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.
This post regarding magnetic encoders is not my typical news. I met with the company at Automation Fair a couple of weeks ago. It’s the newest thing I’ve heard in encoders in a while. Thought I’d pass it along for all you servo engineers and business development managers out there.
POSITAL’s new family of kit encoders provide the manufacturers of servomotors and other machinery with rugged, accurate and cost-efficient tools for building rotary position measurements into their products. The new kit encoders are based on POSITAL’s self-contained magnetic rotary encoders. Now however, the core components of these instruments are available as separate assemblies that can be readily integrated into other products.
The POSITAL kit encoder components offer a number of advantages over the rotation measuring devices that have traditionally been used with servomotors and rotating equipment. Compared to resolvers, they are more accurate and offer multi-turn measurement capabilities. They also provide digital outputs instead of the analog signals produced by resolvers. While POSITAL’s magnetic encoder technology provides slightly less precision than the best optical disk encoders, it is less costly, less vulnerable to contamination from oil or dust and more resistant to shock and vibration. POSITAL encoders also provide an all-electronic multi-turn absolute position measuring capability that evaluates the full absolute angular position, including the total number of shaft rotations. The rotation counter is powered by the company’s well-proven Wiegand-effect energy harvesting technology so that rotation counts are always accurate, even if the rotations occur when external power is unavailable. This system eliminates the need for backup batteries or for the geared optical disks used in some products.
POSITAL magnetic kit encoders are easy to incorporate into normal manufacturing processes since they don’t require extra-precision, near-cleanroom assembly conditions. A built-in self-calibration capability can compensate for small sensor-to-shaft alignment errors. The electronic components, including Hall-effect sensors, a 32-bit microprocessor and the Wiegand-wire energy harvesting system, are packaged in a convenient 36 mm diameter, 24.2mm deep unit. For servomotors with magnetic brakes, a special magnetic shield has been developed to isolate the magnetic pickups of the measurement system from the external magnetic fields.
The resolution of the new POSITAL kit encoders is 17 bit, with an accuracy of better than + 0.1°. The operating temperature range is -40 to +105 °C. These devices are available with a variety of non-proprietary communications protocols, including BISS, SSI and RS485-based protocols.
POSITAL is a supplier of advanced industrial position sensors used in a wide variety of motion control and safety systems. The company is also an innovator in product design and manufacturing processes and a pioneer of Industry 4.0 (Industrial Internet of Things/IIoT), offering customers the benefits of built-to-order products combined with the price advantages of mass-production. POSITAL is a member of the international FRABA group, whose history dates back to 1918, when its predecessor, Franz Baumgartner elektrische Apparate GmbH, was established in Cologne, Germany to manufacture relays. Since then, the company has played a trendsetting role in the development of rotary encoders, inclinometers and other sensor products. POSITAL has a global reach with subsidiaries in Europe, North America and Asia – and sales and distribution partners around the world.
The Festo International Press Conference has taken me on manufacturing and technology tours to Germany and Hungary in the past. This year’s event was a short drive down Interstate 75 to Cincinnati, Ohio. Here a large international press contingent toured its new $70 M state-of-the-art distribution and manufacturing center.
The facility features a highly automated order picking system unique to the manufacturing industry in North America and only comparable to the highly sophisticated warehouse systems of the strongest retail brands. With these new premises Festo is now able to triple its capacities: This allows for more flexibility, improved services and offers plenty of space for future growth.
Excellent growth prospects
The center is designed to allow for the speed and flexibility needed to accommodate Festo’s future growth in the NAFTA market (US, Canada and Mexico). The RSC will also support the expected growth in Mexico, which is becoming a recognized hub for the automotive industry. The new center has Foreign Trade Zone status, which makes it faster and more efficient to support customers in the US, Canada and Mexico from a central US location.
With a storage capacity of 65,000 bins, the highly automated warehouse system – implemented by Witron, the leading designer and supplier of fully automated warehouse and logistics systems – features seven high-performance picking stations and the capability to pick and pack 1,000 items per hour. “As regional and US sales continue to grow, this Regional Service Center will provide a strong product supply backbone for the North American market with best in class supply chain performance“, said Yannick Schilly, Head of Product Supply NAFTA
and RSC Mason.
