Distributed Servo System at Pack Expo 2018

Distributed Servo System at Pack Expo 2018

Beckhoff Automation had a sizable booth at Pack Expo this week. Much to my surprise, when I asked about whether there was something new (I don’t expect new product introductions in automation at Pack Expo) the answer was yes. Well, I had a glimpse at Hannover in April.

The AMP8000 servo system has an innovative design where the integrated drive is placed on the end of the servo motor rather than the usual side. This design allows for maximum heat dissipation from the motor. They were able to package the drive and motor that only added 75 mm to the length of the motor.

By combining a servo drive and servomotor into one device, the AMP8000 system reduces overall packaging machine footprint and space requirements inside control cabinets and enclosures. A single coupling module can operate up to five drives using the EtherCAT P One Cable Automation solution that supplies industrial-grade power and EtherCAT industrial Ethernet communication.

Requiring Requiring no alterations to the existing machines, the AMP8000 boasts power ratings from 0.61 to 1.23 kW and standstill torque ratings from 2.00 to 4.8 Nm at an F4 flange size or power ratings from 1.02 to 1.78 kW and standstill torque ratings from 4.10 to 9.7 Nm with an F5 flange. The servo drive system also represents the Beckhoff commitment to promoting safety technology in all areas via integrated STO and SS1 safety functions.

TwinCAT software updates have added a number of important tools for packaging machine builders and end users, including expanded data processing through TwinCAT Analytics and HTML5-enabled TwinCAT HMI for industrial displays and mobile devices. In addition, TwinCAT Motion Designer supplies additional tools to commission entire motor, drive and mechanical systems in software, whether integrated into the TwinCAT 3 platform or used as a stand-alone motion system engineering tool.

Automation Shines At 2016 IMTS

Automation Shines At 2016 IMTS

Hannover Messe brought a slice of its automation trade show to this year’s International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS)—a venue known for huge machine tools. This was the second time, and it seems to be gaining some traction. Most exhibitors seemed to be central European, but there was a presence from a number of other North American automation companies not to mention many from Asia.

I stopped by a large number of stands. Below are five that had press releases new for the show. Opto 22 was at the show with an opportunity to see its recently released product with a RESTful API in the real plastic, so to speak. That plus a promised MQTT support maintains Opto’s usual spot as an early adopter, if not first adopter in many cases, of IT technologies in its OT products. I also stopped by to talk with Tom Burke and Stefan Hoppe at the OPC Foundation stand. Its news was reported here last week.

(My two-day silence was caused by travel to California and participating in the Inductive Automation Ignition Customer Conference. More on that later.)

Companies addressed below:

  • Dell Technologies
  • Beckhoff Automation
  • Bedrock Automation
  • Universal Robots
  • Carbon (3D printing)


Dell Technologies

Appearing at IMTS in the automation hall for the first time, Dell Technologies showed its IoT Gateway and Embedded capabilities along with several partners that help it provide a complete Internet of Things solution from data collection through storage, analysis, and uploading to the cloud.

The major solution thrust for Dell thus far in its first year of existence has been predictive analytics especially for predictive maintenance applications. One of the featured partners was IBM Watson, using the famed supercomputer power for predictive analytics and EAP—its predictive maintenance solution.

Eigen showed a real-time quality application with in-process inspection. Some real-time analytics are performed in the gateway before sending data asynchronously to the cloud for further analysis.

Software AG, a partner from the beginning, provides a predictive maintenance software module that provided high speed streaming analytics in an ice cream factory. The module can also create service requests, see anomalies, order spare parts.

Beckhoff Automation

mx-beckhoff-arCheck me out in these cool Microsoft Hololense Augmented Reality (AR) glasses. In this demo, I could see live data streaming from a robotic application. Beckhoff also showed support for MQTT and AMQP transport technologies (it also has OPC UA embedded), an Internet of Things coupler to Microsoft Azure cloud, and power over Ethernet on EtherCat P.



