Schneider Electric Announcements at ARC Forum

Yesterday was a travel day and I didn’t get anything posted. I’ve been busted back in my airline priority (no traveling during Covid). I’m in the economy seats with no room to pull out the laptop. So, I rest up.

What with a user group week followed by Hannover followed by the ARC Forum, news abounds. I’m also working on essays about data and about open vs. Interoperable. Ideas that have sprung from my reading and conversations.

I had several meetings with Schneider Electric this week at ARC. The really big thing to watch is its work with Universal Automation promoting IEC 61499. The question I asked around the conference with no suggestions of answers forthcoming was “will there be a critical mass of companies and users that upsets the automation and control market?” We will watch and evaluate.

Three pieces of news this week: Digital Twin Software; collaboration on security with Claroty; collaboration with Intel.

Schneider Electric launches digital twin software solution

Short take: EcoStruxure Machine Expert Twin cuts commissioning time by 60% and reduces time-to-market by 50% by revolutionizing the design and build processes

Schneider Electric has launched EcoStruxure Machine Expert Twin, a scalable digital twin software solution to manage the entire machine lifecycle. 

The software enables original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to create digital models of real machines so they can be designed and commissioned virtually before building the machine itself. EcoStruxure Machine Expert Twin’s intuitive environment includes drag-and-drop mechatronic components, VR/AR interfaces, and application-focused libraries, all of which enable the parallel engineering of mechanical, electrical, and control tasks.

EcoStruxure Machine Expert Twin spans the entire machine lifecycle, from sales, concept, and design, to manufacturing and operation. Transforming design ideas into convincing sales animations helps customers to properly visualize the end product, while the in-depth design helps to improve and verify prototypes, reduce risk and quality costs, and speed up time-to-market.

Claroty and Schneider Electric Collaborate to Enhance Industrial Cybersecurity

Short take: Reinforces commitment to industry-leading operational cybersecurity through collaboration

Schneider Electric has announced its collaboration with Claroty, the security company for cyber-physical systems across industrial, healthcare, and commercial environments.

The agreement builds on the existing relationship between the two leading companies and leadership in their respective industries. Schneider Electric will now integrate The Claroty Platform into their offering, enabling them to better address new cybersecurity concerns, including protection, safety and insurance for industrial customers.

Schneider Electric collaborates with Intel to Drive Industrial Innovation

Short take: Project to enhance industry’s first Universal Automation system, EcoStruxure Automation Expert by creating a Distributed Control Node (DCN) software framework

Schneider Electric announced a collaboration with Intel to extend EcoStruxure Automation Expert by creating a Distributed Control Node (DCN) software framework complimented by an associated Intel processor-based DCN hardware offering.

By combining the performance, security and deployment capabilities of Intel Edge Controls for Industrial (ECI) technology with EcoStruxure Automation Expert, the DCN framework can simplify and speed the development of software defined control systems. Additionally, the DCN will enable EcoStruxure Automation Expert – the world’s first software-centric automation system – to scale faster and further in process industries, including energy and chemicals, mining, water/wastewater, pharmaceuticals and hybrid markets.

This DCN development will be based on Universal Automation (UniversalAutomation.org), an organization that manages the implementation of a shared source runtime based on the IEC61499 standard. EcoStruxure Automation Expert represents the first of a new era of automation software based on this shared runtime.

A fundament feature of EcoStruxure Automation Expert is the ability to decouple software from hardware. This allows hardware to be upgraded as required to improve system performance while the application remains the same, thereby protecting the customers intellectual property and investments. The joint effort between Schneider Electric and Intel illustrates the industry’s transition from fixed-function hardware to software-defined, flexible, plug and produce solutions that deliver customers greater operational effectiveness.

Initial results of this joint DCN framework development will be shared at this fall’s Schneider Electric Innovation Summit – Las Vegas (October 12-13).

Mixed Reality Simulator and Updated Process Automation from Honeywell

Honeywell User Group landed in Orlando two weeks ago. Meanwhile, I’ve had several meetings with Honeywell again this week, also in Orlando, at the annual ARC Industry Forum. Two additional items have popped up this week. One relates to worker enhancement and the other fleshes out additional details of the updated Experion PKS process automation system. This topic was broached last week, but there’s a little bit more.

Honeywell Enhances Immersive Field Simulator

Manas Dutta met with me to discuss this simulator product. Mixed reality experiences have often been explained as training applications—and indeed that is a great use. However, Dutta also explained that design engineers can also use the technology to visualize the physical plant. They can see where a scaffolding may need to be erected or where there may be interferences. This is most useful in the usual use case where engineering is done remotely.

