Rockwell Automation Acquires Emulate3D for Simulating and Emulating Industrial Automation Systems

Rockwell Automation Acquires Emulate3D for Simulating and Emulating Industrial Automation Systems

Once I was involved in the design, build, and installation of automated assembly machines. I have a feel for how much time and money could be saved through simulation of industrial automation systems. Further, I’ve observed Rockwell Automation’s attempts at partnership to bring simulation to fruition.

After many false starts, it has acquired a company—Emulate3D. The company’s products sit between CAD and controls design enabling a visual model of the system (the website shows conveyor and material handling systems, not the inner workings of a machine). It can integrate controls and look for interferences allowing engineers to “test” machine design before cutting iron.

I have not seen a demo, yet, but in theory this is a great advance for Rockwell’s customers.

“We are excited about the opportunities that Emulate3D’s software offers our customers,” said Fran Wlodarczyk, Rockwell Automation senior vice president for its architecture and software segment. “They will have the ability to improve their time to market and operational productivity through digital machine prototyping and virtual commissioning. It also marks another investment by Rockwell Automation to bring the Connected Enterprise to life.”

“As a former Rockwell Automation Encompass partner, we established great working relationships with Rockwell Automation and its customers,” said Ian McGregor, Emulate3D global sales and marketing director. “We look forward to building on those relationships under our new ownership. Rockwell Automation’s installed base and our engineering software provides a great opportunity to better address customer needs in today’s rapidly changing, technologically-advanced manufacturing environment.”

Rockwell Automation will add Emulate3D’s technology to its digital design portfolio to deliver solutions to automotive, logistics, material handling, and other industrial applications. Software will be sold as Emulate3D by Rockwell Automation, as part of Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk DesignSuite.

Autonomous Vehicle Technology Advances

Autonomous Vehicle Technology Advances


A couple of interesting items came my way regarding autonomous vehicle technology. Every year sees better applications and more powerful tech. Then note in the releases X-as-a-Service applications. This idea just keeps expanding into more useful areas.

AI-capable “Supercomputer”—ZF ProAI.

ZF unveiled the latest model of its automotive supercomputer ZF ProAI just before the start of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The ZF ProAI RoboThink central control unit offers the highest performance of its kind in the industry according to the release. Vehicle manufacturers and mobility service providers additionally benefit from the system’s modularity and scalability. Today’s four models in the ZF ProAI product family can be optimally configured for any application – from a basic ADAS function right up to fully autonomous cars, commercial vehicles and industrial applications.

Customers can also specify their favorite software architecture. In the wake of booming services such as ride hailing, ZF also premiered its own software stack for new mobility concepts at the CES. This stack together with the latest ZF Pro AI and the company’s comprehensive sensor set represent a fully integrated system for driverless vehicles that can be easily adopted by the new players in the field of mobility services.

NVIDIA has named ZF one of its preferred partners for the launch of the new Level2+ NVIDIA DRIVE AutoPilot. Since ZF’s new product’s volume production starts within the next 12 months it is the only automotive grade AI capable supercomputer that can meet NIVIDIA’s ambitious timeline for the launch of their DRIVE AutoPilot from the beginning.

ZF’s CEO Wolf-Henning Scheider explained, “We are taking advantage of the fact that only ZF offers a supercomputer that is ready for volume production. Our open, flexible, modular and scalable ZF ProAI product family allows for just the right configuration of any application – for a variety of industries, and across all levels of automated driving.”

“We’re thrilled with the results of our collaboration with ZF. Their agility and system expertise has resulted in the incredibly rapid development of the ProAI platform enabling L2+ through L4/L5 robotaxi vehicles, leveraging NVIDIA’s DRIVE Xavier processors and DRIVE software,” said Rob Csongor, Vice President of Autonomous Machines, at NVIDIA. “ZF is now able to deliver to car makers advanced L2+ self-driving solutions for production starting in 2020 and the ability to quickly scale to higher levels of autonomy.”

“The unique selling proposition of the AI-capable ZF ProAI RoboThink is its modular hardware concept and open software architecture. Our aim is to provide the widest possible range of functions in the field of autonomous driving,” explained Torsten Gollewski, head of ZF Advanced Engineering and general manager of Zukunft Ventures GmbH.

Robo-taxis and autonomous people or cargo-movers are accelerating the development of central control units with much higher computing power. This is because powerful domain computers used in Mobility-as-a-Service applications not only manage the complex calculation of the surroundings based on a fusion of camera, radar and LIDAR data, they also integrate user data via the Cloud, payment systems and above all optimal route planning and implementation. Complex algorithms calculate these from the mobility and transport requirements of people or goods and can compare them in real time with the current traffic situation.

