Industrial Leadership—Beyond The Buzz

Have you heard “digital transformation” until your ears ring? Every supplier, every analyst, every consultant promises to take you on the digital transformation journey.

Pause and reflect. Aren’t you already using many digital tools in your business and production processes?

Are marketers and gurus trying to induce panic in you with FOMO (fear of missing out). These days we have plenty of people inducing panic and fear with health concerns. Do we need to add to that with fear that when production returns we will be left in the dust by the digital few?

What I have seen as I tour manufacturing and process plants is a triumph of good leadership using sound management and judicious application of technology to solve problems that improves the business. And treats people well at the same time.

In my own journey, I learned about the importance of sound data from the ground up. And working with people to improve processes. Later, I learned about computer applications and digital technology as I implemented an early MES system that improved processes and life for inventory control and cost accounting. These savings paid for the system. And we had barely tapped the potential.

Then as a quality assurance manager I studied W. Edwards Deming and and the work behind the Toyota Production System pioneered by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, Japanese industrial engineers, who developed the system between 1948 and 1975.

What we learned was good leaders working with all people involved identified and solved problems adding digital technologies into their tool set as they helped solve problems.

The worst thing was when engineers wanted to apply technology just because it was new and cool. It has been several years since I’ve seen or heard of “over automation”—at least until Elon Musk blamed his Tesla production problems on it.

People like me who are not beholden to a particular supplier or type of solution can help find the way that works for what your culture and problem require. It’s important to consider both. Trying to change everything at the same time is a recipe for certain disaster.

As we sort through the sickness mess we’re in now, we also need to remember that startups after a prolonged shutdown never go smoothly. Machine problems that were previously hidden by continuous running suddenly demand immediate attention. People take some time to return to speed and focus.

If you are still in production or trying to develop a product or process specifically for this outbreak, remember that it is hard for you and all your employees and contractors to maintain focus when fear and worry linger in the recesses of their minds. Anti-stress breaks and encouragement for nutrition and sleep help build the immune system and keep them in the race.

And rather than focus on social media negativity and panic, check out some of the positive sources for information such as Peter Diamondis.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay focused on solving problems.

Solution for 3D Printing Pure Copper

3D printing proffers the possibility for drastic advances in manufacturing. However combining printing technology with material science holds the key to success. And, every week brings news of advances. Here is one where a company has improved manufacture with pure copper.

Markforged has announced the release of pure copper for the Markforged Metal X system, making it a reliable, affordable, and safe way to 3D print the widely used material. 3D printing copper parts on demand will drive new manufacturing and supply chain efficiencies for customers – leading to reduced lead times and part costs, as well as eliminating the need for costly inventory. Available today, Markforged provides an easy and fast way to produce geometrically complex copper with high electrical and thermal conductivity.

“Copper powers our world. It’s everywhere. It builds our cars, enables phones, and keeps electrical equipment running,” said Greg Mark, Markforged CEO and Founder. “Copper has traditionally been an expensive and challenging material to machine and incompatible for 3D printing in a pure form with other techniques. Now, we’ve made it easier and cheaper to produce. Markforged 3D printed Copper will be a game-changer for the automotive and electronics industries, and it will open the door to innovation across many more.”

The new material is available for the Metal X system, Markforged’s patented platform that safely and rapidly 3D prints metal. Copper is the latest metal to join the lineup of materials, which also includes aerospace superalloys like Inconel 625, 17-4 PH Stainless Steel, H13 Tool Steel, D2 Tool Steel, and A2 Tool Steel. With systems across six continents, the Metal X is used to deliver on applications such as functional prototypes, tooling and fixtures, and end-use production parts to help customers reduce manufacturing costs and improve supply chain efficiency.