Honeywell announced a new version of its Immersive Field Simulator (IFS) offering, a virtual reality (VR) and mixed-reality-based training tool that incorporates a digital twin of physical plant operations to provide targeted, on-demand, skill-based training for workers. With IFS technology, plants can simulate scenarios such as primary failure and switchovers, and cable and power supply failures, that train and test personnel on their skills.

The new version of IFS – R120 – incorporates a simulation engine that enables customers to build field operator training lessons without having to link to a larger panel operator simulator. This provides more flexibility in how they conduct training and alleviates the need to pull multiple operators off shift for sessions. In addition, it reduces the solution’s footprint and allows it to be more accessible for impromptu training or refresher courses.

Furthermore, IFS R120 can facilitate an open platform communications connection to any panel operator simulator that a customer may have.

“Megatrends such as the aging workforce and increased complexity of technology are putting even more pressure on industrial companies and their training programs,” said Pramesh Maheshwari, vice president and general manager, Lifecycle Solutions and Services, Honeywell Process Solutions. “More than ever, they need training and development solutions that empower workers to improve plant performance, uptime, reliability and safety.

He continued: “One of the best ways to do this is by simulating real-world environments and rare but critical plant operation and maintenance scenarios to enable safe, hands-on learning away from the hazards of a plant. This version of Immersive Field Simulator offers increased flexibility to meet any site’s operator training requirements.

IFS R120 will be available at the end of 2022.

Experion PKS Release 520.2 For Next Generation Process Control

Joe Bastone sat down with me at ARC Industry Forum to talk about the next gen process control from Honeywell. As he discussed the “Hive” technology and new features, his excitement and passion for the product was abundant.

However as I’ve discussed previously, an interesting sub-story is that the product contains many of the features requested by ExxonMobil and other end users that has led to the development of the Open Process Automation Forum and standards, but no mention of OPAF is ever made. This story will continue to develop. For sure, significant advances have come to process control.

Honeywell announced Release 520.2 (R520.2) of its Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS), introducing new process automation features and functionality to end users across the industrial sector. 

At the center of R520.2 is Experion PKS Control Highly Integrated Virtual Environment (Control HIVE) functionality, which enables users to integrate individual controllers and have them act as a cluster of shared compute resources. This functionality, combined with the capability to optimize control system resources and input/output modules, significantly reduces the complexity and capital expenditure associated with automation projects and control systems.

Control HIVE also reduces unplanned downtime and shutdowns through unlimited availability and redundancy; provides longevity; and simplifies lifecycle management and support through streamlined maintenance and upgrade activities. Furthermore, Control HIVE provides an open, scalable control platform that can accommodate other types of applications, reducing the complexity of integrating, operating and maintaining third party systems and packages.

Experion PKS R520.2 also expands the functionality of Control HIVE, which allows automation projects to be deployed in a more flexible and resilient manner by decoupling control system elements that are traditionally engineered, configured and deployed in a hierarchal manner. 

Rounding out the updates is side-by-side support for Honeywell’s C300PM and EHPM controllers, which provides more flexibility for migrations; unit operations controller enhancements for Life Sciences, Pulp and Paper, and other vertical end users; PROFINET S2 redundancy; and materials requirement planning support for increased availability and simplified device replacement.

“Building on the foundation forged by Experion PKS R520.1, this new version of Experion PKS incorporates ground-breaking technologies and capabilities that effectively establish the necessary requirements for the next generation of process control,” said Joe Bastone, director of offering management for Experion PKS, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Implementation of R520.2 can truly transform a user’s current installed base, leveraging existing investments while solidifying their operations for a digitalized future.”

Qualcomm Unleashes A Raft of New Products for WiFi and Autonomous Robots

Qualcomm has been quite busy releasing new products and devoting time to conversations. Networking advances are intriguing. Qualcomm has news beyond WiFi 6 that others are touting with news of a WiFi 7 platform. Other news includes an AR chip set and technology for mobile robotics.

Let’s take a tour through Qualcomm news:

Qualcomm Debuts Wi-Fi 7 Networking Pro Series, a Scalable Commercial Wi-Fi 7 Platform

Highlights:

  • Qualcomm Technologies is currently sampling the world’s most scalable Wi-Fi 7 networking platform portfolio commercially available, with offerings ranging from 6 to 16 streams, for next-generation enterprise access points, high performance routers, and carrier gateways
  • Third-generation Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms bring key Wi-Fi 7 features like 320MHz channel support establishing new performance benchmarks in wireless networking of up to 33 Gbps wireless interface capacity and peak throughputs over 10 Gbps.
  • These Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms continue the legacy of innovative, custom architectural design optimized for multi-user environments, to power the collaboration, telepresence, XR, metaverse, and immersive gaming applications of today and tomorrow’s home and enterprise environments.
  • Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms are supported by Qualcomm Technologies’ turnkey service for Automated Frequency Control (AFC) to enable the highest performance possible in the 6GHz spectrum band.

