Virtual Trade Show and Conference

This week I am attending the Festo Virtual Trade Show and Conference . The website provider is the same one as the Danish company I “toured” last week. It is similar to a concept I saw 20 years ago, but modern technology and design have made the experience very good.

I sat in a couple of conference sessions deepening my understanding of the latest in pneumatics and digitization. The discussion of digitizing and motion was good showing examples from OEE and energy savings. I am not a fan of OEE, but many companies seem fixated on it. It is a number–but I learned how the sausage was made 30 years ago and I remain unconvinced of its real utility. However, if you can digitize to calculate OEE, then you have data you could use in better ways for decision making.

I also learned about applications in process and water treatment.

The metaphor is a trade show lobby with doors for the auditorium for conference sessions, the show floor, information booth. Entering the show floor, there are a number of icons representing booths. Click on a booth and you can choose from short video demonstrations, downloadable papers, and product overviews.

You can attend yet today. It’s worth a look to see what perhaps may be a chunk of the future. I miss the energy and serendipity of live events. But this is an efficient way to collect information saving both the exhibitor and me great expense.

Revitalizing Manufacturing in Detroit

Revitalizing Manufacturing in Detroit

There are few things I find as exciting as exploring revitalizing manufacturing or production facility. When people and technology come together to make useful products in a clean and safe manner is art to me.

Therefore, I was happy that my Siemens contacts talked me into driving up to Detroit earlier than I planned to tour the Ford Livonia Transmission plant on March 19. I planned to come up for the noon tour at FlexNGate, but the changed plans worked wonderfully.

Ford Powertrain was a customer of mine in the 80s when I worked for a company that designed and built automated machines and then through the 90s when I was a sales engineer solving problems and selling automation and electrical equipment. So, I witnessed the beginnings of the evolution of these manufacturing plants from dark, dirty, smelly, oily, dangerous, loud environments to today’s clean, efficient, professional facilities.

Ford Livonia Transmission Plant

Mike Bastian, Advanced Engineering Manager Ford Powertrain, explained Ford’s journey from 2000 to present to increase use of digital in manufacturing—The Digital Manufacturing Strategy. He told me that since beginning the present system journey in 2008, they were doing IIoT before there was an IIoT.

Ford Livonia Tranmissions

Bob Groden, plant manager, described the journey that began with removing several obsolete lines, gutting the facility, painting and cleaning, and preparing for additional transmission assembly lines. This plant is huge. And he walks it three times a day greeting people and asking how things are going. As he told me, “I get my steps in.”

The three themes include people working together, safety, and quality. An important note: The plant continuously added people over the rebuild time all the while increasing automation. three themes; added people continuously all the while automating the plant. Groden and UAW Local President Keith Miller talk to every new employee class and then follow up with each later on the line.

Jon Guske, manufacturing engineering manager-feasibility, described a system the team built beyond the computer-aided engineering system—discrete event throughput simulation. It can connect to VR to help OEMs understand the process and product before beginning machine design. It even models chip removal in machining processes to improve manufacturing process.

  • Following are pieces of the Digital Manufacturing Strategy as bullet points:
  • Standard Hardware Architecture
  • IP65–removed all the large enclosures in the plant (aside, using Siemens because it could do it; one company went to management and flat out told them that Bastian was wrong, management said don’t ever say he’s wrong; another company gets to the spec via a work-around he didn’t like)
  • Common PLC/CNC
  • Common configuration and programming software
  • Integrated safety
  • Virtual commissioning
  • Obsolescence management (upgrade path)

Network Standard

Ethernet, specifically Profinet—called Control Production Network

  • Software Standard—Ford Automation Software Template
  • Standard function blocks
  • Standard HMI Screens
  • Standard linkages
  • OEMs are trained and must adhere
  • Lean Manufacturing Assistant
  • Process Configuration Management System
  • Condition Monitoring
  • Part Tracking System, extensive use of RFID

I had an opportunity during the tour to talk with Scott King, IT Lead, Advanced Manufacturing Powertrain, Solutions Development. I asked about the mythic IT/OT split and convergence. He basically said, “What split?” He sits with engineering advanced manufacturing lead and they discuss projects and problems daily. Plant projects teams include these roles—IT Solutions, Engineering, Product Lead, Operations. They’ve been working together for six years.

