Several Siemens news items have accumulated in my blog folder. Speaking broadly of Industrial Internet of Things applications, Siemens has added to its Industrial Edge portfolio and released a 5G router. It also has evolved its integration of robot libraries into its Totally Integrated Automaton (TIA) Portal.
Despite reports to the contrary, Siemens continues to innovate on its platform in order to stay abreast or even ahead of its smaller competitors. But it does confirm the idea that competition keeps companies on their toes ready to innovate in new directions.
Ready-to-use industrial edge platform for data processing on the production level
Industrial Edge V1.0 comprising the Edge Management system, edge apps, and edge devices with container-based runtime
Edge Management system provides central management for edge devices and apps over the entire lifecycle
Apps that increase productivity can be integrated into industrial environments quickly, with little effort and minimal risk
Siemens is expanding its offer for industrial IoT solutions, adding to its Industrial Edge portfolio a central and company-wide scalable infrastructure for managing connected edge devices and apps. With the new Industrial Edge Management system, users can remotely monitor the status of every connected device and remotely install edge apps and software functions on distributed edge devices.
In combination with existing hardware and software products, this Industrial Edge V1.0 open platform provides users with a ready-to-use and seamless solution for data processing on the production level with integrated device and app lifecycle management.
With the new Industrial Edge Management system, distributed edge devices and their states can be monitored centrally, diagnosed, and managed by IT administrators and manufacturing engineers. This means that new software apps can be rolled out company-wide and securely on all connected Industrial Edge devices. Central software management minimizes or even completely eliminates the effort involved in maintenance and updates for distributed software instances.
Existing, already containerized software (Docker) can be used applied to Industrial Edge. In addition, users can always develop their own edge apps to meet company-specific requirements. Functional and security-related updates are provided by Siemens via the Edge Management system, which can then be scheduled for roll-out to connected edge devices to meet the security requirements of an industrial IoT solution. With this ready-to-use management platform, IT administrators can roll out edge apps highly automated and reliably in manufacturing and manage them over the entire lifecycle. In addition, the freedom from retroactive effects between automation and edge systems helps them to ensure high system availability of the automation solution.
The Edge Management system can be operated in Version 1.0 within the company infrastructure, for example in manufacturing, and is specifically tailored to the requirements of users who particularly value data security. In future, it will also be possible to operate the Management system in cloud infrastructures.
With the Siemens Industrial Edge V1.0 offer, Siemens is simplifying the collection and analysis of machine data and bringing IT standards such as container-based apps (Docker), high-level language-based data analysis and processing, and central software and device management directly to manufacturing – integrated in automation systems.
Siemens presents first industrial 5G router
Growing demand for remote access via public 5G networks for remote maintenance
Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to the public 5G network
Sinema Remote Connect management platform provides secure access to remote plants and machines
Siemens presents the first industrial 5G router for connecting local industrial applications to a public 5G network. The device will be available in spring 2021. Using the newly developed Scalance MUM856-1, industrial applications such as machines, control elements, and other devices can be accessed remotely via a public 5G network, providing a simple remote maintenance option for these applications using the high data rates offered by 5G. The Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections can be used to provide easy and secure access to these remote plants or machines – even if they are integrated in other networks.
In industry, in addition to the need for local wireless connectivity, there is increasing demand for remote access to machines and plants. In these cases, communication needs to bridge long distances. Public mobile networks can be used to access devices that are located at a considerable distance, for example in other countries. In addition, service technicians can connect to the machines they need to service via the mobile network while on the go.
Public 5G networks are therefore an important element of remote access and remote maintenance solutions. They can be used, for example, to provide users with very high bandwidths in urban areas with small radio cells and high frequencies. In rural areas, radio cells have to cover a large area, which is why lower frequencies are used. Particularly at the edges of radio cells, for example for LTE or UMTS, there are often significant losses in terms of both the bandwidth and stability of the communication connection. And it is exactly in these remote areas where stable bandwidth transmission is required for remote maintenance or video transmission, for example for water stations. With innovative 5G communications technologies, considerably more bandwidth with greater reliability is available at the edges of radio cells and the average data rate for users within a radio cell increases.
The new Scalance MUM856-1 also supports 4G so that operation is possible even if a 5G mobile network is not available. The device can also be integrated in private local 5G campus networks. Siemens is testing this use case in their own Automotive Test Center in a private standalone 5G test network, which is based on Siemens components. There, automated guided vehicle systems are connected using 5G in order to test current and future industrial applications and to drive forward the use of 5G technology in industry.