Automotive Spot Welding with Markforged Copper Shanks

“Every automotive factory in the world uses copper for welding,” Greg Mark added. “Complex production parts are required to weld tight spots of the car body. They cost thousands of dollars to make and can have months-long lead times. But Markforged is changing all of that by enabling manufacturers to produce parts in-house so they get them faster and for significantly lower costs. With our 3D printed parts, automotive manufacturers can print the parts they need on demand instead of holding significant inventory and will be able to design new kinds of welding shanks that were never before possible.”

Hundreds of Markforged 3D printers are deployed at nine of the 10 highest-valued auto manufacturers in the world. Markforged partnered with one of these customers — a well-known automotive manufacturer — to conduct in-depth weld testing using Copper. After thousands of welds, the manufacturer has been thrilled by the results. The testing showed the same resistance as traditional manufactured spot welding shanks, and they plan to extend the use of the 3D printing parts to the production line. With Markforged additive manufacturing, the automotive manufacturer has already reported reduced part lead times by 12x and part costs by 6x.

“I’ve always been impressed with the technology behind the Markforged Metal X system, and our experience with 3D printed copper has been incredible – especially when looking at its conductivity and structural stability,” noted the maintenance manager at the global automotive manufacturer. “And now that we’ve successfully evaluated weld testing, we plan on expanding our metal 3D printing capacity for this and other metal components. 3D printing copper with Markforged is faster and more cost effective than purchasing complex machined components, and we expect it to help us mitigate downtime exposure and reduce inventory costs by $200,000 a year using only one Metal X system.”

Engineering in the Cloud

What?? Engineering in the Cloud? One of the joys of having been around so long is to see technologies that some said they’d never use become commonplace.

When I switched to the “dark side of the force” and landed a job as a sales engineer, my first customer told me “I’ll never run a wire from a PLC to anywhere (other than I/O of course). I’ll also never use IEC motor starters in place of these big old NEMA starters.”

Oops. By the time I left to become a magazine editor, the plant had connected controllers and IEC starters all over the new production line.

Ethernet was another one.

Then there was cloud. A poorly chosen name, perhaps, denoting a mist that blocks the sun and rains on our parade. Or, it could just be a name for a server bank somewhere.

This is somewhat “old news”, but it is interesting simply from the point of view that we just keep adapting new technologies to better serve old needs.

In brief:

  • Beckhoff Introduces Smart Engineering Directly in the Cloud
  • TwinCAT Cloud Engineering provides a foundation for efficient IoT-based automation strategies

Beckhoff Automation has introduced new TwinCAT Cloud Engineering software for IoT and Industrie 4.0 applications. Users can instantiate and use existing TwinCAT engineering and runtime products directly in the cloud. The solution is easy to access from the Beckhoff website with a web browser and requires no additional software. In addition, TwinCAT Cloud Engineering enables registered users to work with the TwinCAT development environment even from previously unsupported devices, such as tablets.

TwinCAT Cloud Engineering adds a new dimension by providing users with an easy means of engineering TwinCAT instances and controllers in the cloud.

The TwinCAT Cloud Engineering instances generated by users can be connected to physical control hardware over a secure transport channel. Users not only have TwinCAT control architecture, but also distributed collaboration support through a source control repository. For new users in particular, having access to a TwinCAT Cloud Engineering instance in the cloud provides a foundation to learn how to work in the TwinCAT environment.

In addition, TwinCAT Cloud Engineering enables users to move their entire TwinCAT architecture to the cloud; the only difference versus a conventional TwinCAT environment is that they use a virtual machine instead of a local PC for engineering. One advantage is that users do not need to learn a new software environment but can simply continue to work in the same, familiar development environment. Another is that they do not have to install and maintain multiple software versions tailored to specific machine generations on their own PCs. Instead, users can run separate TwinCAT Cloud Engineering instances with different software versions, all of which they can access remotely whenever they need to. Project files are stored in a source code control repository that can be accessed directly from within TwinCAT Engineering.