FlexNGate

FlexNGate is a Tier One supplier of stamped metal and injection molded plastic parts. The company has $6.5 B sales, 70 plants, and presence in many countries. It just built a 454,000 sq. ft. plant in burned-out Detroit neighborhood manufacturing parts for Ford Ranger. It is the largest investment in the city of Detroit in 20 years.

There were a couple of determining factors in the plant location. Ford wanted supplier to be local. The city wanted plants to locate in distressed areas that would also hire locally to provide jobs and hope to the area. They pledged 250 jobs, have 350 full time and 250 temporary and the plant is just a year old and still stabilizing processes after the significant production ramp up.

They run the new hires through training from such things as showing up on time every day, following work instructions, safety, and quality.

Two impressive facilities in one day. That’s a pretty good day.

Long Delayed Beckhoff Automation News from SPS

Long Delayed Beckhoff Automation News from SPS

I’m finally catching up on news from past trips. I stopped by the Beckhoff Automation booth at SPS in Nuremberg last November and chatted for about an hour over all the displays. Here is a sampling.

TwinSAFE: modular, scalable and distributed safety applications

The ability to distribute the intelligence of an entire safety application across multiple TwinSAFE Logic-capable I/O modules enables the flexible implementation of increasingly modular architectures that can be adapted to given system requirements even more effectively than before.

It is possible to adapt the TwinSAFE system even more specifically to the individual requirements of a machine concept as well as to a broader spectrum of safety applications. The new I/O components include:

– TwinSAFE EtherCAT Terminal EL1918: digital terminal with eight safe inputs

– TwinSAFE EtherCAT Terminal EL2911: safe potential supply terminal with four safe inputs and one safe output

– TwinSAFE EtherCAT Box EP1957-0022: IP 67-protected digital combi module with eight safe inputs and four safe outputs

System-integrated and inexpensive precision measurement technology for efficient machines and test benches

ELM314x economy line of the EtherCAT measurement modules supplements the established ELM3x0x line with a lower cost 1 ksps class. This simplifies the use of the system-integrated precision measurement technology, which taps significant optimisation and efficiency potentials both in production machines and in inline test benches.

The new ELM314x measurement modules are available in 2, 4, 6 and 8-channel versions. High-precision measurements with an accuracy of 100 ppm are possible – and in a wide temperature range from 10 to 40 °C at that. Each channel of the measurement modules can be set to current or voltage measurements with a sampling rate of up to 1 ksps per channel. Analog signals in the ranges from ±1.25 to ±10 V, 0 to10 V, ±20 mA or 0/4 to 20 mA can be processed.

Typical application examples include part geometry measurement on the fly, as well as fast, but highly precise weighing procedures, e.g. in bottling plants. In general, the ELM314x EtherCAT measurement modules are ideal for recording data from 10 V/20 mA sensors and forfeeding real-time information directly back into the process.

CX7000 Embedded PC

The CX7000 Embedded PC opens up the convenience and efficiency of the TwinCAT 3 software environment to compact controllers. This enhances the scalability of PC-based control technology from Beckhoff – ranging from mini-PLCs to many-core Industrial PCs. An advanced 400 MHz processor and built-in configurable I/Os mean the Embedded PC delivers an optimum price/performance ratio.

Equipped with an ARM Cortex-M7 processor (32 bit, 400 MHz), the CX7000 Embedded PC makes considerably higher processing power available in the low-cost, compact controller segment. Furthermore, all the advantages of the TwinCAT 3 software generation can be utilised, while an extremely compact design with dimensions of just 49 x 100 x 72 mm ensures optimum scalability of PC-based control for small controller applications that typically require minimum footprint.

