid and complement business operations.
“Business survivability and transformation are the two biggest challenges our customers in the manufacturing industry are now facing. More than just about increasing productivity, it is about finding new opportunities to urgently accelerate and support their agility and responsiveness,” said Mr Aloysius Arlando, CEO SingEx Holdings Pte Ltd, who co-organises ITAP. “In these trying times, establishing a hybrid platform will allow the community to easily collaborate on feasible solutions, optimise engagement and knowledge transfer, and find new growth opportunities.”
Heeding the call for bite-sized learning
This will not be the ITAP community’s first experience with virtual engagement sessions this year. Since May, SingEx Exhibitions has held regular virtual sessions under the ITAP Connect series, comprising interactive web engagement sessions to enable the community to continue interacting despite not being able to meet in person, as well as share case studies and learnings across borders with solution providers, domain experts and one another.
The sessions will also continue in the lead up to the main engagement from 20 to 22 October, when all learning and networking engagements will then be hosted on a dedicated virtual interactive platform. Registered participants will gain access to round-the-clock content on this platform with personalised recommendations of solutions and products, targeted networking and lead generation opportunities. The platform will also provide companies with a one-stop portal to showcase their solutions and conduct demonstrations for their products and services fashioned in the spirit of ITAP’s signature Learning Journey Approach and thematic zones – Gateway to I4.0, Robotics Experimental Experience Zone, the Collaboration Lab, as well as the Digital Sandbox. These will be complemented by physical bolt-on activities at specific locations with safety measures put in place to provide first-hand access to latest innovations, as well as maximize showcasing and networking opportunities for industry stakeholders in Singapore.
What a shock: at the turn of the year an arsonist sets fire in the production halls of Mühlhoff Umformtechnik on its site at the border with the Netherlands. The column of smoke can be seen for miles, resulting in damage in the high double-digit million euro range, including loss of production. But just six months later, the automotive supplier can start up again with its large presses: Schuler Service has already repaired two of the four damaged presses, and a new 2000-ton system from the TSD series is scheduled to go into operation in early 2021.
Mühlhoff managing director Markus Wermers had only been in office for three months when the fire broke out: “Just a few days later, Schuler Service was on site with nine employees.” Together, the decision is made to first repair the machines with 800 and 1,300 tons of press force that were only a few years old. In order to do this, the specialists have to replace the entire electrical and control system, and also remove several mechanical parts in order to have removed the contamination with soot and extinguishing water manually.
Mühlhoff can send some of the dies to the Schuler site in Erfurt so that parts production can continue there on a 1,600-ton press with TwinServo technology. “Other suppliers have also stepped in to process our orders,” recalls Wermers, who is currently running the business from a container in the parking lot – the administration building was also damaged by the major fire. He is grateful to his competitors for being able to continue to supply customers from the automotive industry with parts: “Everyone has helped so that everything can now gradually start up again.”
Mühlhoff Umformtechnik goes even further and is also investing in a new press from the TSD series with ServoDirect technology and 2,000 tons of press force. In addition, the system features the camera-based system “Visual Die Protection” and the “IIoT Connector” from Schuler, which enables numerous other Industry 4.0 functions such as process monitoring or predictive maintenance. “This means that we are optimally positioned for the future,” says production and project manager Christian Pennekamp with conviction. Pennekamp has been responsible for the configuration and project planning of the complex press systems at Mühlhoff for more than ten years.
Torsten Petrick has been appointed as the new Head of Schuler Service as of July 1, 2020. Previously, he built up and managed the company’s global procurement. Graduating from the Technical University of Braunschweig and until 2008, Petrick worked in various management positions in the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) division of MTU Aero Engines AG. Graduating from the Technical University of Braunschweig
“The service is available to customers around the world around the clock to ensure the productivity and safety of both Schuler systems and third-party products,” emphasises Petrick.
Digital solutions are now intended to further improve the flexibility and agility of the Schuler Service. With the camera-based “Visual Die Protection” or the “IIoT Connector” for presses in the era of Industry 4.0, Schuler offers several products for networking forming technology.
For the last few years, process efficiency has been one of the hottest industrial topics, as well as one of the pillars of the Industry 4.0 paradigm. Article by Gianfranco Gotter, Salvagnini Group.
Salvagnini offers a configurable system with store-towers and automatic loading, unloading, separation and stacking connections, which can be integrated with other technologies downstream, such as the panel bender, to machine a single batch, or JIT with small or very small sized batches.