Based on modern source control features, connecting to Git-based systems and managing automation projects on them is easy. TwinCAT Multi-User functionality enables simple, seamless access to a source control repository without the need for special technical expertise. Here, TwinCAT Cloud Engineering enables multiple users to work together on a number of instances at the same time either by integrating a Git server into the instance or using a Git-based cloud service.

Collaborative Robot Market Activity

I used to respond when asked what I wrote about, “automation.” The return response was “robots?” But I had become less fascinated by robots from my early years as a VAR. But the collaborative and mobile robot developments have piqued my interest in the area again. Plus an adjacent area—human-assist robots for medical and handicapped person lifestyle applications.

Thanks to a couple of friendly media relations people, I’ve accumulated a flurry of news in the collaborative robot space—a technology hub and news about grippers.

World’s Largest Hub for Collaborative Robots Opens in Denmark

Danish robotics companies Mobile Industrial Robots and Universal Robots invest $36M in robot development and production.

Denmark’s Minister of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, Simon Kollerup, unveiled what will become the new home of Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) and Universal Robots (UR), the two flagships in the thriving Danish robotics industry. The companies will share 32,000 m2 (334,000 square feet) in a new “cobot hub” in the city of Odense, the heart of Denmark’s rapidly expanding robotics cluster.

With financial backing from their joint U.S. parent company Teradyne, Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) and Universal Robots (UR) have acquired a 50,000 m2 building site in Odense, where $36 million will be invested in the construction of a major cobot hub in the “cobot capital” of the world. Collaborative robots – or cobots – are now the fastest growing segment of industrial automation. Cobots are a type of user-friendly robots that can work closely with humans without the need for safety guarding, enhancing both work environment and productivity.

The new cobot hub supports Teradyne’s mission to further strengthen the significant leads that both MiR and UR have established worldwide.

“MiR and UR are leading the world in the collaborative robot revolution that’s making automation solutions available to companies of all sizes. Teradyne continues to invest aggressively in the development of new products, solutions, and sales channels and this new facility is a key part of our growth strategy,” says Mark Jagiela, President and CEO of Teradyne. “We have found something very special in Denmark. The Danes’ combination of innovative industrial design, combined with a practical business sense, have created a perfect combination for this emerging industry. The ability to make robots work in collaboration with humans in a user-friendly manner is something we have not encountered to this degree anywhere else in the world and we’re very excited to expand our capabilities in Odense.”

This is not the first time the MiR and UR owner has provided cash support for robot development in Denmark. To-date, Teradyne has invested more than half a billion USD in the two young Danish robotic companies, both of which are growing rapidly.

Danish robotics cluster on the rise

The Danish robotics industry is currently booming; the 2019 annual survey from trade association Odense Robotics shows that 8,500 people now work for Danish robotics companies, 3,900 of them in and around Odense, Denmark’s third largest city. If the industry follows the growth forecasts, the Danish robot industry will employ 25,000 employees in 2025 according to the Danish analyst firm Damvad.

OnRobot’s One System Solution grippers receive UR+ Certification for seamless operation with Universal Robots

The certified URCap software provides a unified interface for OnRobot’s new versions of RG2, RG6, and VG10 grippers with Universal Robots (UR). The URCap allows the OnRobot grippers to work seamlessly with UR’s collaborative robot arms in a single program with no need to change cables or load new software when deploying additional products.

With the One System Solution launched this fall, OnRobot presented a full line of intelligent grippers and sensors with a unified mechanical and communications interface. The innovative approach allows for quick plug-and-play tool changes and fast and easy programming across multiple production lines and applications.

The One System Solution grippers are now also part of the UR+ program that tests and certifies EoAT products for seamless use with cobots from Universal Robots.