Qualcomm Technologies announced its Wi-Fi 7 capable Qualcomm Networking Pro Series Gen 3 family of platforms. Now sampling and available to global development partners, the Qualcomm Networking Pro Series, Gen3 is the world’s highest performance Wi-Fi 7 network infrastructure platform portfolio commercially available. Building upon the multi-generation legacy of the Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms, the products combine Wi-Fi 7 features with Qualcomm Technologies’ intelligent multi-channel management technologies to improve speeds, lower latency, and enhance network utilization for users of Wi-Fi 6/6E devices while offering game-changing throughput and incredibly low latency for the next generation of Wi-Fi 7 client devices.

This third generation of the Qualcomm Networking Pro Series sets new industry benchmarks for networking platform performance. The family enables systems with peak aggregate wireless capacity of 33 Gbps and point-to-point connections exceeding 10 Gbps. With advanced features for interference detection and multilink operation, the Wi-Fi 7 Network Pro Series enables deterministic low latency across challenging shared wireless environments, enabling application performance rivaling private spectrum. The products can support high speed low latency wireless backhaul for home mesh Wi-Fi and enterprise infrastructure with reliable performance even in the presence of neighboring interference. When combined with high performance internet access such as 5G fixed-wireless access or 10G PON fiber, customers can experience immersive connected experiences including high resolution videoconferencing, AR/VR, and high-performance cloud gaming.  

Wireless AR Smart Viewer Reference Design Powered by the Snapdragon XR2 Platform

The Wireless AR Smart Viewer eliminates the cord between an AR glass and a compatible smartphone, Windows PC, or processing puck and still achieves virtually lag-free AR experiences using a fully integrated Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 System combined with the new FastConnect XR Software Suite.

The reference design, which is being sampled to select OEMs, boasts a 40% thinner profile and a more balanced weight distribution2 .

Qualcomm Technologies announced another milestone in making extended reality (XR) the next computing platform with the Wireless AR Smart Viewer Reference Design, powered by the Snapdragon® XR2 Platform. The cord-free reference design helps OEMs and ODMs more seamlessly and cost-efficiently prototype and bring to market lightweight, premium AR glasses to enable immersive experiences that unlock the metaverse. 

Greater Performance, Sleeker Device: The purpose-built, premium Snapdragon XR2 Platform now packs powerful performance into a slim, smaller AR glass form factor. The AR reference design hardware, developed by Goertek, has a 40% thinner profile and a more ergonomically balanced weight distribution3 for increased comfort. SeeYA provides the dual micro-OLED binocular display enabling 1920 x 1080 per eye and frame rates up to 90Hz and a no-motion-blur feature to deliver a seamless AR experience. Dual monochrome cameras and one RGB camera on the smart viewer enable six-degrees of freedom (6DoF) head tracking and hand tracking with gesture recognition to achieve AR precision.

Qualcomm Advances Development of Smarter and Safer Autonomous Robots

Highlights:

• As 5G advances beyond the smartphone, 5G and premium AI-enabled robotics, drones and intelligent machine solutions will empower more productive, intelligent, and advanced robots, unlocking new possibilities with critical intelligence and maximum efficiency.

• Qualcomm Robotics RB6 Platform and the Qualcomm RB5 AMR Reference Design – bring enhanced AI and 5G together to power next-generation robotics, drones and intelligent machines including autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), delivery robots, highly automated manufacturing robots, urban air mobility (UAM) aircrafts, autonomous defense solutions, and beyond.

• Latest solutions unleash innovative possibilities for industries looking to adopt robots and realize the benefits of the solutions at the connected intelligent edge.

The Qualcomm Robotics RB6 Platform and the Qualcomm RB5 AMR Reference Design will support evolving applications for OEMs and robot manufacturers looking to integrate ground robots in industrial use cases across sectors including government service applications, logistics, healthcare, retail, warehousing, agriculture, construction, utilities, and more. The new solutions will accelerate the digital transformation of industries and serve as a key enabler for Industry 4.0.