Bedrock Automation

clarksville-light-water-has-implemented-the-bedrock-universal-control-system-as-a-scada-rtu-for-cyber-secure-substation-monitoring-and-controlBedrock Automation has built an entirely new automation and control platform from the ground up. Security is designed in, even to the point of designing and manufacturing its own chips. It offers single, double, and triple redundancy, IEC 61131 programming along with a powerful function block editor that brings it into the DCS world. And it features software configurable I/O, software configurable serial module (5 to a card can be RS-232, RS-422, RS-485), and software configurable Ethernet card (think Profinet, EtherNet/IP, etc.).

mx-bedrock-sps-power-supplyAt IMTS it announced its new intelligent, standalone power supply. The SPS.500 Secure Power Supply provides deep trust cyber security authentication and onboard intelligence for diagnostics and secure Ethernet communications. Encased in a NEMA 4X sealed aluminum enclosure, users of any PLC, SCADA RTU, PAC or DCS can retrofit to the new SPS.500 inside or outside enclosures, anywhere in a plant and in harsh environments.

Additional features include:

  • Ethernet and OPC/UA communications, enabling local or remote monitoring of power supply health for greater system reliability and plant safety
  • A powerful cyber secure microprocessor and onboard memory for diagnostics and software-defined functionality
  • A built-in redundancy module, which simplifies installation and increases reliability by eliminating the need for an external redundancy module
  • Two built-in, software-configurable Form C contact relays, which provide operating and diagnostic status

Universal Robots

One of the big things in automation this year is collaborative robots, or cobos. A leader in this area is a new entrant—Universal Robots. This Danish company showed its products at IMTS. It also announced two unique new initiatives.

  • Universal Robots+: an ecosystem of products and applications, users choosing accessories, end-effectors, and software solutions from Universal Robots+, both distributors and end-users, get high security and predictability that applications will run well from the start.
  • +YOU: a unique, free-of-charge developer program, offering a powerful marketing and support platform for the flourishing eco-system of UR-robot application developers.

Alongside the launch of Universal Robots+, a new update for the robot arm’s operating software has been published. The new release (Software Version 3.3) includes updates such as the Profinet IO device functionality. The new compatibility with Profinet protocols opens up numerous additional areas of deployment and activities for robots. “A key feature of the update supporting the Universal Robots+ platform is the ability for providers to now offer solutions that interface seamlessly with the UR software,” says Østergaard.

Carbon 3D

Carbon 3D announced new funding from strategic investors toward the goal of bringing additive technology to more customers transitioning from prototyping-only use cases, to applications requiring final production quality parts with great surface finish, broad and expanding material options and the plans to transition to mainstream manufacturing. A Silicon Valley 3D printing company working at the intersection of hardware, software and molecular science, Carbon also plans to offer its proprietary CLIP technology internationally and is accelerating production to meet worldwide demand for its M1 printer.

The expansion is supported by $81 million from new investors GE Ventures, BMW, Nikon and JSR, as well as existing investors, bringing Carbon’s funding total to $222 million. More details of additional strategic investors involved in this round of financing will be announced in 2017 along with details of their manufacturing projects that utilize Carbon’s technology.

Distributed Servo System at Pack Expo 2018

Industrial News At 2016 Hannover Messe

Hannover Messe 2016 industrial trade fair was large, busy, cold and rainy, and exciting. Several news items are posted below including items from OPC Foundation, PI International, Beckhoff Automation, and a new-ish security company C-Labs.

Most of the news and analysis of Siemens was published on Thursday. The next post will document the highlights with analysis of the Dell Internet of Things Think Tank that I was privileged to moderate.

Panel discussion—Industrie 4.0 meets Internet of Things

One area of Halle 8 was set aside for a continuous stream of presentations mostly around “Industrie 4.0 Meets Internet of Things. I stopped by a few times. One of the first panels featured a couple of views.

The moderator posed the topic question as a Germany vs. US debate. The panelists refused to sink that low. They did offer a couple of interesting insights. Harel Kodesh of GE talked of the need to experiment. The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is working on a test bed. He said to let industry learn how to build standards—there needs to be a global standard—then see about building platform.

Prof. Siegfried Russwurm of Siemens said, “This is not an either/or. The consumer Internet is big in the US due to scale of the US consumer market. For Industrial Internet, Middle Europe is used to making things so that emphasis on the Industrial Internet of Things is more natural.” In an insightful conclusion, Russwurm mentioned, “Customers don’t like monopolies. We will see competing platforms.”