“Our unified URCap software is a key differentiator for our grippers, sensors and tool changers. Now, we have a single URCap that automatically identifies the OnRobot tool that is mounted on a UR robot,” says Kristian Hulgard, General Manager of OnRobot’s Americas division. “The end users no longer have to worry about different URCaps for multiple tools, they can effortlessly plug and play various OnRobot products; for example, an RG2 two-finger gripper can be implemented with a VG10 vacuum gripper in one cycle, achieving optimized utilization of a single UR robot.”

OnRobot’s unified URCap can be installed in UR’s Polyscope operating system when installing OnRobot software. The installation requires the identification of just one product; the software automatically identifies additional OnRobot products. With the One System Solution, all OnRobot products have a unified mechanical and communications interface based on the OnRobot Quick Changer, which is now an integrated part of all OnRobot products. The Quick Changer allows manufacturers to simply click OnRobot grippers onto the UR cobot arm for instant deployment. The only cable coming out of the chain is from the Quick Changer, eliminating the need to disconnect/connect cables. An additional Dual Quick Changer incorporates these same new capabilities while allowing the use of two tools in one cycle, mixing and matching to suit application needs and maximizing robot utilization.

OnRobot Launches New 3-Finger Electric Gripper with Large Stroke for Handling Wide Range of Cylindrical Objects

OnRobot’s 3FG15 three-finger gripper with a 150mm stroke is an alternative to bulkier and less-flexible three-finger grippers currently on the market. The new gripper excels at heavy-payload machine-tending applications that require high precision and flexible handling.

“Our new 3FG15 three-finger gripper was developed as a response to existing pneumatic three-finger grippers that are bulkier and less flexible,” says CEO of OnRobot, Enrico Krog Iversen. “We have long defined the market for electric parallel grippers with the RG2 and RG6 series, and we look forward to addressing new market segments and applications with a new three-finger gripper that allows users to deploy applications faster even with highly accurate, fixed positioning.”

The 3FG15 gripper has a maximum stroke of 150mm that can easily handle multiple processes. The innovative three-finger design with a 15 kg (33 lb) payload provides a strong, stable grip for both form fit (internal) or friction fit (external) gripping, adding flexibility to any implementation.

3FG15 Features:

  • Precise stable grip with automatic centering
  • Large 150mm stroke for parts from 20mm to 150mm
  • Form fit (internal) and friction fit (external) gripping
  • 15kg payload
  • Weight 1.15kg, gripping force 10-240 N
  • Fast, flexible deployment

Open, 5G, Edge Dominate ARC Forum Conversations

Announcements and discussions at this year’s iteration of the Industry Forum sponsored by ARC Advisory Group were amazingly diverse. Another IT supplier appeared. Security remained an issue. Most conversations revolved around open (open source and open interoperability), edge, 5G, collaboration/partnerships, software-defined, machine learning, MQTT and its companion Sparkplug, and most importantly, solving problems for end users.

Following is a brief recap. Follow the links for in-depth information. Of course, many company announcements fit into more than one bucket.

Open

Examples one of a variety of open include Eclipse Foundation and the Open Group Open Process Automation Forum with the IT technology of Kubernetes thrown in.

The Eclipse Foundation launched the Sparkplug Working Group. Founding members Chevron, Canary Labs, Cirrus Link Solutions, HiveMQ, Inductive Automation, and ORing are defining an open standard specification to create interoperable MQTT IIoT solutions.

The Working Group will encourage the definition of technical specifications and associated implementations that rationalize access to industrial data, improve the interoperability and scalability of IIoT solutions, and provide an overall framework for supporting Industry 4.0 for oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, smart cities and other related industries.

Sparkplug is relatively new which leads to interoperability problems since each supplier and end user must create all definitions of the data. Success of this WG is essential for any widespread adoption of is. The Eclipse Foundation pointed out the intent and purpose of the Sparkplug specification is to define an MQTT topic namespace, payload, and session state management that can be applied generically. By meeting the operational requirements for these systems, Sparkplug will enable MQTT-based infrastructures to provide more valuable real-time information to business stakeholders as well.