Updated: Schneider Electric Launches Universal Automation Discovery Packs

Updated and corrected. I’m just off the “phone” with Louis Arone of Schneider Electric. Here are a few amplifications to what I wrote earlier this week.

  1. This release deals with factory automation, not process automation. Specifically technologies in use with the Modicon product line.
  2. Universal Automation is an organization. Check out the website. It lists 31 current members. The organization promotes standardization under IEC 61499.
  3. The foundation is software defined control. For Schneider Electric the instantiation is EcoStruxure Automation Expert software.
  4. Schneider Electric is developing on two PLC platforms, a drive platform, and a softPLC platform.
  5. While my comments about how important open automation is to the process side still stand, this conversation revealed the same importance to Schneider’s strategy for factory automation, as well.
  6. Ethernet remains the core network, just as my conversations with executives going back several generations emphasized.

Schneider Electric took a bold step last year announcing an open control platform evidently not proprietary to itself at all. Based on IEC 61499 open distributed control standards, it put this control out into the wild and asked competitors to forsake their own proprietary boxes and join it in the brave new Open Process Automation world. 

Pause while we listen for the rush to join.

Here are two articles I wrote last year about the announcement—Hannover announcement and Automation Expert.

Somewhere about the time of the sale of Foxboro and other assets to Schneider Electric, Foxboro executives told me firmly that they were betting heavily on the Open Process Automation  initiative as their competitive advantage. And to this day years later Schneider Electric has been a stalwart supporter of the work.

Today’s news involves release of Discovery Packs designed to jump start the program by offering free 12-month engineering software licenses. This obviously targets people who might possibly become internal advocates in end user companies spanning the globe. I did not count the number of references to innovators. You can catch that drift.

The news in brief:

  • New program designed to help industry professionals break the confines of traditional systems and enable next-generation automation
  • Innovative offer addressing the barrier of single vendor lock-in by testing the ability to decouple hardware from software using tools to reduce commissioning time and associated costs
  • Free 12-month engineering software license available for innovators to explore the benefits of universal automation and IEC61499-based solutions

Schneider Electric launched its Universal Automation Discovery Packs program in the U.S. May 18, 2022, giving innovators the opportunity to explore the benefits of universal automation. Through this program, experts from all aspects of the industry, including OEMs, system integrators, end users, distributors, academics, and others can receive a free license to explore this next-generation automation system for themselves. 

Universal automation is a disruptive technology based on the IEC61499 standard for interoperability and portability that decouples hardware and software by addressing one of the industry’s largest challenges to innovation — single-vendor lock-in. By having the opportunity to explore this new technology before leveraging it for commercial projects, innovators can better understand how the platform can support their organizational goals and improve operational efficiency.

“Today’s industry is changing faster than ever before, requiring both new solutions that offer greater flexibility and higher productivity, and a skilled workforce familiar with those solutions able to implement them,” said Kaishi Zhang, Global Director, Product Management at Schneider Electric. “Through this program, we are fostering digital innovation and creativity in the next wave of the industrial automation workforce by providing access to the latest universal automation platform and tools to get them started, encouraging them to take the next step in driving the industry of the future forward.”

Universal Automation Discovery Packs are for non-commercial use, enabling innovators to experience the benefits of universal automation while testing the interoperability and portability of Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Automation Expert system with compatible 3rd party hardware. Available on both Microsoft- and Linux-based machines, the plug-and-produce automation software components are based on IEC61499, a key industry standard that defines high-level system design language for distributed Industrial Control Systems (ICS). Adoption of an IEC61499-based automation layer common across vendors has unlimited potential for modernization across industries.

The vendor-agnostic EcoStruxure Automation Expert — the world’s first universal automation solution — is an ideal platform for Industry 4.0 solutions, providing excellent reusability, scalability, and architectural flexibility. Through the implementation of a common distributed control runtime across hardware and software platforms, it represents a new approach to designing, building, operating, and maintaining industrial automation systems, offering a unique technology mix that defines a new category of integrated automation systems.

Siemens Continues To Build Additive Manufacturing Momentum

Siemens reserved a central location at its stand at Hannover Messe for additive manufacturing (AM) the last couple of times I made it to Germany. It has released a few news items lately revealing an ever expanding AM initiative.

This news announces opening of a new technology hub in Charlotte, NC designed to “accelerate plans for the industrialization of additive manufacturing.” AM momentum grows.

