Two Polish software developers engage in conversation weekly on The Podcast. One wrote the original version of Nozbe the Getting Things Done app I use. Michael Sliwinski talked of using open source software to help him write his app and start his company. His Apple developer Radek Pietruszewski in episode 157 discussed how they wrote a piece of database code they dubbed WatermelonDB and released it into open source on GitHub.
I talk about the benefits of open source as an introduction to things I gleaned from last week’s annual trip to the Sacramento, CA area and the Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference. Community was the operative word as the gathering of several hundred (I never heard an exact count, but the rumor was there were more than 600) integrators and users crowded into the Harris Center in Folsom for conversation, training, and updates.
On a side note, I’ve been unusually swamped with my annual project of assigning referees to high school and US Soccer youth contests. It seems as if half of the preliminary work I put in assigning before the season were washed away in an unusually wet late summer. Rescheduling is hell. Referees are tired of hearing from me. But I have only 2.5 weeks left in the high school season and two weeks beyond that will close the club season. Then I take a six-month break. Therefore, my energy level for writing has been sapped and the frequency here and on my podcast have suffered.
Founder and CEO Steve Hechtman betrayed his usual laid back demeanor talking about company growth and especially the latest release—Ignition 8—to be released in a few months. I have few details, but developers solved many platform problems caused by integrators pushing the envelop of HMI SCADA software.
Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson told how the company has always embodied the OT/IT convergence meme with Hechtman coming from an OT background as an integrator and co-developers and now co-directors of software engineering Carl Gould and Colby Clegg were trained in IT technologies.
Pearson began the discussion of open source that continued throughout the conference. While Inductive Automation has always been a proponent of open standards—it still fully supports OPC UA, for example—it is also an open source user and contributor. The technologies strongly promoted at the conference were MQTT (a transport protocol) and Sparkplug (an information carrier in this case used to communicate Ignition tag information from source to consumer). Developer Cirrus Link has placed Sparkplug in the open source Eclipse Foundation.
Speakers talked with assurance about open source, but there was a thread of defensiveness in the discussion, too. Pearson quoted Maeterlinck, “At every crossroad on the way that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.” Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich proclaimed, “Software is eating the world, and open source is eating software.”
I like both open source and open standards. They both have propelled industry enabling innovation and limiting lock-in. I remember downloading the first Java JDK in the 90s and trying out the eclipse platform in early 2002. All pretty cool stuff. The Inductive Automation adoption of open source is refreshing in the industry.
Here are a few bullet points from the Carl-Colby show introducing Ignition 8:
- Building on the past, but with a new beginning
- New platform:
- Revamped tag system to reduce memory overload
- New scripting app
- Subscription and data model
- Dynamic writable UDT parameters
- Deployment architecture, true project inheritance
- Project resource management
- Ignition perspective, new mobile module, built up from ground new
I really should add that while Ignition is very good software, most of the people at the conference told me that they were enticed into the system by the pricing. From the beginning, Inductive Automation decided to upset the software pricing model prevalent in the industry. It is a growing company…
Inductive had acquired an MES company, integrated with Ignition, and has now spun it off into a separate company run by Tom Hechtman, brother to Steve. Its modular software includes many typical MES applications such as track and trace, workflow, OEE, recipe management, and more. Hechtman discussed a Lean Six Sigma tool kit. He noted the staff has doubled in the nine years since acquisition. It is an ISA 95 and B2MML solution. And also now a MESA International member.
Other notes from the conference
Table top exhibits from the conference sponsors were always packed with curious engineers seeking solutions.
Opto 22’s VP Marketing Benson Hougland told me they can’t build the Groov EPIC PLC fast enough for demand. That product combined with Ignition is a powerful control and SCADA platform—as sales attest.
Albert Rooyakkers, founder/CEO of Bedrock Automation told me that his sub-$1000 controller is selling well. Bedrock specializes in secure and hardened controllers—ideal for power, pipeline, and other such applications. He told me, “Secure SCADA with Ignition is coming.” His key word is secure.
IMTS has been a huge show for many years. As you might expect from a trade show, the theme is broad. Exhibitors are a diverse lot. Things I saw indicating a new wave of technologies including machines designed to work with humans (so-called “cobots”) and various aspects of Industrial Internet of Things. Following are a few specifics.