When talking of combined sheet metal machining technologies, we tend to assess productivity only in terms of the production cycle time. But the industry has changed: flexibility and efficiency, of both individual machining stations and within the production process, are fundamental requirements for managing increasingly small batches and high code rotation indexes. Not by chance, for the last few years, process efficiency has been one of the hottest industrial topics, as well as one of the pillars of the Industry 4.0 paradigm.
Processing speed and flexibility are the factors leading to the choice of a combined system. But we have to consider at least four other decisive factors: the quality expected, the geometries of the parts being machined, the possibility of complying with lean production principles, and the automation options available.
While quality is an intuitive concept, to assess part geometries, lean production and system automation options, we have to look more closely at their meanings.
Rather than talking of traditional and new fields of application, it is perhaps more correct to divide the combined market into two macro-groups according to customers’ final product features, and the geometries of the parts to be produced. In the first group, we find companies that manufacture not particularly complex but highly configurable geometries.
In this context, the combined technology is interesting, because it allows two activities to be condensed into a single process. In a traditional production context, these would be two separate and consecutive activities—and here, a number of inefficiencies may occur: availability of the subsequent machining station and the operator, handling of semi-finished parts, process errors, waiting times linked to tool changes, and so on. In this sense, the combined system demonstrates all its flexibility.
The second group, on the other hand, includes companies that manufacture products consisting of parts which, due to their design and functional characteristics, require machining that cannot be done on a conventional punching machine but require technology that overcomes the limits of the laser to obtain, for example, forming operations.
In this case, too, the winning feature is the combination, the sum of the two punching and laser cutting activities. Not so much with a view to flexibility as to process optimisation and the availability of two different technologies in a single system. This group generally includes younger customers who machine parts for the IT, electronics, gaming, telecommunications, medical, automotive and aerospace sectors.
Compliance with Lean Production Principles
When it comes to lean production, I think above all of the possibility to reduce stocks, waiting times and activities with low added value. As an example, the hidden costs of intermediate, often superfluous handling can reach surprising levels. But I also think of activities like separating parts from the skeleton, or moving parts from one work station to the next: these low-added-value activities require time and labor. They are manual operations which also imply risks: for example, in contexts with a medium-high production mix and medium-large batches, damaged or lost parts are not rare.
TRUMPF and the Stuttgart-based Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA have formed a research alliance that is set to to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for connected manufacturing on an industrial scale. Running until 2025, ten employees from TRUMPF and Fraunhofer IPA are involved in the project, which will receive some two million euros of funding spread over the next five years.
“TRUMPF’s mission is to further extend its AI leadership in sheet-metal fabrication. To that end, we have already started investing in the kind of future technologies that will drive major efficiency gains within our company and boost our competitiveness,” says Thomas Schneider, managing director of development at TRUMPF Machine Tools.
Five years have passed since TRUMPF and Fraunhofer IPA joined forces to work on smart factory topics, and the two partners will be continuing to pursue these existing projects within the framework of their new research alliance.
“TRUMPF has been working with us on connected manufacturing for years because they share our view that Industry 4.0 developments represent a major opportunity. Everything depends on what happens over the next few years – so these are exciting times! We expect the coronavirus pandemic to act as a kind of catalyst: those who are well prepared will be perfectly placed to exploit the huge opportunities that lie ahead. Soon we’ll see whether we have laid the right foundations for the future in our joint projects,” says Professor Thomas Bauernhansl, director of Fraunhofer IPA.
Future projects aim to make AI explainable
One of the goals TRUMPF and Fraunhofer IPA hope to achieve over the next five years is to develop solutions for better data quality in manufacturing. This reflects the crucial importance of high-quality data when it comes to achieving efficiency gains with AI. To address this need, the two partners will be increasing their research activities in the field of explainable artificial intelligence, or XAI. Their goal is to make the operation of neural networks interpretable. New findings in this area are of great benefit to sheet-metal fabricators. The results of this kind of data analysis can boost the quality of manufacturing, save time and cut costs.
The world may seem a very different place to what it was a few short months ago. Yet from a manufacturing point of few, many of the trends identified before the coronavirus crisis are just as relevant today as they were before. In this article, John Young, APAC director at EU Automation, analyses some of the latest manufacturing challenges faced by machine shops and what manufacturers should do to improve their processes.
It has already become a cliché to say that the coronavirus pandemic changes everything. Yet if we step back from the present moment, we find that many of the key challenges and trends that will continue to impact manufacturing most in the months and years ahead are the very same things we have been talking about before the current crisis.