The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum progresses. This topic broaches on both open and software-defined control. The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), in the first major update to the standard for open process automation systems since February 2019, has progressed perhaps more than I would have predicted after its unveiling only a few years ago at the ARC Forum.

Its first release focused on interoperability while the O-PAS Standard Version 2.0 provides a vendor-neutral Reference Architecture which enables the construction of scalable, reliable, interoperable, and secure process automation systems. The latest release, which is a Preliminary Standard of The Open Group, has further emphasis on standardized system configuration portability to significantly reduce capital cost and time investment for end-users. With these capabilities, end-users can easily exchange equipment without being tied to a single vendor or requiring individual configuration parameters to be written in different operating languages.

With their standard moving from interoperability to portable configurations, leaders told me that the next release will expand on this portability theme.

Bedrock Automation integrates Flow-Cal Flow Measurement into Open Secure Automation (OSA) Platform.

Speaking of both software-defined and open, Bedrock Automation Founder, CEO, and CTO Albert Rooyakkers explained its extension to the “Open Secure Automation (OSA)” platform with the addition of Flow-Cal algorithms “bringing oil and gas measurement and custody transfer securely into the digital age.” This was essentially a software addition to the platform to bring a new twist on flow computer functionality.

The new OSA +Flow family embeds industry-leading Flow-Cal measurement applications. Flow-Cal’s software has long been the industry’s choice for flow measurement and production-accounting data. Affirming Flow-Cal’s stature is the fact that the American Petroleum Institute (API) has selected it to develop, support, and distribute its standard flow measurement calculations.

The OSA +Flow software has been incorporated across all Bedrock controllers providing scalability for PLC, RTU, or DCS flow control requirements at custody transfer stations, separators, and other oil and gas production facilities. These solutions include full support of multi-drop serial, Ethernet, and HART for Coriolis, ultrasonic, and smart transmitters.

The system API compliant library, OPC UA, Inductive Automation software, MQTT, as well as software-defined I/O.

Diamanti Accelerates Energy and Service Organizations’ Adoption of AI/ML

AI and ML applications often leverage GPU processing for training models and they benefit from containers and Kubernetes—an open source container project. However, these processes are often complicated to adopt and run at scale. With the recent announcement of GPU support in the Diamanti AI/ML platform, enterprises have an easier on-ramp to managing large-scale containerized workloads under Kubernetes.

“We’re pleased to share the early customer traction we are seeing on our newest solutions in a wide range of industries including energy, services and more,” said Tom Barton, CEO of Diamanti. “These customers are validating state-of-the-art technologies internally while also benefiting from the reduced physical footprint and cost-savings that come with the Diamanti AI/ML platform.”

The new solution, announced in late 2019, is in early access today and fully supports Nvidia’s NVLink technology for higher performing workloads, as well as Kubeflow, an open source machine learning framework for Kubernetes that provides highly available Jupyter notebooks and ML pipelines. Combined with Diamanti’s Kubernetes control plane, this allows customers to deliver highly scalable environments for performance-intensive AI/ML workloads, accelerating model development and training.

A major energy company turned to Diamanti for a new workload leveraging AI/ML for optical character recognition (OCR) to scan invoices. The customer needed to scan more than 15,000 invoices a day. The legacy infrastructure could not keep up with the demand and eventually accrued a backlog of more than 200,000 invoices. Deploying the Diamanti solution with GPU support eliminated that backlog within hours.

Edge – 5G

As the other influencers at an HPE event told me once, “Gary, everything you do is the edge.” So it is not surprising that I had many conversations about the Edge. But 5G technology was also on many minds. The consensus opinion–5G will drive decision making to the edge.

As an example of edge at the Forum, here is an announcement from Opto 22. For as long as I’ve known the company, it continues to push the latest IT technologies mashed up with control and automation. This product release highlights its pioneering role in IoT.