Formerly the International Machine Tool Show and now the International Manufacturing Technology Show, the South Hall of Chicago’s McCormick Place is still filled with huge machining centers. The North Hall was packed with robotics, components, and other automation products. Much of this flows over to the East Hall where several aisles were devoted to Hannover Messe automation companies—my sweet spot. Even the West Hall was packed.
Beckhoff proclaimed, “Solve the IoT hardware, software and networking puzzle.”
The company introduced ultra-compact Industrial PCs (IPCs). These IPCs are Microsoft Azure Certified and can work just as easily with other major cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and SAP HANA.
Significant updates will span three key areas of the TwinCAT software suite: new HTML5-enabled TwinCAT HMI for industrial displays and mobile devices, important data processing expansions in the TwinCAT Analytics offering, and TwinCAT 3 Motion Designer, which adds a deep set of valuable tools to commission entire motor, drive and mechanical systems in software. Motion Designer can be integrated into the standard TwinCAT 3 software platform or it can be used as a stand-alone motion system engineering tool.
EK1000 EtherCAT TSN Coupler expands the industrial Ethernet capabilities of the EtherCAT I/O system to utilize TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) technology. The EK1000 enables communication among high-performance EtherCAT segments with remote EtherCAT controllers via heterogeneous Ethernet networks.
Ideagen plc, the UK-based software firm, announced the acquisition of American quality inspection software provider, InspectionXpert. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, InspectionXpert currently generates $2.8 million in revenue and will bring more than 1,000 clients including Boeing, Kohler and Pratt & Whitney to Ideagen’s existing customer base.
Speaking at IMTS, Chicago, Ideagen CEO, Ben Dorks, said: “As well as significantly enhancing our manufacturing supply chain product suite, the acquisition of InspectionXpert provides Ideagen with a fantastic opportunity for growth by broadening upsell and cross-selling opportunities, increasing our customer footprint and expanding our geographical reach.”
InspectionXpert’s products, InspectionXpert and QualityXpert, enable organizations in the precision manufacturing industry and associated supply chains to simplify inspection planning, execution and reporting and general quality through digitalization of paper-based processes.
InspectionXpert and QualityXpert will be integrated into Ideagen’s existing software suite, which will enhance Software as a Service (SaaS) revenues and provide excellent opportunities for future growth.
Energid released Actin 5, an update to its robot software development kit (SDK). Called the industry’s only real-time adaptive motion control software, it allows robotic system developers to focus on the robot’s task rather than joint movement and paths. It responds in real time to sensory input and directs the robot on the most efficient path while avoiding collisions. The robot motion is updated dynamically without requiring reprogramming, even in dynamic, mission-critical environments.
Forcam develops software solutions in the area of MES, IIoT, and OEE. It leans into the trend of developing platforms. Its platform is built with open APIs with the latest programming languages and tools. It supports Microsoft Azure Cloud, SAP ERP, Maximo maintenance/asset applications, and Apple iPads for input. The platform helps reduce integration time and expense.
I came across the Dell Technologies booth in the automation hall. The big news was a collaboration with Tridium and Intel for IIoT solutions.
The IIoT solution is built on the Niagara Framework, Tridium’s open technology platform, and combines software and consulting services to help customers begin the digital transformation of their businesses.
The Niagara-based IIoT solution built with Dell and Intel technology will comprise a complete hardware and software stack delivered as a finished solution for ease of adoption, and will encompass consulting services from subject matter experts to support implementation. The application layer of the IIoT solution is being developed and supported by Tridium and will expand over time with solutions designed for the telecom and energy sectors.
Developing digitalization using standards from plant design engineering through the entire production process and extending to the supply chain remains core to my interests. My past work with MIMOSA pointed to this. Siemens strategic moves are fascinating in this regard.
I started this post just when my project sucked all of my energy and then I went to IMTS. This is significant. Especially competitively. I see Rockwell Automation doing nothing like this—only the investment with PTC gaining a seat on the board and a connection to ThingWorx and Kepware within the company. Meanwhile I just interviewed Gary Freburger and Peter Martin from Schneider Electric process business, and they talked some about the integration with AVEVA along these same lines.
Siemens and Bentley Systems Announcement
In the companies’ latest Alliance Board meeting, Bentley Systems and Siemens decided to further strengthen their strategic alliance. The two companies have decided to extend their existing agreement, to further develop their joint business cooperation and commercial initiatives. Therefore, the joint innovation investment program will be increased from the initial €50 million funding to €100 million. In addition, as a result of the continuous investment of Siemens into secondary shares of Bentley’s common stock the Siemens stake in Bentley Systems now exceeds 9%.