The key challenge—or opportunity—is the potential impact of new technologies, particularly those associated with the fourth industrial revolution. The question was if and how these technologies would fundamentally transform machine shops. Will the impact of coronavirus slow the adoption of the technologies of the future, as business uncertainty leads companies to think twice about expensive upgrades? Or will it speed up the revolution that was already underway, as there now appear to be even greater reasons for automating manufacturing processes? The answer, if I could tentatively suggest one, will be a bit of both.
Accelerating the Uptake
We have read regularly in these pages about the marvels of new technologies. Whether we are talking about additive or subtractive manufacturing, or the latest machines combining greater functionality into a single footprint. Five-axis CNC machining, for example, allows machines to work with more complex geometries and produce cuts that would have been inaccessible for an older machine working on three axis.
Machine shop owners must judge if and when to invest in these upgrades. It is arguable that the lure of increased automation will be stronger now than ever before. Machine shops that require less human input because more basic processes are automated had their appeal before. Many machine shops were opting for greater automation when making purchasing decisions, even if it took a year or so to fully integrate.
The early adopters will feel that their course of action has been validated by recent events and they now appear more resilient in the face of contemporary challenges. With a reduced need for direct human involvement in the manufacturing process, they are less vulnerable to the impact of shutdowns or prolonged social distancing measures.
Similarly, digitalisation not only offers gains in efficiency and removes the risk of human error, but also more easily allows for remote monitoring. Factors such as these give many of the technologies associated with the fourth industrial revolution an added bonus right now. We told you so, you might hear their advocates cry.
If the current crisis does precipitate an accelerated uptake of new technologies, then that is to be celebrated. However, those who cannot afford expensive upgrades or systems overhauls need not feel like they are being left behind. It is probably more sensible to talk of evolution rather than revolution and its unfolding will be far from uniform.
Manufacturers therefore need to carefully tread the middle line between enthusiastically accepting the benefits of new technology on the one hand, while on the other knowing that a one-size fits all approach would not be appropriate.
The Inevitability of Obsolescence
Obsolescence is a logical consequence of this technological evolution and managing it is a major challenge for machine shops and manufacturers. Technological obsolescence takes place when a particular technology is rendered less useful by new technologies becoming available. In machining, punched tape technology was made obsolete by the emergence of modern CNC machines.
Product obsolescence is the term we use to refer to a situation where an OEM no longer supplies a part. This is set to become a greater problem in the coming years.
One factor driving this trend is the increased reliance on computers and electronics. Industrial systems are typically built to last for many years. Many electronic components have shorter life spans because development is driven by the needs of a consumer market, not the needs of industry. This is a dilemma that the previous generation of machine shop owners did not have to contend with.
For manufacturers looking to improve their processes, the first thing to understand here is that the word obsolescence has too many unwarranted negative connotations. Say obsolete and people think, useless, redundant or out of date.
The demand for measurement tasks in which tactile and optical sensors are jointly used is set to rise more and more in the future. Here’s a technology that saves time and operating costs without compromising on reliable, precise measurement results. Article by ZEISS.
When it comes to maximum precision, coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) are an indispensable tool in industrial applications. To date, they have mainly been used for tactile measurement. In recent years, the need for and use of optical sensors is becoming increasingly significant. There are many reasons for this: the technical advancements being experienced in many sectors require increasingly complex parts; digitalisation and Industry 4.0 are changing manufacturing processes and thus also quality assurance; and customers have higher quality and efficiency demands, in general, nowadays. Many companies are therefore expressing the need for an all-round solution, that is, tactile and optical measurement on a CMM.
One example is the ZEISS CONTURA. Already in its fifth generation, ZEISS CONTURA is equipped with mass technology (multi-application sensor system) as standard, enabling tactile and optical measurement on a single machine. The multisensor platform means it is compatible with a variety of sensors from the ZEISS portfolio: sensors on the continuous articulating unit, star styluses or long styluses, optical or tactile, and scanning or with single point measurement. Thanks to the mass technology from ZEISS, the user acquires maximum flexibility.
Simple Sensor Switch
With ZEISS mass technology, when the sensors are operated on the continuous articulating unit, they are switched automatically. This applies to all optical sensors as well as the ZEISS VAST XXT and XDT tactile sensors.