“The computing power of central computers in robo-taxis and autonomous people or cargo-movers will be significantly higher than for automated-driving passenger cars,” says Torsten Gollewski. “The demand from ride-hailing service providers for even more computing power has arisen much sooner than predicted. Today, the autonomous-driving market is being driven more by new mobility service providers than by established vehicle manufacturers.”

Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) Nearly Tripled Sales for the Second Year in a Row

Mobile Industrial Robots, the first mover and market leader in autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), announced a second year of 160 percent revenue growth in 2018, a target the company established after accomplishing the same growth rate in 2017. The company’s success results, in large part, from MIR’s multinational customers, including Toyota Motor Corporation that is investing in fleets of mobile robots to optimize internal logistics and to gain competitive advantages in the production and supply chain. Thirty percent of MiR’s 2018 sales come from the Americas (27 percent in the United States and 3 percent in Latin America).

“Large multinational organizations, who are happy with the benefits they’ve received after trying one of our robots, are now investing in fleets spread across more of their plants, with some purchasing as many as 15 to 25 MiR robots at a time,” said Thomas Visti, CEO of MiR. “Our robots make it easy for these companies to follow the increasing shift to a mass-customization model, where they manufacture a higher number of customized products in smaller batches, requiring an agile production facility with flexible and easily adaptable logistics. Our user-friendly technology fits this model well.”

Growth from new products and new “robots as a service” offering to help more companies benefit

In addition to increased sales of multiple robots to companies like Toyota, which already uses MiR robots to optimize logistics in plants in the U.S. and Asia, the company’s growth in 2018 also came from the launch of the MiR500. Forty percent of sales of the MiR500, which can pick-up, transport, and deliver pallets, have come from U.S. companies. The continuous growth worldwide means that MiR expects 2019 will bring even more new products, along with 100 new employees and new offices in the U.S., China, and Japan. According to Visti, the company also expects to increase revenue as much, if not more, over the next year, while expanding the types of companies that can benefit from autonomous mobile robots.

Roll Your Own SCADA or Control Device?

Roll Your Own SCADA or Control Device?

One of the most popular posts on my Website every month for years (written in January 2016) is about Raspberry Pi and Linux for HMI/SCADA.

One of my important news sources is The Information. It is a subscription-based news source—mostly technology news. I saw this item last month:

By Kevin McLaughlin · Thursday Dec 13, 2018
Juniper Networks, which makes high-end devices that route traffic around the internet, looked to be making headway in a key growth market a few years ago when it started selling its routers to Amazon Web Services. AWS is the biggest of the public cloud providers that handle an increasing share of big companies’ computing work.

But hopes that AWS could jumpstart Juniper’s stagnant growth may have been premature. Over the past few quarters, AWS has been replacing some of its Juniper routers and switches with its own custom-designed hardware, said two people with direct knowledge of the change. The move, which hasn’t previously been reported, appears to be part of a broader move by AWS to gradually replace networking hardware made by other companies with homegrown alternatives, said one of the people.

So, I’m wondering. How many of you are rolling your own HMI/SCADA or control hardware using devices like Raspberry Pi? If Amazon is building their own routers and switches, what’s stopping you from doing it?

Or, are you already? Just curious about how many are starting to reduce hardware costs this way? Where? How?

HPE Unveils Converged Edge Systems To Bridge OT and IT

HPE Unveils Converged Edge Systems To Bridge OT and IT

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced new HPE Edgeline Converged Edge System solutions that speed the deployment and simplify the management of edge applications, enabling customers to act on the vast amounts of data generated by machines, assets and sensors from edge to cloud.

I think this is another significant advance reflecting the utility of enterprise compute capability brought ever closer to the plant itself. If you are looking to be disruptive in your industry or are on a corporate engineering staff looking for OT alternatives, I’d suggest taking a long look at these technologies and then letting your imagination do its work.

The new solutions include:

  • HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform, an open platform that automates the interplay between diverse operational technologies (OT) and standard IT-based applications at the edge to enable intelligent and autonomous decision making;
  • HPE Edgeline systems management, the industry’s first systems management solutions designed specifically for the edge to ensure enterprise-grade reliability, connectivity and security;
  • HPE Edgeline EL300 Converged Edge System featuring OT link and HPE Edgeline systems management, providing superior resilience against harsh edge environments for a broad range of industrial deployments; and
  • HPE Edgeline Field Application Engineering Services are available from HPE Pointnext to help customers plan, build, and customize OT link-based Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber-physical systems.