Siemens is announcing the opening of its new Charlotte Advanced Technology Collaboration Hub (CATCH) which will be located in Charlotte, NC. This new strategic research and development hub, spearheaded by Siemens Digital Industries, Siemens Technology and Siemens Energy, now a separately operated company, to focus on helping our customers accelerate their plans for the industrialization of additive manufacturing (AM). Specifically, Siemens will use this space to collaborate with key machine builders (OEMs), end-users and U.S. national laboratories to ensure the successful industrialization of additive manufacturing.

In conjunction with this announcement, Siemens also recently announced partnerships with ExOne, Xerox and Roboze, leaders in building industrial 3D printers. This partnership will ensure that Siemens and its collaborators have the most advanced hardware on the market.

“We are excited to launch this new additive manufacturing hub and to begin inviting customers in to collaborate and find ways to accelerate the industrialization of this technology,” said Tim Bell, Additive Manufacturing Business Manager, Siemens Digital Industries. “The benefits of additive manufacturing are clear from faster time-to-market, to better design through digital prototypes, to localized manufacturing helping to reduce supply chain constraints. We believe that future of manufacturing is additive.”

Dr. Hallee Deutchman, Head of Research in Materials and Industrialized Manufacturing (US) for Siemens Technology stated, “the CATCH center will not only help industrialize additive manufacturing, but also help incubate and grow the next generation of cutting-edge technology to solve industry’s hardest manufacturing problems.”

CATCH will be the entry point for many manufacturers to understand how and why AM is crucial to designing products more effectively, manufacturing them closer to the point of purchase and creating a more resilient supply chain.

Further enabling the collaboration between Siemens, machine OEM’s, and end users, Siemens Financial Services (SFS) – the financing arm of Siemens – supplied the CATCH lab with a financing solution that aided the leasing of several 3D printers for use in the lab. Financing additive manufacturing is a strategic priority for SFS as the evolution and digitalization of manufacturing continues, and the revolutionary use of 3D printing expands.

Morf3D Applied Digital Manufacturing Center Partners with Siemens Advanta

Cybersecurity and supply chain are two of the three most received news items here at the Manufacturing Connection. The third is additive manufacturing. Not so much automation and control and even IoT anymore. This news is the beginning of a bunch of news coming from or concerning Siemens. In this news, Morf3D partners with Siemens Advanta (neither entity had I even heard of before this release given that there is apparently no media relations activity for America).

Morf3D, Inc., a subsidiary of Nikon Corporation, announced its partnership with Siemens Advanta, the IoT consultancy and solutions integration arm of Siemens. The two entities have committed to an ongoing technology development partnership as Morf3D continues to build its new Applied Digital Manufacturing Center (ADMC) in Long Beach, California.

Morf3D’s ADMC is a new 90,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility that harnesses applied research, advanced engineering and application development, serial production and most significantly, new industry partnerships with global leaders to drive the industrialization of digital manufacturing in high-growth markets.

As part of Siemens Advanta’s inaugural project, the consultancy will leverage advanced design and simulation software from Siemens Digital Industries to develop a scale up plan and bottleneck analysis, as well as explore novel manufacturing and logistic concepts for the Long Beach center. Material flow and space demand will be validated based on a digital twin of production.

“Siemens Advanta is proud to contribute to the forward-thinking innovation that is transforming the additive manufacturing industry,” said Rani Shea, CEO of Siemens Advanta, North America. “In working with Morf3D and its new ADMC, we look forward to helping optimize additive manufacturing capabilities for the aerospace industry.”

Siemens Advanta’s work at the new ADMC will transition into additional ongoing software innovations and on-site personnel support. “We are constantly thinking about how to further our industry and this partnership with Siemens Advanta gives us a great sense of optimism for the future,” said Ivan Madera, CEO for Morf3D Inc. “Morf3D is experiencing growth at a rapid rate. We wanted to make sure that our factory was flexible and that we had a team able to understand the challenges that we might face, not just today, but in the future too.”

Morf3D’s investment in the new California facility underscores the company’s commitment to developing a strong industrial base that improves the quality of its products, enhances technical capabilities, and enriches customer applications worldwide. The center is projected to be one of the largest aerospace additive manufacturing solution integrators in the US. At peak, the center will be home to 150 multi-discipline engineers, research staff, and technical teams.

Headquartered in Munich, Germany, Siemens Advanta was founded in 2019 to help clients unlock their digital futures by offering end-to-end support on their unique digitalization journey. Siemens Advanta is a strategic advisor and a trusted implementation partner in digital transformation and industrial IoT with a global network of more than 9,000 employees in 19 countries and 89 offices. Highly skilled and experienced experts offer services ranging from consulting to design & prototyping to solution & implementation and operation.