Industrial automation manufacturer and industrial internet of things (IIoT) developer Opto 22 announced groov RIO, a family of intelligent, distributed input/output (I/O) for IIoT and automation applications. groov RIO represents a first-in-class solution for its ability to quickly connect traditional wired switches and sensors directly to Ethernet networks, software applications, and cloud platforms without intermediary control or communication hardware, such as PLCs, PACs, or PCs.

The first shipping version of groov RIO is the GRV-R7-MM1001-10, a standalone, 10-channel, multi-signal, multifunction I/O unit for signals including thermocouples (TCs), integrated circuit temperature devices (ICTDs), voltage inputs, current inputs, millivolt inputs, discrete DC inputs, self-wetting discrete inputs, discrete DC sinking outputs, and Form C mechanical relays. In addition, two channels provide special features like pulse counting, on- and off-time totalization, software latching, frequency measurement, and more. GRV-R7-MM1001-10 is completely standalone and software-configurable through a browser-based interface.

“When we designed groov RIO, we were looking for ways to democratize I/O data, because that’s what the IIoT is all about,” said Vice President of Product Strategy at Opto 22, Benson Hougland. “Although groov RIO can be used as remote I/O with our groov EPIC system or another control system, we also wanted it to operate autonomously, facilitating direct connection between I/O signals and databases, business software, or cloud IoT platforms.”

GRV-R7-MM1001-10 supports 12 different types of field I/O circuits. It also provides no-hassle, enclosure-free installation with multiple power options, including standard 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet (PoE); an extended operating temperature range; and UL Hazardous Locations and ATEX approvals.

Once installed, groov RIO can be independently managed and configured through browser-based tools. Per-channel I/O type and signal-processing options through groov Manage eliminate the need for a master control unit, and support for standard enterprise network services like DNS, DHCP, and VPN facilitates network connectivity. Embedded communication options range from efficient data publishing with MQTT Sparkplug to advanced signal processing, data aggregation, and transactions with databases and web services, using the low-code Node-RED environment and runtime.

Data —> Action

It’s all about data they all say. But when I talked with Mike Brooks who is now advising at AspenTech, he counseled, “Not too much data.” The action is in using data, not collecting it. Therefore the drawback (indeed, failure?) of data lakes. Too much storage, not enough usability. AspenTech exemplifies using Machine Learning not just to say they are in AI, but to find usable information for the companies to use to improve operations.

Collaboration – Partnerships

The Eclipse Foundation and OPAF exemplify collaboration and partnerships. Inductive Automation has community as a strategic initiative. Both founder Steve Hechtman and chief strategy officer Don Pearson highlighted it at last year’s Ignition Community Conference.

This announcement highlights community along with edge and other trends. Inductive Automation announced improvements to three products and a new development resource within Ignition by Inductive Automation. Ignition is an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The solutions include:

  • New and improved products for Ignition Edge.
  • An expansion of the Ignition Onboard program.
  • Improvements to the Ignition Perspective Module.
  • A new, free resource for developers: Ignition Exchange.

Ignition Edge will soon have three new products. Ignition Edge is a line of lightweight, limited, low-cost Ignition software solutions designed for embedding into field and OEM devices at the edge. They allow organizations to extend data collection, visualization, and system management to the edge of the network. With the new products coming soon, the lineup will include Ignition Edge Panel, Ignition Edge Compute, Ignition Edge Sync Services, Ignition Edge EAM (Enterprise Administration Module), and Ignition Edge IIoT.

The Ignition Onboard program now has easier access to industrial hardware that comes with Ignition already installed, configured, and licensed. Numerous device manufacturers are embedding Ignition and Ignition Edge into their devices — including Advantech, Moxa, OnLogic, Opto 22, and ORing.

The Ignition Perspective Module lets users easily build mobile industrial applications in HTML5 for monitoring and control of their processes directly from their mobile phones.