With multi-functional I/O channels directly integrated, the CX7000 assures excellent value for money:

  • 8 digital inputs, 24 V DC, 3 ms filter, type 3
  • 4 digital outputs, 24 V DC, 0.5 A, 1-wire technology

These integrated multi-functional I/Os can be configured for other operating modes via TwinCAT 3, enabling the option to use fast counting or processing of analog values:

  • counter mode: 1 x 100 kHz digital counter input, 1 x digital input as up/down counter, 2 x digital counter outputs
  • incremental encoder mode: 2 x digital inputs for 100 kHz encoder signal, 2 x digital encoder outputs
  • analog signal mode: 2 x digital inputs configured as analog inputs 0…10 V, 12 bit
  • PWM signal mode: 2 x digital outputs configured for PWM signal

EtherCAT G

The technology expansion EtherCAT G takes the high EtherCAT performance to the next level by delivering the Gigabit Ethernet speeds needed to support highly data-intensive applications. The latest technology expansion is not only compatible with the globally established 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT standard, but also provides the same familiar ease of use. In addition, the new branch controller model for EtherCAT G enables efficient operation of multiple network segments in parallel.

EtherCAT G supports standard Ethernet transmission rates of 1 Gbit/s; its EtherCAT G10 counterpart, already introduced as a proof-of-concept technology study, is even faster with data rates of 10 Gbit/s. The sharp increase in transmission rates beyond the standard 100 Mbit/s provided by EtherCAT significantly increases the possible data throughput. With propagation delay times through devices as a limiting factor on the one hand, but boosted by the newly introduced branch model on the other, EtherCAT G can deliver a two-to-sevenfold performance increase, depending on the application.

Hans Beckhoff, the company’s Managing Director comments: “EtherCAT G and G10 raise performance to entirely new levels that will enable our customers to build the best, highest-performing machinery in the world! EtherCAT G and G10 are not meant to replace the highly successful EtherCAT standard based on 100 Mbit/s Ethernet. The new performance levels are intended as system-compatible expansions.”

XPlanar: Flying Motion

Beckhoff is opening up new avenues in machine design with XPlanar. This is made possible by planar movers that float freely above arbitrarily arranged planar tiles and enable extremely flexible, precise and highly dynamic positioning. For machine builders this results in maximum flexibility and simplification in the design of machines and plants.

The XPlanar system combines the individual arrangement of planar tiles with the multi-dimensional positioning capability of the planar movers floating above them. The movers can be moved jerk-freeand contact-free in two dimensions at up to 4 m/s with 2 g acceleration and 50 µm positioning repeatability – and noiselessly and without abrasion.

The planar motor system is highly scalable to suit individual needs and considerably simplifies the design of machines and plants. Due to the maximum flexibility in mover positioning and the very high dynamics it is possible, for example, to divide product flows very simply and individually, so that previously necessary robots or inflexible mechanical devices can be efficiently replaced. The contact-free mover travel also eliminates wear, emissions and the carryover of contaminations.

The collision-free and synchronised movement of several movers with automatic path optimisation are further features provided by the TwinCAT automation software. The movement of several movers together in a group, for example, allows the maximum payload to be increased.

Project Work and IMTS Update

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.

In brief:

  • 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.

Magnetic Kit Encoders Feature Multi-Turn Range with No Need for Backup Batteries

Magnetic Kit Encoders Feature Multi-Turn Range with No Need for Backup Batteries

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.

positalphoto1-kitencoderpositalPOSITAL’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.

positolphoto2-kitencoder-renderingPOSITAL 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.

Long Delayed Beckhoff Automation News from SPS

Festo Manufacturing and Distribution in the US

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.

assembly-2The 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.

logistics-2With 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

yannick-schillyand 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

didactic-4Festo 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.

Industry 4.0

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.”

dr-michael-hoffmeisterTo 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

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.

blown-film-lineStoropack 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.