OPC in the World

Monday at Hannover Messe 2016, Microsoft Corp. announced it is working with the OPC Foundation to enable virtually any industrial Internet of Things (IoT) scenario through interoperability between the millions of applications and industrial equipment compliant with the OPC UA standard. Microsoft will further enable its industrial IoT customers to connect a broad range of manufacturing equipment and software that can span decades of investment with extended support of the OPC UA open source software stack.

Interoperability between devices and assets is critical for today’s factories, which are increasingly bringing new and legacy systems online and modernizing their plants and facilities. OPC UA provides a standardized communi­cation, security, and metadata and semantics abstraction for the majority of industrial equipment. It also serves as a gateway to cloud-enabled industrial equipment, including data and device management, insights, and machine learning capabilities for equipment that was not de­signed with these capabilities built in.

Microsoft’s extended support for the OPC UA open source software stack spans its IoT offerings, from local connectivity with Windows devices to cloud connectivity via the Microsoft Azure platform. Integration with Azure IoT allows customers to easily send OPC UA telemetry data to the Azure cloud, as well as to command and control their OPC UA devices remotely from the Azure cloud. In addition, Windows 10 devices running the Universal Windows Platform can connect and openly communicate with other IoT devices via OPC UA.

“As Industry 4.0 reaches a tipping point, we believe that openness and interoperability between hardware, software and services will help manufacturers transform how they operate and create solutions that benefit employees’ productivity,” said Sam George, director, Azure Internet of Things at Microsoft. “Microsoft’s support of OPC UA in Azure IoT and Windows IoT will reduce barriers to industrial IoT adoption and help deliver immediate value.”

Meanwhile OPC Foundation announced more organizational collaboration ventures.


Beckhoff Automation Reports Results

Beckhoff Automation posted global annual revenue of 620 million euros in 2015, an increase of 22 percent. This follows a similarly successful 2014 financial year in which sales rose by 17 percent. Managing Director Hans Beckhoff was very satisfied with the company’s development: “We won market share and grew much faster compared to the market as a whole. Our PC Control technology is increasingly the acknowledged market standard, and we are winning new customers worldwide with this extremely powerful technology.”

Beckhoff explained that the favorable euro exchange rate naturally helped increase growth, as with all German manufacturers who export a large share of what they make, but added that, even after revising the figure to compensate for exchange rate influences, the resulting growth rate is still an impressive 17 percent.
Beckhoff is well-represented in more than 75 countries with 34 subsidiary companies and distributors. Exports in 2015 accounted for 65 percent of total sales. “Asia is contributing strongly to our growth,” said Hans Beckhoff. “However, subsidiaries in southern Europe and North America are also performing quite well.”

Hans Beckhoff maintains an optimistic outlook on 2016 and anticipates continued double-digit sales growth: “We have strong and growing levels of incoming orders.” In order to prepare the company for this expected growth, the campus at the company headquarters in Verl will be expanded by a further 27,000 sq meters in 2016. Existing neighboring industrial buildings have already been leased for this purpose and, after being renovated, will provide additional storage and production space in the second half of the year. “This appropriately prepares us for two further years of strong growth in terms of production output,” says a confident Hans Beckhoff.

Beckhoff North America contributed to these results with an increase in revenue of 6.5 percent which followed a 16.2 percent revenue increase at the end of 2014. These positive business developments from Beckhoff North America were reported at a press conference held at Hannover Messe 2016 – the first year ever that the USA has been highlighted as the official partner country at the world’s largest industrial trade show. The intense growth in revenue was fueled by a number of factors in the North American market, including robust automation and controls purchasing from the existing customer base and several significant new customer contracts, including dramatic increases on the part of major consumer products manufacturers. “Beckhoff North America also drove double digit growth in terms of order in-flow in 2014 and 2015,” reports Aurelio Banda, CEO and President of Beckhoff North America. “We expect this encouraging trend to continue throughout the 2016 financial year, resulting in further strong results.”