A significant part of the Inductive Automation strategy is to promote community among its customers and partners. The development has been ongoing for some time culminating into Ignition Exchange — a new, online space where developers can get free Ignition resources provided by Inductive Automation and the Ignition community. These resources can save time for developers.

Software Defined

OPAF, Bedrock Automation- as in take hardware platform add flow metering, exemplify the trend toward software-defined hardware.

Machine Learning

I discussed ML in relation to AspenTech for decision making. Perhaps the industry is moving past the SciFi “artificial intelligence” part of the technology to emphasize real use cases deployed today.

Operations

To name a trend “operations” may sound archaic, but many conversations moved from technology to solving real problems for customers. This announcement from AVEVA exemplifies that trend.

AVEVA unveiled its new Discrete Lean Management software. The new offering improves operational efficiency through the digitalization of lean work management for both manual and automated production lines. AVEVA’s quick-to-deploy and easy to use digital tools enable access to production information, KPIs and notifications on dashboards, workstations and mobile devices to improve overall equipment and labor effectiveness, and to facilitate data-driven continuous improvement.

AVEVA Discrete Lean Management is designed to address the issues faced by operating manufacturing plants still using paper-based systems for lean and work order management, work instructions and data collection procedures. It enables physical records to be replaced with digital tools that mitigate the risk of manual processes and provides real time visibility into production performance allowing team collaboration in response to production issues.

The AVEVA Discrete Lean Management software solution is used in Schneider Electric’s manufacturing plants and has been successfully deployed in more than 70 smart factories globally resulting a 10% productivity increase due to downtime mitigation and 70% improved response-time due to automated escalation of production issues.

I actually visited one of the plants in the deployment—one in Lexington, KY. It was an excellent example of using software tools to enhance a lean process rather than getting in the way.

MQTT

MQTT was mentioned all over the conference. This is a data transport technology. It is usable for both OPC UA and for Sparkplug. Some companies touting their use of the technology include:

  • Eclipse
  • Inductive
  • Opto — also NodeRED
  • Cirrus Link
  • Bedrock

Security

I didn’t have as many security conversations as the past few years, but I did chat with some PAS Global executives, and the company announced several new products, along with some new branding.

PAS, now PAS Global, keeps building on the platform of alarm management and safety and its ability to see what is on the process plant’s network assuring integrity of the process control system.

While at ARC Forum, company executives stressed industrial operations must increase focus on cybersecurity while maintaining continuous vigilance on safety. Stated simply, organizations need to ensure OT integrity in the face of unprecedented opportunity and risk. PAS has introduced new and updated products to optimize the integrity of industrial assets and reduce cyber risk, improve process safety and reliability, and ensure OT data health.

PAS Cyber Integrity prevents, detects, and remediates industrial cyber threats. Version 6.5 introduces an enhanced user experience for OT asset inventory information and data collection and transfer. This release also provides support for multiple integration methods (REST API, Syslog, SQL, CSV, SDK), integration with Darktrace, and Microsoft Windows event analytics;

PAS PlantState Integrity Version 8.7 introduces enhancements to Independent Protection Layer (IPL) Assurance that include sensor monitoring and voting, analysis filtering, and process trip reporting.

PAS Decision Integrity enables trusted data for decision-making. Version 1.0 leverages capabilities from PAS Automation Integrity and adds support for OT data health monitoring (data chain accuracy and visualization) and data lake enrichment.

These new product releases will be generally available by the end of March.

Laser Micromachining Manufacturing Unveiled

As you add electronic sensing and control and networking to machinery, you can take a process to the next level. I’ve been impressed with the growing development of tighter tolerances and then better variety of materials for 3D printing (additive manufacturing). Here is an example of expanding the use of automated “subtractive” manufacturing—micro machining.

6-D Laser LLC was formed in 2018 as an affiliate of leading nanometer-level motion control specialist ALIO Industries, with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems. 6-D Laser offers Hybrid Hexapod-based laser micromachining systems for wide-range taper angle control, 5-Axis Laser Gimbal-based systems for laser processing 3D substrates, and unlimited field of view scanning solutions for laser processing large-format substrates.