Festo Value Production (Lean)
The facility features an implementation of the Festo Value Production system (FVP). This system is based on closely involving employees in defining standards and continuously improving processes and technical solutions. Great emphasis is placed on consistent communication as well as the visualization of objectives and results. It is thus possible to produce globally over 30,000 products with countless variants and deliver tailor-made solutions to customers all over the world within a matter of days.
The Regional Service Center features both an assembly area and the warehousing/picking area. When assembly is completed, the finished product is transported to the Regional Service Center (RSC) for shipment. All components in a system are grouped by barcode, packaged for shipping, and then shipped out to schedule.
“Our customers in North America expect top quality ‘made by Festo’, with guaranteed supplies and next-day delivery at prices in keeping with local market conditions. At the same time, energy efficiency, environmental protection and occupational safety are becoming increasingly important. The Regional Service Center in Mason/Ohio will secure our regional supplies to the North American market for the years ahead,” concludes Dr. Dirk Erik Loebermann, Chief Operation Officer and Member of the Festo Management Board.
Training and Apprenticeship Program
Festo has established a separate group, Festo Didactic, which provides training and apprenticeship programs both for Festo products and systems as well as for automation in general. In Mason, Didactic has partnered with Sinclair Community College and five companies in the Cincinnati tri-state area (Art Metal Group, Clippard Instruments, Festo Inc., MQ Automation, Nestlé) to create a two-year Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program to help employers develop the skills that are missing in the workforce today by combining theoretical education, hands-on training, and on the job training. The apprenticeship is designed to help individuals learn advanced manufacturing skills as well as earn an associate’s degree in mechatronics.
The first cohort of the program includes 11 apprentices who are training for careers as maintenance technicians, automation specialists, service technicians, and manufacturing technicians. The program uses the German apprenticeship model of dual education, where apprentices learn in a classroom and maintain a steady job.
Every week each apprentice spends one day at Sinclair Community College for classes, one day using state-of-the-art equipment at the new Festo Learning Center in Mason, and three days working at their respective employers. The apprentices are able to take what they learn in class, practice it at the Festo Learning Center, and then use that new knowledge and skill in a real-life work environment. “In terms of educational modality, the apprenticeship model couldn’t be a better fit for manufacturing,” says Vice President for Regional Centers at Sinclair Community College Scott Markland.
The Festo Learning Center is a unique part of the program. The Center is designed to meet international standards for production facilities and labs. It provides the apprentices a training facility where they can work with instructors on high-end Festo workstations that simulate a work environment and corresponds to their classroom curriculum.
For manufacturing companies in high-wage countries, Industry 4.0 provides an opportunity for remaining competitive on a global scale. “We are talking here about the transformation of industrial manufacture into a fully networked, flexible production system. To remain competitive, we must take the initiative with our characteristic spirit of inventiveness and give shape to this new development”, says Prof. Peter Post, Head of Corporate Research and Technology of Festo AG & Co. KG.
This transformation in the world of production is founded on digitalization, a crucial element in the merging of the virtual and real worlds. Prof. Post sees great potential here: “Digital refinement will give rise to increasingly intelligent products. In future, the individual elements of an overall system will be able to communicate with each other and autonomously control and regulate themselves. They are the core of industrial digitalization and support the production process through enhanced functionality – from classic aspects such as productivity and quality on to increasing individualization.”
To optimally leverage these new capabilities of intelligent products, cooperation needs to be established with many systems and business processes. “Together with our partners in Industry 4.0, we’re currently defining the new language of Industry 4.0. The German ‘Plattform Industrie 4.0’ with its widespread members from office and shop floor, as well as from standardizations and associations, works on joint reference models and international standards. This will allow for engineering the digital work stream in a kind of plug&play manner! The intelligent devices will describe themselves and will autonomously find the right collaboration partners”, details Dr. Michael Hoffmeister, representing the portfolio management software of Festo AG & Co. KG. “In the future, digitizing these virtual added values of a component will be as important as manufacturing the physical part”, he says.
Being one of the main drivers of standardization within Industry 4.0, Dr. Hoffmeister points out, how important worldwide collaboration is: “We’re working technically closely together with our colleagues from the Industrial Internet Consortium. Our business scopes are complementing each other and our architectures are mapping together”.
Festo Customers in the Region
We toured two customer plants in the area. HAHN Automation and Storopack.