Cooperation for the multi-vendor integration of industrial robots into the TIA Portal
Simatic Robot Integrator with Simatic Robot Library makes engineering easy for robots in the TIA Portal
Universal interface supports integration by all robot manufacturers
Re-usable program codes thanks to standard programming language
Time savings of up to 30 percent for engineering
Siemens presents the Simatic Robot Library for the Simatic Robot Integrator – a new universal robot library for the TIA (Totally Integrated Automation) Portal, which replaces the previous manufacturer-specific libraries. The specification has been developed in close cooperation with robot manufacturers ABB Robotics, Comau, Epson, FANUC, Kawasaki Robotics, KUKA, Panasonic Industry, STÄUBLI, Techman Robot, Yamaha, and YASKAWA.
In future, users will be able to program most of the robots available on the market in the TIA Portal using the Simatic Robot Library and make use of standard operating concepts based on the Simatic Robot Integrator and Simatic HMI. This means that created program codes and program packages will be re-usable, saving both time and money on a change of robot manufacturer.
Integration into the TIA Portal also offers the option of easily combining robots with other technologies such as Simatic technology, cloud services, Edge data analyses or AI-based automation. Thanks to the standard environment in the TIA Portal, users achieve time savings of up to 30 percent when engineering new complete systems. The improved handling also increases efficiency, while identical faceplates for different manufacturers simplify operation. With the Simatic Robot Library, users do not require specific programming knowledge for a robot type; they only need to have knowledge of the TIA Portal.
Simatic Robot Integrator is a ready-to-use application, which is directly integrated into a TIA Portal machine project. Combined with the new Simatic Robot Library, it enables users to download programming examples for operation and to control robots immediately after configuration. Simatic HMI offers popular online programming functions – regardless of the robot manufacturer – for inching, teach-in or path creation.
More collaborative robot, also known as cobot, news emanating from Denmark. Cobot market pioneer Universal Robots (UR) has sold its 50,000th UR cobot, which was purchased by a German manufacturer to enable higher productivity and better employee safety. The company expects cobots to remain the fastest growing segment of industrial automation, projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30.37% during 2020–2025.
The 50,000th cobot came in a special delivery as Jürgen von Hollen, president of Universal Robots, personally handed over the cobot to VEMA technische Kunststoffteile GmbH and VEMA Werkzeug- und Formenbau GmbH located in Krauchenwies-Göggingen, Germany, at a ceremony held at VEMA.
“We have worked very hard in the past 15 years to develop an entirely new market segment with a mission to enable especially small- and medium sized companies to automate tasks they thought were too costly or complex,” says von Hollen, emphasizing how UR has created a new global distribution network, a new ecosystem of developers, and ultimately a completely new business model. “As a pioneer in this market, we put a lot of work into creating awareness, influencing standards, and changing customers’ perceptions influenced by their experience of traditional robots.”
VEMA’s new collaborative robot will join a fleet of three other UR cobots already deployed in pick and place tasks in end-of-line applications at the company.
Christian Veser, managing director at VEMA GmbH, is thrilled to be the recipient of the milestone cobot and explains how the cobots have enabled the company to add a third shift, now operating around the clock. “We have enhanced our productivity remarkably and also achieved better quality,” he says. “Our employees are freed from ergonomically straining work to focus on quality testing. In navigating Covid-19 challenges, it has also been a great advantage that the cobots don’t need to keep a safety distance or undergo quarantine. They can always work,” says Veser, adding that his company appreciates the cobots so much that they gave them names.
“The first three cobots are named Elfriede, Günther, and Bruno. We will name our new cobot Jürgen to honor the fact that UR’s president came here in person to deliver it.”
Jürgen von Hollen will be leaving UR at the end of the year after a four-year tenure at the helm of UR. “It is such a privilege to end my time at the company by marking this milestone,” he says. “We have come far, but there is still an immense potential in the market both for well-known and completey new cobot applications. With our unrivaled installed base, we are constantly learning from our customers, leveraging a very data-driven approach in the development of our cobots. This is an approach I believe will help keep us leading the field in the years to come.”
Gregory Smith, president of Teradyne’s Industrial Automation Group, will step in to fill the role of UR president on January 1, 2021 until a new leader is named. “I thank Jürgen for his leadership over the past four years in growing Universal Robots from start-up status into the undisputed global leader in industrial collaborative robots,” says Mark Jagiela, president and CEO of UR’s parent company Teradyne. “He leaves behind a strong platform for the next level of growth with a talented workforce, an engaged ecosystem of distribution and technology partners as well as an expansive worldwide customer base.”