OMG statement with OPC

One of the many organizational collaborations for OPC Foundation is the Object Management Group (OMG). This collaboration brings together two protocols previously thought to be competitive. Stan Schneider, CEO of RTI and spokesperson for OMG, talked with me about the situation of DDS and OPC UA. He told me there is no competition between the two. With the new OPC UA publish/subscribe specification, OPC  UA can use DDS in the same manner of UDP. The collaboration is in active development.


PI News

At the end of last year, PI (PROFIBUS & PROFINET International) established a new “I4.0” working group with the goal of preparing use cases relevant for Industrie 4.0 from the perspective of industrial communication. On this basis, existing and new technologies will be assessed from the standpoint of use in Industrie 4.0 production systems and the standardization environment will be analyzed. The working group will identify requirements for communication that are important in the Industrie 4.0 environment and bring them to standardization consistently as further development of PI technologies.

As one of the first results, a new sub-project is now being started for specific measures for the merging of IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operations Technology). IT networks and production networks are increasingly growing together. In the past, however, they were always identified by different characteristics. For example, IT networks mainly handle large bandwidths and connect different locations, while production networks mainly feature high performance and short latencies. With TSN (Time Sensitive Networking), technologies are now being developed in the IEEE that will connect the bandwidth of IT networks with the latency of OT networks.

A distinction of PROFINET is that it relies on standard IT technology while satisfying stringent real-time requirements. PI sees a large opportunity to combine the strengths of PROFINET and TSN and to generate further added value from this for customers, thereby setting PROFINET on a future-oriented foundation for Industrie 4.0. The combination will also yield versatile use of new TSN-capable standard Ethernet blocks for manufacturers of PROFINET devices. Proven PROFINET services, profiles, and user interfaces, such as diagnostics, alarms, PROFIsafe, and PROFIdrive remain unchanged for the user. PROFINET already provides a very good starting position for the use of TSN mechanisms. The convergence of real-time-capable traffic with IP-based traffic, which will increase significantly in Industrie 4.0 applications, is already firmly anchored in the PROFINET architecture today. In addition, new ideas discussed in the IEEE, such as establishment of real-time-capable dynamic ad-hoc connections, can be integrated. PROFINET is thus a consistent participant in the further development in the IEEE.

For this reason, PI will actively advance the further development of TSN and point out ways this technology can be used in PROFINET networks. In doing so, special attention will obviously be given to a seamless transition for today’s installations so that users have an easy path to TSN-based networks. First results of the working group can be expected at SPS/IPC/Drives 2016.

Other topics such as the use of OPC UA and expanded access to asset management data are also needed for implementation of Industrie 4.0 applications and are being actively advanced by the I4.0 working group.

The annual determination of the installed base of the portfolio of PI (PROFIBUS & PROFINET International) continues to show a growing acceptance in the market. The numbers for PROFINET and PROFIsafe are still very pleasing. IO-Link is exhibiting a strongly accelerated growth. The somewhat leveling-off growth of PROFIBUS and simultaneous surge of PROFINET is evidence that Ethernet-based communication is starting to replace conventional fieldbus technology in production automation. The positive trend of PROFIBUS in process automation continues, in contrast.

Three million PROFINET devices were brought into the market in 2015. The total number at the end of 2015 was 12.8 million devices, which represents a 30% increase in the installed base over the previous year. In the case of PROFIsafe, 1.3 million nodes were brought into the market in 2015, increasing the installed base by more than 30% to a total of 5.5 million PROFIsafe nodes. The growth trend is thus continuing at a high level. IO-Link experienced the greatest increase this year with 63%. The total number of installed IO-Link devices is now more than 3.6 million. A total of 2.8 million PROFIBUS devices were brought into the market in 2015.

Karsten Schneider, Chairman of PI (PROFIBUS & PROFINET International) , views the latest projection of node counts very positively. “For the first time in the history of PROFINET, its numbers exceed those for PROFIBUS. This demonstrates the positive trend for the PI technologies, not least because Industrie 4.0 means that the future belongs to Ethernet systems. With its total number of well over 50 million, PROFIBUS is the absolute world market leader. Beating a world market leader is an art. And the fact that this was done – for the first time over this past year – by PROFIBUS’s in-house competitor PROFINET is an unmistakable sign that the future belongs to our technologies.”