Klaus Helmrich, member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG, said: “I’m very pleased with how strong our alliance started. Now we are investing in the next collaboration level with Bentley, where for instance we will strengthen their engineering and project management tools with Siemens enterprise wide collaboration platform Teamcenter to create a full Digital Twin for the engineering and construction world.”
He added: “Integrated company-wide data handling and IoT connectivity via MindSphere will enable our mutual customers to benefit from the holistic Digital Twins.”
Greg Bentley, Bentley Systems CEO, said: “In our joint investment activities with Siemens to date, we have progressed worthwhile opportunities together with virtually every Siemens business for ‘going digital’ in infrastructure and industrial advancement. As our new jointly offered products and cloud services now come to market, we are enthusiastically prioritizing further digital co-ventures. We have also welcomed Siemens’ recurring purchases of non-voting Bentley Systems stock on the NASDAQ Private Market, which we facilitate in order to enhance liquidity, primarily for our retiring colleagues.”
I haven’t been here for a while. I do project work (when I can get it), and every late summer/early fall my for 30 years has been assigning referees to soccer matches. This year western Ohio has witnessed more rain than I remember. My rain gauge showed 11 inches from last Wednesday evening until early Sunday. (I know compared to the hurricane coming, that’s nothing. But if the rain from the hurricane hits us as it often does, then we will have standing water everywhere.)
Since Thursday, I’ve spent 8 hours or more a day reassigning referees to rescheduled games. Looks like things are calming down.
I drove up to IMTS in Chicago Monday morning. Walked 10 miles Monday and Tuesday, saw lots of people, got some industry gossip…and saw some cool technology.
- Sat in an OPC Foundation briefing—many good things are happing with the Foundation and OPC UA adoption and extension.
- 3D printing has really come of age already as a production-ready technology. I saw many cool demonstrations. If you are manufacturing piece parts with complex geometries, you had better check this out.
- Collaborative robots (Universal was everywhere) including Universal and Rethink Robotics are gaining acceptance and broadening the idea of applications.
- Intelligent end of arm tooling for these robots is growing—I talked with OnRobot among others.
- Marrying robotic technology to factory autonomous vehicles is a growing category. I’ve interviewed MiR a few times.
- I talked with a developer with Energid who sells a SDK for robotics. If you need to design multi-axis motion coordinated motion, check it out.
I will do more in-depth later. Just taking a lunch break on the way back home.
Humans are still essential for many manufacturing processes. Especially for assembly. But assuring the correct parts go in the assembly in the correct orientation is essential. Enter an augmented reality (AR) tool to help.
Light Guide Systems partnered with information technology company HP Inc. to release a tech tool an augmented reality (AR) dubbed Light Guide Stratus. Leveraging Sprout Pro computing platform by HP, Light Guide Stratus provides a flexible, adaptable benchtop platform for assembly processes.
Light Guide Stratus builds on the company’s initial product Light Guide Systems Pro, which launched in 2016. The Stratus system integrates the Sprout Pro directly into a bench structure to increase the display surface area and free up critical space on the workstation. This expanded workspace can be used to integrate new types of applications and tools for a particular assembly sequence.
“The launch of Light Guide Stratus is a testament to the growing demand for flexible and powerful AR guidance systems,” said Paul Ryznar, OPS Solutions founder, president and CEO. “We knew that Light Guide Systems Pro brought a critical level of functionality and flexibility to improve outcomes for nearly any industry. We expect Light Guide Stratus to address even more applications and become an integral part of assembly and manufacturing operations for companies in every space, from medical to auto to aerospace and energy.”
Light Guide Systems projects a digital operating “canvas” onto virtually any work surface to provide audio and visual prompts, guidance, pacing, and direction. Light Guide Systems Pro takes the tool to the next level by incorporating its proprietary software into the Sprout Pro PC platform. Light Guide Stratus takes user experience into account with a flexible and repeatable design that opens up the workspace.
“HP’s Sprout Pro with Light Guide Systems reduces training time and improves quality in manufacturing assembly through projection and scanning in an augmented reality platform,” said Louis Kim, vice president and general manager of Immersive Computing, HP Inc. “Light Guide Stratus demonstrates the flexibility of the Sprout Pro platform combined with Light Guide’s innovation and leadership.”