The months of November and December were filled with online conferences, trade shows, and interviews. So many were there that I had more information than time to write. Here we are in a time of pandemic and no travel except for grocery and hardware (we moved to a new state in March, so it seems there is a weekly run for some tool or supply).
The Danish collaborative robot ecosystem does much innovating, although there seems not to be exponential growth in the market. There are two aspects of innovation. The first lies in the robot itself. The second concerns end effector advances that I had given up hope on seeing.
One December conference and trade show (by the way, the trade show technology keeps improving, maybe they can reach a critical mass online) came from OnRobot. This company’s product range features a wide assortment of tools for collaborative applications, including: electric, vacuum and magnetic grippers, the award-winning Gecko gripping technology, force/torque sensors, a 2.5D vision system, screwdriver, sander kits and tool changers.
These offerings from OnRobot make it quicker and simpler to automate tasks such as packaging, quality control, materials handling, machine tending, assembly, and surface finishing. Headquartered in Odense, Denmark, OnRobot also has offices in Los Angeles, Dallas, Soest (Germany), Barcelona, Warsaw, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore and Budapest.
One draw for me was a panel discussion featuring robot investor (and Shark Tank star) Mark Cuban who joined OnRobot CEO Enrico Krog Iversen and Hirebotics CEO Rob Goldiez to discuss benefits of collaborative robotics applications.
“Manufacturers of all sizes are facing serious challenges in 2020 and, as a result, many are turning to collaborative applications to stay competitive and resilient,” says Enrico Krog Iversen, CEO of OnRobot. “We created OnRobot Expo to help manufacturers learn about collaborative applications and automation from their manufacturing peers and thought leaders from business and academia.”
In his keynote address on how Amazon develops, tests and deploys robots, Camilo Buscaron discussed how the cloud simplifies the development and deployment of robotics applications. He talked about the Robot Operating System (ROS) and AWS RoboMaker, a cloud service that helps customers build, simulate and manage robotic applications.
During a press conference, OnRobot executives discussed how value creation from robotics lay in application and solution, not just in robot or tooling. The robots plus modern end-of-arm tools provide new levels of flexibility for manufacturers. An intelligent gripper can handle a number of applications. The combination also solves labor shortages in manufacturing, enhances quality and productivity, helps enable social distancing as a Covid solution, provides fast return on investment, and allows manufacturers to rethink their supply chain risks.
Some statistics, OnRobot has:
800+ product combinations
18 supported Robot brands
500+ partners globally, 130 in Americas
32 new products released in 2020 versus 17 in 2019
OnRobot targets small to midsized companies finding that market still growing.
I am happy to see energy and innovation devoted to the new mobile robot market space. Much of the work grows from Denmark. I’ve never visited (a deficiency I will assuredly correct), but my interaction with the country was through agriculture. Then first one then another robot company sprang up in place of cows.
I attended a press conference recently wherein ROEQ described its launch of GuardCom. This application leverages robust sensor technology for instant communication between ROEQ’s top rollers – conveyors on top of mobile robots – and stationary conveyors. This new solution replaces cumbersome, Wi-Fi-dependent 3rd party setups that often cause delays and mismanagement in the transfer of goods from mobile robots onto conveyors and vice versa. ROEQ is now also releasing top rollers with adjustable height for Mobile Industrial Robots’ models, MiR250, MiR500 and MiR1000.
Wi-Fi instability is a common workplace challenge. In material handling applications with devices communicating through complicated setups passing data around between mobile robots, 3rd party receiving stations and conveyors, an intermittent Wi-Fi network is prone to cause costly errors and downtime.
The solution consists of two products: GuardCom installed on the stationary conveyor station, and GuardCom Connect installed on the autonomous mobile robot.
Multiple GuardCom Connects can work with the same GuardCom and vice versa. GuardCom is compatible with all stationary conveyor stations, replacing 3rd party wireless devices.
“With GuardCom we are delivering a safe, reliable, and cost-efficient solution to eliminate wait times, errors, and accidents at cargo transfer stations,” says Michael Ejstrup Hansen, Managing Director at ROEQ. “GuardCom is truly the missing link that enables a completely seamless material handling cycle, resulting in shorter system integration time with less hassle and engineering costs.”