To turn edge data into insight for real-time action, it must be processed close to its source to avoid the latency, bandwidth, and cost issues of sending the data to a remote data center. However, this opportunity comes with a set of unique challenges, including management of remote infrastructure, and the necessity to seamlessly connect sensors and industrial assets with IT applications at the edge.

“Deploying IoT, edge, and cyber-physical systems is a challenge requiring a fresh look at uniting the physical and digital worlds,” said Dr. Tom Bradicich, Vice President and General Manager, Converged Servers, Edge and IoT Systems, HPE. “With today’s announcements, we enable our customers to accelerate the delivery of applications that capitalize on edge data, safeguarded by enterprise-class management. And we lay the groundwork for a new ecosystem of intelligent edge solutions to drive innovation and growth across industries.”

Simplifying deployment of edge-to-cloud IoT and cyber-physical systems

Today, setting up an IoT or cyber-physical system is a laborious undertaking. It requires custom coding to orchestrate OT networks, control systems, and data flows with drivers, middleware, and applications running on IT systems. HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform is an open platform that significantly simplifies this process, reducing cost and time to market.

The solution includes:

HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform software, an open workflow engine and application catalogue, allowing customers to orchestrate components, data, and applications via a graphical drag-and-drop user interface. The HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform integrates an ecosystem of third-party applications running from edge to cloud – including AWS, Google, Microsoft, SAP, PTC, GE, and more – to make insights from the edge available across the enterprise and supply chain.

HPE Edgeline OT Link certified modules, HPE-developed adapters that connect to a broad range of OT systems, enabling bi-directional, time-sensitive, and deterministic control and communication, including high-speed digital input/output, CAN bus, Modbus, or Profinet. APIs and SDKs for these adapters are made available to the industry to facilitate third-party designs of OT link modules. OT link will also integrate FPGA modules to give customers maximal flexibility to connect to any industrial input/output device.

Enterprise-grade manageability and security at the edge

HPE also announced the industry’s first systems management solutions specifically designed to simplify the provisioning and management of edge infrastructure and applications, providing enterprise-grade manageability and security for remote systems with limited connectivity and IT expertise.

HPE Edgeline Integrated System Manager is embedded into HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems and features one-click provisioning, ongoing system health management, remote updates, and management even with intermittent wired and wireless connections. It also supports advanced security functions like preventing system boot file changes and remote system disablement during a security event. HPE Edgeline Infrastructure Manager software can remotely manage thousands of Edgeline Converged Edge Systems.

The HPE Edgeline Workload Orchestrator hosts a central repository for containerized analytics, AI, business, and IoT applications that can be pushed to HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems at the edge

Unparalleled convergence of OT and IT

The HPE Edgeline EL300 is a fan-less, low-energy system equipped with Intel Core i5 processors, up to 32GB of memory and 3TB of storage. It will also support Intel Movidius Myriad X vision processing units to enable video analytics and AI inference at the edge. The HPE Edgeline EL300 provides enhanced resiliency against shock, vibration, humidity, and dust, including IP50 and MIL-SPEC certifications, and can operate from -30 to +70 degrees Celsius. These features make the HPE Edgeline EL300 suitable to be deployed as an embedded system – for example, in production machines or in building infrastructure.

Expertise to accelerate deployment and create competitive advantage

To support these new offerings, HPE Pointnext, the services organization of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, provides HPE Edgeline Field Application Services, which help customers plan, design, build, and run IoT, edge and cyber-physical systems to accelerate deployment and ensure reliable and secure operation. These services include the evaluation of use cases, proof of value, solution deployment, and management of ongoing operations – helping customers get the most from OT/IT integrations.

Moreover, HPE Pointnext can help customers develop their own data acquisition, industrial network, and control components for HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform to create custom solutions and competitive advantage. HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform based solutions can be delivered on-premises with a turnkey deployment service, operated by HPE Pointnext.

Finally, HPE Edgeline EL300 Converged Edge System will be added to HPE GreenLake Flex Capacity, to deliver a consumption-based experience with usage-based payment, capacity metering, and tailored support, for customers who need a cloud-like experience for systems at the edge.