HAHN Automation is one of the leading manufacturers of special machinery for automated production. Its main customers are the automotive industry and its suppliers. “We have a firm focus on customer proximity, since that is the only way we can ensure our quality standards and guarantee intensive project support,” says John Baines.
This strategy has borne fruit, as shown by the successful cooperation with customers located within three hours’ drive of Cincinnati. The nationwide list of customers reads like a who’s who of the industry: from BMW to BorgWarner, Brose, Continental or Mitsubishi, HAHN Automation’s customers include most of the industry’s global players. Another practical point is the closeness of its own facilities to Cincinnati Airport, which is just ten minutes away. This also explains why the company is developing and supplying its site in Mexico from its US factory.
Modular cell concept
HAHN Automation’s main concept is the MasterCell. A MasterCell can either be used as an automatic single workstation with manual component placement or combined into technologically sophisticated automation systems. The modular system design is based on the principle of fast and cost-effective expansion in line with demand as production quantities increase. In the MasterCell modern robots as well as leading-edge assembly and testing technology are used, making it suitable for challenging assembly and testing processes.
The benefits for customers include the standardized cell structure, ease of handling and operation, ergonomic design, high quality, high availability, short delivery times, great economic efficiency, flexible degrees of automation and high levels of customizability.
Festo automation components play an important role in the MasterCell concept: from the modular automation platform CPX/MPA to pneumatic drives from the standard product range and pneumatic grippers, HAHN Automation uses key products from the automation specialist. These are used in almost all assembly cells.
Packaging material is a typical throwaway product. Packages arrive, are opened, the goods are removed, and the filler material is thrown away. “Hardly anyone – apart from Storopack – thinks about how important it is to select the right protective packaging products in the right quantity and quality for a particular application,” explains Daniel Wachter, President of Storopack for North America in Cincinnati, Ohio. Incorrect or inadequate filler material can damage goods in transit, while excessive or incorrectly inserted protective packaging material can significantly reduce productivity at packing stations in distribution centers.
Storopack produces – among other things – its AIRplus film rolls to supply to distributors and customers throughout the world. During the primary process, plastic granulate is formed into basic plastic film at blown film lines. This is then wound onto rolls by winding machines. These machines are equipped with standard cylinders DSBC which allow the rollers of the winding machines to be correctly aligned, depending on the load.
On configuration lines in the secondary process, the film is configured to the required dimensions and perforations and packed as finished AIRplus rolls. Stamping tools are used to seal and perforate the infinite plastic film to form air cushions of specific widths and lengths. These lines are also equipped with pneumatic cylinders DSBC, as well as rotary cylinders DSNU-PPS, compact cylinders ADN and short-stroke cylinders ADVC, controlled in each case by individual valves CPE 14.
Allen-Bradley CompactLogix I/O
I am spending the week with Rockwell Automation at its annual user conference and trade fair. Today was Integrated Control Architecture and Connected Enterprise day. More later on Connected.
The last two posts have been Rockwell and there is enough information for me to post many more times. We’ll see when I’ve run the course.
Someone asked me in the press room what was the most outstanding thing from the day on Wednesday, the first day of Automation Fair. The prompt response, “CompactLogix I/O.” First thing in the morning a trusted contact told me to check it out. I was not disappointed. I don’t have all the specs, but it is blazing fast.
Below are summaries of three announcements from Wednesday–Integrated Architecture which includes the I/O discussion, partnership with Fanuc, and some more detail about the “modern DCS” referred to a couple of posts ago on the Plant PAx product.
The expanded next-generation Integrated Architecture portfolio from Rockwell Automation includes a newly released next-generation Allen-Bradley controller, graphic terminal, servo drive and distributed I/O system, as well as the latest release of the Rockwell Software Studio 5000 and FactoryTalk software offerings.
“We’ve invested significantly in the Integrated Architecture portfolio to help our customers prepare their production environments for future growth, and help machine builders simplify machines and get them to market faster,” said Dan DeYoung, market development director, Integrated Architecture, Rockwell Automation. “With this new portfolio and our ongoing collaboration with our PartnerNetwork members, customers have the tools to more easily design, operate and maintain smart, high-performing systems.”