Once the mobile robot has arrived at the conveyor, GuardCom signals to the stationary conveyor station that the robot is in place and ready to receive or deliver the packages. The same signal is simultaneously sent to the robot letting it know that the stationary conveyor is ready. Once the transfer task is completed, both units receive a signal that it is safe for the robot to leave.
The GuardCom is integrated into the stationary system via only a handful of cabled connections. The handshake process between the GuardCom and the mobile robot is completely wireless and based on proven and robust sensor technologies. To further prevent misplaced or dangling packages, GuardCom includes a physical guard installed on the conveyor station that goes up to prevent packages from rolling off and dropping to the floor when the autonomous mobile robot is not ready to receive. An alarm alerts the operator to come onsite to remedy the situation – or for the conveyor to roll backwards automatically.
Hartfiel Automation, a U.S. distributor of ROEQ products sees the GuardCom system as a shift in the way robots are deployed. “In the past, significant engineering development and 3rd party hardware was required to manage the logic of moving material from a stationary conveyor onto a mobile robot, which added substantial cost and time to deployments,” says Scott Albrecht, VP of Advanced Control Technologies at Hartfiel Automation. “With the ROEQ GuardCom system, these challenges are minimized or eliminated resulting in lower risk, lower cost, and faster deployment for these users.”
GuardCom is not the only new product now released by the Danish company, that also introduces the new ROEQ TR500 Auto and TR1000 Auto top roller modules with automatic lifting mechanisms, enabling MiR’s largest robots, the MiR500 and MiR1000 (with 1100 and 2200lbs payload respectively) to pick up and deliver goods at varying heights in the factories without human intervention, which allows them to automatically adjust in a height range of 19.7 – 31.5in (stroke is 9.8in) from floor to rollers.
“Very often, businesses are not able to maximize automation opportunities in existing facility layouts as the mobile robots need to pick up at one height and deliver in another,” says ROEQ’s Managing Director. “Our new top rollers with the lifting mechanism now make this possible – even for the heaviest of goods.”
ROEQ’s expanded product portfolio now also includes the TR125 Manual 250 and TR125 Auto 250 top rollers compatible with MiR’s most recent robot release, the MiR250. At MiR, Frederik Spangtoft Poulsen, Product Manager at MiR, is looking forward to seeing the new ROEQ products deployed with MiR robots in the field. “We welcome ROEQ’s products into our MiRGo universe, a platform already featuring a significant share of solutions from ROEQ.”
Qobotix coordinates automation between manufacturers’ existing robots to boost productivity, lower costs;
Enables flexibility to quickly adapt manufacturing processes while allowing for social distancing to keep workers safe
During the week of RIA’s Robotic Week festivities comes word of this innovative approach toward making collaborative robots (cobots) even more collaborative (collaborative2?). Unfortunately, they found it necessary to work in the buzzword of the month—AI—but still a move toward inching the industry forward.
Qobotix has introduced its universal AI operating system to transform cobots into intelligent coworkers on the manufacturing floor following two years of R&D, including active installations at major auto manufacturers. The idea is to make existing robots smarter and self-learning.
The Qobotix OS platform coordinates industrial automation between manufacturers’ robotic capabilities. Powered by proprietary AI, machine vision, and kinematics, the Qobotix OS’s agnostic plug and play technology enables intelligent factory applications to perform complex tasks that were considered only possible by humans. The company also offers complete robot stations, which are ready for immediate deployment on manufacturing lines with the flexibility to be deployed rapidly for different tasks.
Qobotix Cloud provides a factory management platform with a centralized repository of work intelligence that can be shared between machines.
One of Qobotix’s central innovations is that it enables robots to learn independently – humans can train robots by interacting with them and robots can learn from other robots. This capacity enables robots to be programmed in hours or days rather than weeks. Companies can deploy their robots faster with greater flexibility to perform functions with accelerated human-machine collaboration, enabling humans to take on other roles.
Qobotix’s introduction comes right as the Covid-19 pandemic causes companies to re-examine their reliance on offshore production seeking more flexible, localized manufacturing options. Factories can now use cobots to more easily switch between projects quickly, produce at a high volume for a shorter time, while keeping workers safe through social distancing.
Qobotix is the brainchild of Avi Reichental, a 3D printing pioneer and long-time industry veteran, Egor Korneev, a serial entrepreneur and a pioneer in the field of machine learning and vision systems, and George Votis, the Chairman, CEO and founder of Galt Industries, Inc.
“During our many years involved in industrial manufacturing, we experienced robots that were meant to be collaborative and quickly concluded they were not like that at all – they couldn’t see or hear, and they were very inflexible,” said Reichental.