During the sensor switch, the continuous articulating unit aligns itself in a 90 deg position, with the sensor pointing downwards. It then moves to a free place in the sensor magazine, which is usually attached to the reverse end of the measuring stage, pushes the safety flap back, moves downwards into a groove, and releases the magnetic locking mechanism in order to unlock the sensor. The new sensor is picked up in a similar way: the continuous articulating unit moves backwards and opens the safety flap, moves downwards and picks up the sensor magnetically. On the plate holding the sensor, there are three cylinder-shaped rollers which ensure that the counterpart is precisely positioned on the sensor.
Therefore, even after frequent switches, the sensor is reproducibly situated at the correct point. The measurement uncertainty is not increased by any significant extent due to the sensor bracket. Users do not need to worry that the accuracy may get out of hand if the sensor is switched repeatedly. Due to the high repetition accuracy during the sensor switch, it is not necessary to recalibrate the sensor after the switch has been carried out. Since the automatic exchange itself takes only a few seconds, ZEISS mass technology means an enormous boost in productivity – and thus time and cost savings.
The continuous articulating unit itself, as well as tactile probes from the ZEISS VAST XT gold series, are attached to the ZEISS CONTURA by means of a dovetail mechanism. This is a groove which the counterpart on the sensor or on the continuous articulating unit is pushed into and which, due to its shape and precise processing, does not allow any leeway whatsoever. Handling is easy too: the measuring technician loosens a screw mechanism and pulls the sensor or the continuous articulating unit out of the groove and inserts the new sensor. The sensor switch is completed within seconds. However, a repeated calibration is crucial during a sensor switch and is especially useful when using an active tactile sensor such as ZEISS VAST XT gold, which offers high measuring accuracy, short measurement times and long stylus lengths. All other sensors—passive, tactile as well as optical—are ideally operated on the continuous articulating unit—with all the advantages of the automatic sensor switch of ZEISS mass technology.
Optical Measuring Procedures
Optical measuring procedures are particularly interesting in parts with complex shapes if the user is required to record the surface quickly. This is useful in production in order to safeguard the quality of process steps, such as casting metal blanks or after grinding, in order to obtain a quick comparison between the current and target values of the CAD file. Optical sensors are also ideal for reverse engineering, that is, in order to generate CAD data from a prototype. Optical measurement procedures are often faster than tactile procedures and nonetheless sufficiently accurate. For sensitive parts which may not be touched, there is no alternative to optical sensors.
Various optical sensors can be more suitable depending on the application:
Chromatic-confocal white light sensor: This type of sensor is used in the area of application of workpieces with sensitive, soft, reflective or low-contrast surfaces. It records the surface of sensitive parts which may not be touched—where tactile styluses are obviously excluded. This sensor even detects transparent painted surfaces above underlying metallic layers and is suitable for transparent layers with various refractive indices. For this purpose, the sensor uses white light, which includes all wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Even strongly reflective surfaces such as glossy metal parts either in automotive and engineering or knee implants do not need to be sprayed with a contrast medium, which other optical measurement methods usually require.
ZEISS offers such a pioneering chromatic confocal white light sensor: DotScan. The sensor can be rotated and swiveled in 2.5 deg steps so that it is always optimally aligned towards the surface. In conjunction with the optional rotary stage, it is suited, for example, to the quality control of parts with complex shapes as well as glass surfaces.
Triangulation laser: suitable for the fast recording and inspection of freeform surfaces such as those required by casting tools or castings, bent sheets or plastic covers also require non-tactile measurement. The sensor moves above the part at a distance of a few centimetres and projects a line with laser light, which is thrown back from the surface into a sensor chip. Based on the angle, the sensor determines the distance from the part and therefore its surface shape. Each time the light is projected, the sensor determines hundreds of points in a line.
The maximum possible number of points with ZEISS LineScan is 700,000 measurement points per second—the number of rough points which are then calculated to provide actual measurement points in the software. Thus, point clouds which fully record the complex surfaces of even larger parts can be created in just a few minutes. Based on the point cloud, the ZEISS CALYPSO software calculates a chromatic representation using the CAD target data record as a comparison.
2D camera sensor: for very small or two-dimensional parts such as circuit boards or flat parts made of sheet metal that cannot be measured using contact means because it may result in deformation of their surfaces, the ZEISS ViScan 2D rotatable camera sensor is the ideal solution. It is capable of recording height-related information, thanks to the Autofocus function, as well as features various objective lenses, enabling increased flexibility in the working distance, area being recorded and accuracy.