The new additions to the portfolio include:
- The latest release of the Studio 5000 software includes three new applications: Studio 5000 Architect, Studio 5000 View Designer and Application Code Manager. These applications, along with the Studio 5000 Logix Designer application released in 2012, bring more functionality together into one environment to simplify and speed system development. In addition, the latest releases of FactoryTalk ViewPoint Mobile software and FactoryTalk VantagePoint Mobile software allow users to more easily engage with their production information on mobile devices.
- The Allen-Bradley ControlLogix 5580 controller provides up to 45 percent more application capacity and includes an embedded 1-gigabit Ethernet port to support high-performance communications, I/O and applications with up to 256 axes of motion. The new port and additional capacity cuts the amount of control and communications hardware required, reducing system complexity, costs and required panel space.
- The Allen-Bradley Kinetix 5700 servo drive is a single-platform alternative to using multiple servo drives for large custom machines with high axis-count and power requirements. This can reduce cabinet-space requirements by up to 70 percent and wiring requirements by as much as 60 percent.
- The Allen-Bradley Bulletin 5069 Distributed Compact I/O system with two 1-gigabit Ethernet ports scans 10 times faster than previous versions for greater productivity. The system can connect to as many as 31 modules without the need to expand.
- The Allen-Bradley PanelView 5500 graphic terminal provides a modern design and enhanced integration with Logix controllers using the Studio 5000 View Designer application. This integration improves programming efficiency because engineers can enter configuration information once and use it for the entire automation design.
The expanded portfolio also incorporates a number of security features to help manufacturers and industrial operators protect their facilities, assets and intellectual property.
Rockwell – Fanuc Collaboration
Rockwell Automation and FANUC are collaborating on several new initiatives to help customers realize productivity gains.
“Industrial IoT technologies are delivering on the promise of enabling operators to have access to the timely, contextualized information they need in order to prevent downtime,” said Sujeet Chand, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Rockwell Automation. “Working with FANUC, we can help customers gain access to the data that previously was either unavailable or trapped in their operations. This data is drawn from smart industrial assets, and then contextualized and delivered with actionable information related to asset health, performance and energy usage.”
Major strides have been made in monitoring and managing remote assets to further extend The Connected Enterprise.
“Companies are continuously searching out the latest manufacturing technologies that will help them drive future growth, innovation and profitability,” said Rick Schneider, president and CEO, FANUC America. “In the future, products such as Zero Downtime (ZDT), a cloud-based application, could virtually eliminate unexpected production downtime.”
ZDT from FANUC demonstrates how cloud-based data analysis can predict and prevent unexpected downtime from automation equipment in a connected infrastructure built upon Cisco and Rockwell Automation products.
New system capabilities include a more productive design environment to enhance automation productivity; easier adoption of new enabling technologies to improve user experience; and enhanced control capabilities to help meet operational goals.
“The latest release of our modern DCS platform focuses heavily on improving automation productivity,” said Jason Wright, PlantPAx system marketing manager, Rockwell Automation. “The system now includes pre-built process control strategies to help users greatly reduce the effort and risk to deploy new applications, which helps improve their time-to-market.”
Increased Automation Productivity: The system now includes expanded estimation, design and development guides. New pre-built control strategies developed within the Rockwell Automation library of process objects provide a consistent user and maintenance experience.
Improved User Experience: Leveraging network improvements and built-in mobility, the PlantPAx system delivers an improved, reliable user experience. Expanded industrial Ethernet switches support Layer 3 topologies, enhancing scalability for a variety of applications. Smaller control systems can now be integrated into larger enterprise networks with a common, fully supported network infrastructure. The network switches include embedded Cisco technology to integrate and translate operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT). This makes it easier for process operators to configure and manage system networks.
The PlantPAx system also now includes a mobile component that enables users to create displays and interact with process data across any HTML5-compliant mobile platform. The software is responsive to the user’s specific device, allowing operators and plant managers to access and view performance metrics and data analytics in their preferred format.
Enhanced Control: New built-in control features – such as integrated PlantPAx model predictive control (MPC), alarm management and batch management – now operate in a common environment, helping to improve plant efficiencies and operational performance. Control-based PlantPAx MPC provides the ability to predictably manage external and complex process disturbances, and maximize process performance up to process constraints. This allows continuous improvements within the process while reducing waste and variability.
The updated system also leverages the recently introduced batch application toolkit to help reduce the risk, time and cost of implementing batch control systems. Containing documentation, application examples and sample code, the toolkit gives engineers a starting point to build and maintain a consistent batch control system. It also provides flexibility to customize system elements for increased functionality.