SPS Drives Trade Fair in Nuremberg Automation News

SPS Drives Trade Fair in Nuremberg Automation News

I will only be at SPS for a few hours this year to check in with old friends and see some of the latest automation goodies. But I’m glad to be there at all. Thank you to Siemens who is sponsoring a press tour that includes a couple of days of intense cybersecurity briefings and workshops.

Oh, and a trip to Allianz Stadium to see the technology and a Bayern Munchen football match.

Some early SPS news:

  • Avnu Alliance Demonstrates New Conformance Test Reference Tool
  • OPC Foundation promises much news plus addition of Rockwell Automation

OPC Foundation

OPC Foundation has sent a couple of emails inviting us to a press briefing at SPS promising much news. I won’t be in Nuremberg on Tuesday, but I’ll catch up with Stefan and Tom for sure on Wednesday.

The mating dance has ended after a few months. Rockwell Automation has rejoined the OPC Foundation and gained a board seat. OPC Foundation has elected Juergen Weinhofer, vice president of common architecture and technology for Rockwell Automation, to its board of directors. Note that Weinhofer is also the Rockwell delegate to the ODVA board.

Weinhofer’s election to the board extends Rockwell Automation’s engagement in the technical work of the OPC Foundation and its technical advisory council.

“OPC UA has become the dominant open protocol for machine-to-software and machine-to-cloud solutions, and it is becoming critical for companies deploying a Connected Enterprise,” Weinhofer said. “I look forward to helping the OPC Foundation become a leader in machine-to-machine applications and helping OPC UA users unlock more value from their production systems.”

This quote is from the OPC news release. We should note that “Connected Enterprise” (capitalized) is the Rockwell Automation theme. I also note while parsing the comment that Rockwell is still firmly fixed in the factory floor area where Weinhofer specifically states “become a leader in machine-to-machine applications.”

“Rockwell Automation is a proven leader in industry standardization and open information technologies,” said Stefan Hoppe, president of the OPC Foundation. “I welcome not just Juergen’s business and political skills on the board but also the increased technical and commercial contribution that the wider Rockwell Automation team will also bring to the foundation.”

Avnu Alliance

Avnu Alliance, an industry consortium enabling open, standards-based deterministic networking, will exhibit at SPS IPC Drives in the University Stuttgart ISW booth. Avnu Alliance, alongside ISW and Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), will showcase the role of conformance test plans, testbeds and test reference tools in ensuring an interoperable ecosystem of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) devices.

“We are in cooperation with IIC, IEEE, IEC and others in creating an interoperable ecosystem through a common network foundation that stems from industry open standards and testing,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. “The market will continue to require multiple application layer protocols for networked industrial systems. The Avnu Alliance charter is to enable interoperability at the network layer, to ensure ‘One TSN.’ We are the organization focused on providing TSN test plans and reference test architectures to anyone in the industry that wants to test for TSN compatibility.”

As such, Avnu serves to support Fieldbus organizations by providing its TSN conformance tests and procedures to ensure those organizations’ interoperability in the wider Ethernet system.

Leveraging the industry-defined requirements for TSN network interoperability, Avnu ensures there is a universal set of test plans for conformance to guarantee interoperability at the network layer. Avnu has developed a baseline test plan in the industrial market that ensures industrial devices, whether end device, infrastructure component or silicon, conform to the relevant IEEE standards, as well as the industrial automation profile being defined by IEC/IEEE 60802 Joint Project working group.

Starting with Time Synchronization, or 802.1AS as the foundation for all TSN devices, Avnu released the first set of test plans at SPS IPC Drives in 2017. Avnu will soon publish additional conformance test plans for end devices, such as enhancements for scheduled traffic.

At SPS IPC Drives 2018, Avnu Alliance will show a new proof-of-concept (POC) Conformance Test Reference Design that offers a single, streamlined way for vendors to test TSN interoperability. The POC Conformance Test Reference Design is designed to automatically test TSN devices for compliance to 802.1AS. The demonstration features a Linux open-source test tool created by ISW in partnership with Avnu. This tool would also allow other protocol organizations to test application stacks on top of a TSN network in a streamlined way enabling one-stop certification at any test house.

Podcast 181 Industry of Things World East Talk About Data

Podcast 181 Industry of Things World East Talk About Data

Last week I gave a short presentation at a breakout session of the Industry of Things East World event in Orlando. This podcast is a recap of the talk done in a slightly different style. As the fourth speaker in the afternoon surveying the audience, I switched styles to one I hope kept everyone awake.

I wanted to talk about data. Why we collect it. How we can use it. And good management practices. All in fewer than 20 minutes. Allowing time for a decent discussion at the end.

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