The team recognized a gap in the market and decided to develop their own technology with the aim of bringing vision and intelligence to collaborative robots.
“Our aim is to take robotics out of the late 1990s,” said Qobotix Co-founder and CEO Egor Korneev.
Reichental added, “Qobotix changes the game for manufacturing and services by eliminating time-consuming processes such as programming to significantly lower costs and increase output. This presents a huge opportunity for all manufacturers in their everyday operations.”
“Qobotix offers a strong return on investment by freeing up people for higher level tasks,” said Votis. “With Qobotix, robots can more easily collaborate with each other, and allow manufacturers to deploy production stations within different production lines each day, saving time and costs while boosting productivity.”
Organizations and companies have been exploring how to do a virtual trade show for more than 20 years. I can remember the early efforts…and shudder. However, we now have a “witch’s brew” of pandemic, increasing bandwidth, improved interactive graphics, browser advances such as HTML 5 and more which have coalesced into a good user experience. If they could replicate the hallway conversations and chance meetings, perhaps some travel could be eliminated. But I still prefer being there.
Yesterday robot industry veteran Joe Campbell, who is now sr. manager of applications development with Universal Robots, gave me a tour of the UR Cobot Expo. It is officially concluded, but you can still visit everything except for the chat functions for the next 30 days. And the expo is pretty cool. Pandemic restrictions have forced creativity upon marketers and designers, and most of the events I have attended have been well worth the time. Certainly this one is if you have any interest in exploring this technology area at all.
“The Cobot Expo” offers American manufacturers flexible automation solutions with a rich experience with an extensive range of product news and demonstrations, featuring more than 30 different booths, insightful keynotes, interactive QAs, and live chats with automation experts (these latter are not active now).
As I’ve written before, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that resilient businesses—those that can emerge with plans for growth—can react quickly and decisively to protect workers while keeping business running, adapting processes and product lines, with many manufacturers now increasingly using collaborative robots to make those changes efficiently and cost-effectively.
“The crisis has accelerated the need for flexible automation,” says Campbell. “We’re seeing an uptick in interest for collaborative robots due to social distancing requirements, reshoring to avoid long supply chains, and the need for rapid production line change-overs. The Cobot Expo is a timely opportunity to showcase and discuss how cobots can play a pivotal role in helping manufacturers successfully navigate the pandemic.”
The Cobot Expo is free to attend and is open for anyone with an interest in collaborative robotics (on demand only now). Attendees are invited to visit booths that feature new insights and resources on the most common cobot applications such as machine tending, packaging and palletizing, product inspection, assembly, welding, dispensing, and finishing. Joining this lineup is ActiNav, the world’s first autonomous bin picking kit for machine tending launched by Universal Robots this spring.
For expo visitors wondering how to get started with collaborative robots, numerous keynotes with live QAs will offer insights on critical topics such as how to identify good projects, choosing the right cobot model and peripherals, conducting risk assessment, whether to take a DIY approach or go with an integrator, and much more. The agenda also has presentations on cobot maintenance and programming and the many new ways cobots are quickly being deployed to address the COVID-19 crisis, including area disinfection, the manufacturing of test kits, face shields and ventilators, and in the handling of COVID-19 tests, protecting hospital staff from exposure.
The Cobot Expo is also an opportunity to meet the many UR+ partners presenting the industry’s largest and most comprehensive ecosystem of new products certified to integrate seamlessly with the UR cobots. The rapidly expanding UR+ platform now includes over 250 UR+ components and application kits with more than 400 approved commercial developer companies in the UR+ program.
The UR+ partner booths include: ATI Industrial Automation, Energid, Flexibowl, Flexxbotics, Hexagon, Mircopsi/Nvidia, New Scale Robotics, OnRobot, Piab, Robotiq, Schmalz, Schunk, SMC, Vectis, Vention, VersaBuilt, Visumatic, Wiretank, and Zimmer.
Alongside the UR+ partners will be booths hosted by Association for Advancing Automation (A3) and OEM partners showcasing products powered by UR cobots. The OEM partners include: Columbia Okura/Rocketfarm, Computech, Hirebotics, IRIS, Melton Machine, ONExia, and ProCobots/Easy Robotics.
“With tradeshows and conferences cancelled, we are experiencing phenomenal interest from all industry stakeholders in participating in the Cobot Expo,” says Campbell. “This truly is an extraordinary opportunity for an extraordinary time.”