The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) today published a white paper entitled “Robots Fuel the Next Wave of U.S. Productivity and Job Growth” in which data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a wide range of manufacturing firms document how and why increasing the use of robots is associated with increased employment.
Key statistics from the A3 white paper show that during the non-recessionary periods – 1996-2000, 2002-2007, and 2010-2014 – general employment and robot shipments both increased. Since 2010, the robotics industry in the United States has grown substantially. Even during this period of record-breaking robot sales, U.S. employment increased. This new data is in stark contrast to media coverage and a perception that increasing use of robots causes higher rates of unemployment in the U.S.
At a glance:
- Robots save and create jobs
- Robots take care of the dull, dirty, or dangerous jobs
- Robots extend workplace functionality, improving the bottom line
- Robots are reviving American manufacturing
- Robots create better, safer, higher paying jobs
“We are seeing concrete shifts in the factors that resulted in cuts to the U.S. manufacturing work force over the past few decades,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “Manufacturing automation increasingly provides the flexibility in the variety of tasks robots perform to drive improvements in overall product quality and time to market.”
Burnstein concluded, “One of the biggest challenges we now face is closing the skills gap to fill jobs. Robots are optimizing production more than ever, increasing global competitiveness, and performing dull, dirty and dangerous tasks that enable companies to create higher-skilled, better-paying, and safer jobs where people use their brains, not their brawn.”
Correlation does not equal causation
The white paper overlays graphs of robot sales and US employment. I asked Burnstein if he is trying to show causation from the correlation. He said that was not the intent. “It is not so much to show causation as it is simply to refute the argument,” he told me in an interview preceding the release. Taking the argument that robots cause unemployment, one would expect climbing robot sales to be reflected in declining employment. Statistics do not support that supposition.
As companies seek to bring manufacturing operations stateside while remaining cost-competitive, they continue to turn to automation to help lead the new wave of productivity and job growth in the U.S.
“The whole premise for our company is to bring manufacturing back to this country, and our new robot fits perfectly with that master plan,” said Geoff Escalette, CEO of faucet-maker RSS Manufacturing & Phylrich in Costa Mesa, California. “Our robot not only makes it possible to increase production speed without buying additional CNC machines, but also helped us open up 30 percent more capacity on existing machinery.”
Robotics also helps companies stay competitive when seeking new talent—particularly those who are interested in long-lasting careers working with technology.
“It’s really an opportunity for us to grow,” reports Matt Tyler, president and CEO of Vickers Engineering, a contract precision engineering manufacturer in Michigan. “Because we have robotics and are able to compete on a global scale, it makes the U.S. more competitive in manufacturing, and that’s good for all of us.”
The white paper includes notes from other manufacturers who both acquired additional automation and people.
The Association for Advancing Automation is the global advocate for the benefits of automating. A3 promotes automation technologies and ideas that transform the way business is done. A3 is the umbrella group for Robotic Industries Association (RIA), AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging, and Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA). RIA, AIA, and MCA combined represent some 850 automation manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms from throughout the world that drive automation forward.
Machine Tool Controls
I’m returning to my roots with machine automation for a study on machine tool controls. I’d love to trade emails or chat with any of you who have any insight into CNC, servos, and other machine control systems.
Technology News Sources
I listen to a variety of podcasts when I work out or drive around town. One of my favorites for the past few years was Tekzilla. But its parent company sold and the new company shut down everything. (Why buy?)
Well, Patrick Norton and Shannon Morse are back with a video podcast that is a quick roundup of the latest tech news and some tips to make your tech work. Going out on their own, they are self-funding TekThing through Patreon. Another interesting idea to get good content published without the overhead and grief of selling advertising. Check it out and consider contributing.
Industrial Internet of Things
ARC Advisory Group is in the midst of a survey on manufacturer/producer interest in the Industrial Internet of Things.
Similar to most other surveys I’ve seen there is a lot of wait-and-see. Its preliminary results based on a population of only 38 reveal half are watching and considering, but actually doing nothing. Another 6 have no idea what IIoT is. That leaves about a third—about 14—who are actually doing something with IIoT.
It is early days in the buzz word part of IIoT, but we also know that many, if not most, companies who have HART are not using the digital diagnostics part of the network. So we have a ways to go.