Automation, Industry 4.0 supports post-pandemic manufacturing

Features - Design & Automation

In the social distancing era, technologies that allow manufacturers to limit the number of people on shop floors will be vital to industrial production.

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June 26, 2020

The global COVID-19 health crisis is accelerating smart manufacturing across the U.S. As the country moves toward the new normal, manufacturers will continue to use Industry 4.0 technologies and solutions to securely run their facilities remotely. Manufacturers are keen to harness Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions that optimize processes, limit on-site workers, and allow employees to run equipment from outside the facility.

Hannover Messe USA 2020 had expected to feature these technological advancements at a show co-located with IMTS 2020, however those shows fell victim to the pandemic. The following are some highlights of what visitors could have seen.

Remote machine operations, learning, maintenance

Beckhoff Automation’s TwinCAT remote automation technologies include TwinCAT Analytics One-Click Dashboard for Engineering 4.0 and TwinCAT Cloud Engineering software for Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 applications. The company’s TwinCAT 3 machine learning (ML) solution turns almost any PC-based system into a real-time control with multiple programmable logic control (PLC), numeric control (NC), computer numerical control (CNC), and/or robotics runtime systems plus the new TwinCAT IoT Communicator that provides secure transfer of process data to smartphones and tablets.

“Industrial automation experts who access our suite of IIoT cloud-based applications can achieve high levels of efficiency, enhance machine performance, and detect issues while working outside of the facility,” says Daymon Thompson, automation product manager – North America at Beckhoff Automation. “The One-Click Dashboard allows users to implement streamlined, data-driven analytics and data visualization in one simple mouse click. Cloud Engineering enables machines, plants, and production lines to be connected in ways that unlock their full efficiency potential across entire processes.”

Trinity Robotics Automation, a provider of custom robotic automation systems for aerospace, automotive, medical devices, and machine tool manufacturers, offers its AX line of automated pallet systems that allow manufacturers to automate new or existing CNC machines for lights-out production.

The AX product line features small, medium, and large configurations depending on machine size, part size, and weight capacity. Front- or side-loading applications are available.

“The AX product is a total automation system that is delivered turnkey and fully integrated with CNC machines to expand the machines’ unmanned, lights-out production,” says Derek Goodwin, general manager of Trinity Robotics Automation. “The AX uses a secure virtual private network (VPN) via industrial routers from Ewon to connect and run the system remotely.”

Remote connectivity, monitoring, control

In this new age of remote manufacturing and industrial digitalization, machines must communicate with one another to collect, process, and visualize data across connected factories. It’s possible to retrofit existing machines with a protocol translation solution that can translate different machine protocols into a common language across machines on the factory floor. Without employing a protocol translation solution, manufacturers must rely on disparate connections that don’t work together or on workers to go to each machine and manually gather information.

Harting America’s open source, edge-computing modular industry computing architecture (MICA) supports multiple manufacturing communications protocols.

“Protocol translation offers a quick and simple means for collecting automated insights about operations. These insights can then be used to provide significant benefits, such as time savings and increased operational efficiencies while safeguarding your workforce and data,” says Christina Chatfield, vice president of digital strategy and marketing communications at Harting.

Bright Wolf, a strategic digital transformation company that delivers customizable solutions at the industrial edge, has developed new remote-monitoring and control projects and capabilities.

“Bright Wolf approaches every project with a method best described as Zero Waste Engineering,” says Marc Phillips, director of marketing at Bright Wolf. “We start with an enterprise’s business goals to develop the right architecture, choosing the technologies that make the most sense for their unique requirements and vision. Critically, each step along the way maximizes learning, proves out new value, and expands a digital coalition across the entire organization. Our clients aren’t stopping at increased machine uptime and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) dashboards – they are connecting their machines, business applications, and workforce to create something new.”

Global automation system manufacturer and distributor Murrelektronik Inc.’s IO Systems products include Cube67 (pictured below), a family of fieldbus modules that transfer power and data in a single cable from one bus node to connected modules. The Cube67 diagnostic gateway gives users a visual representation of their entire IO platform, no matter how many modules are connected. With the gateway, manufacturers can access machine diagnostics and transmit data into the cloud.

“Our Cube67 diagnostic gateway is ideal for workforce social distancing,” says Aaron Henry, vice president of strategic development at Murrelektronik. “Any worker with access to the gateway can retrieve machine diagnostics via any smart device. When a fault is identified, specific instructions can be relayed so that maintenance can happen at a particular location on a specific machine, limiting the need for human contact around the entire machine,” adds Henry.

Offering a combination of augmented reality (AR), IIoT, product lifecycle management (PLM), and CAD solutions, PTC’s ThingWorx IIoT platform offers critical IIoT capabilities including connectivity across industrial automation assets, analytical processes, AR support, data access, and visibility. Also, PTC’s Kepware enhanced industrial connectivity software allows manufacturers to connect all industrial automation assets via a single, secure application. The company’s AR solutions include Vuforia Expert Capture, a workforce productivity solution delivered via headsets and mobile devices that offers step-by-step instructions to increase worker productivity, reduce training costs and waste, and improve worker safety.

Hannover Messe USA