Coming out of stealth mode and coinciding with its official launch in 2020, 6-D Laser has launched its website (www.6dlaser.com), and has also announced that the company will be showcasing its radical new approach to laser micro processing at the SPIE Photonics West event, booth 2149, 4-6 February in San Francisco, CA.

6D Laser’s central mission addresses limitations of existing laser processing systems which are largely due to sub-optimal positioning systems used by most system integrators. 6-D Laser tackles this problem by integrating ultra-fast laser material processing with the 6-D nanometer-level precision motion control solutions in which ALIO Industries specializes.

At the heart of 6-D Laser’s integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system is ALIO Industries’ Hybrid Hexapod, which takes a different approach to traditional 6 Degree of Freedom (6-DOF) positioning devices, and exhibits much higher performance at extremely competitive prices. Rather than 6 independent legs (and 12 connection joints) ALIO’s approach combines a precision XY monolithic stage, tripod, and continuous rotation theta-Z axis to provide superior overall performance.

The combination of serial and parallel kinematics at the heart of ALIO’s 6-D Nano Precision® is characterized by orders-of-magnitude improvements (when compared to traditional hexapods) in precision, path performance, speed, and stiffness. The Hybrid Hexapod® also has a larger work envelope than traditional hexapods with virtually unlimited XY travel and fully programmable tool center point locations. The Hybrid Hexapod® has less than 100 nm Point Precision® repeatability, in 3-dimensional space.

​6D Laser vertically integrates all of the sub-systems required for precision laser micro-processing, and it does this by forming strategic partnerships with key component and subsystem suppliers that are required to achieve the goals of demanding precision applications. In addition to its association with ALIO, 6-D Laser has also partnered with SCANLAB GmbH, which together with ACS Motion Control, has developed an unlimited field-of-view (UFOV) scanning solution for coordinate motion control of the galvo scanner and positioning stages called XLSCAN. 6-D Laser has also partnered with NextScanTechnology to provide high-throughput scanning systems that take advantage of the high rep-rates in currently available in ultrafast lasers, and Amplitude Laser, a key supplier of ultrafast laser systems for industrial applications.

Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn, CTO at 6-D Laser says, “Introducing an integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system that combines the positioning capabilities of the Hybrid Hexapod®, with high-speed optical scanning leads to a system that can process hard, transparent materials with wide-range taper angle control for the creation of high aspect ratio features in thick substrates, without limitations on the feature or field size.”

Ultrafast laser ablative processes, which remove material in a layer-by-layer process, result in machined features that have a significant side wall taper. For example, a desired cylindrical hole will have a conical profile. Taper formation is difficult to avoid in laser micromachining processes that are creating deep features (> 100 microns). Precision scanheads can create features with near-zero angle side walls, but they are limited to small angles of incidence (AOI) and small field sizes by the optics in the beamline.

Uhlhorn continues, “6-D Laser’s micromachining system controls the AOI and resulting wall taper angle through the Hybrid Hexapod® motion system, and the programmable tool center point allows for the control of the AOI over the entire galvo scan field, enabling the processing of large features.”

About 6-D Laser LLC
6D Laser, LLC, an affiliate of ALIO Industries, Inc, was founded in 2018 by C. William Hennessey and Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn. ALIO Industries is an industry-leading motion system supplier, specializing in nano-precision multi-axis solutions. 6D Laser was formed with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems, including ALIO’s Patented Hybrid Hexapod. The integration of ALIO True Nano motion systems with key sub-system suppliers, through strategic partnerships with Amplitude Laser, SCANLAB, and ACS Motion Control, enables a new level of precision and capability for advanced manufacturing.

www.6DLaser.com ​​​​​
www.microprm.com

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