C-Labs Security Solution Gains Acceptance

C-Labs, an industrial Internet of Things (IoT) software developer, today announced that its Factory-Relay software was selected by AXOOM for use in industrial automation products. C-Labs also announced that its Factory-Relay software was selected by Nebbiolo Technologies for use in its Fog Computing System for process automation.

“We’re thrilled that AXOOM and Nebbiolo selected C-Labs to advance their industrial IoT solutions,” said Chris Muench, C-Labs CEO. “These customer and partnership wins underscore industry demand for secure, simple and integrated IoT solutions that work right out of the box.”

Industrial IoT is estimated to become a $151 billion market by 2020 but security and complexity are slowing adoption. A Cisco survey of more than 7,000 global executives shows that the leading obstacles to adopting industrial IoT are threats to data or physical security; followed closely by inability of IT systems to keep up with change. C-Labs was founded to deliver the most secure and simplest to deploy factory automation software.

“We selected C-Labs software for its multilayered security and simplified deployment and operations,” said Florian Weigmann, Managing Director, AXOOM. “IoT is one of the greatest opportunities for our customers and C-Labs helps us deliver it securely and easily.”

Security and IT policy integration were key factors in Nebbiolo’s selection of C-Labs Factory-Relay software. Factory-Relay automatically provisions a user interface that can replicate the factory equipment HMI on a smartphone, tablet or PC, removing an onerous integration step and making factory IoT automation simpler to deploy. “C-Labs extends our reach to a broader range of industrial equipment and protocols such as OPC UA, and simplifies the creation of industrial IoT solutions,” said Flavio Bonomi, CEO and Co-Founder of Nebbiolo Technologies. Security, IT policy and ease of deployment are the issues holding back industrial IoT according to industry analyst firm ARC Advisory Group.

“Industrial IoT has proven its value for factories and industrial infrastructure, but companies need solutions that are secure and easy to deploy; that bridge OT, IT, and mobile environments; and provide rapid application development,” said Greg Gorbach, vice president, ARC Advisory Group. “C-Labs solutions focus on all of these.” “Customers told us they needed to adapt and extend IoT deployments without sacrificing security or requiring significant training for either operations technology or information technology (IT) teams,” said Muench. “Our patent-pending approach provides a secure and IT compliant connection point among previously incompatible protocols.”

Distributed Servo System at Pack Expo 2018

OPC Foundation Real-Time And Technology Partners

OPC Foundation LogoFor being so quiet for so long, the OPC Foundation is certainly hitting the news often lately. There was news about a couple of open-source initiatives. Then the Foundation itself opened up a little with an “open-shared” program.

Then it was announced as the communication platform of Industry 4.0 in Germany.

Now a couple European automation rivals—Beckhoff Automation (Germany) and B&R Automation (Austria)—have made OPC news.

Taken in sum, these announcements plus the earlier ones reveal the importance of OPC to industrial communication. It became a standard for moving important data from control systems to human-machine interface systems and then on to SCADA and MES systems.

With the introduction of UA built on modern software technologies including built-in security and embeddable format, the technology everyone used but also everyone dissed finds itself on the cutting edge of modern connected industrial Internet strategies.

 OPC and Beckhoff

News coming from last month’s Hannover Messe included this joint announcement from OPC and Beckhoff.

OPC UA is about scalable communication with integrated security by design up to MES / ERP systems and into the cloud, EtherCAT is about hard real-time capability in machines and factory control systems. Both technologies complement each other perfectly.

Industrie 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) architectures require consistent communication across all levels while using Internet technologies: both in as well as outside of the factory, for example to cloud-based services. That exactly is what the OPC Foundation and the EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) want to account for by defining a common definition of open interfaces between their respective technologies.

At the Hanover Fair Thomas J. Burke, President and Executive Director of the OPC Foundation and Martin Rostan, Executive Director of the ETG signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which both organizations agree to closely co-operate developing these interfaces.

OPC and B&R

Not to be outdone, B&R Automation issued a press release announcing it will be supporting the OPC Foundation’s new real-time technology working groups, whose goal is to add real-time capability to the OPCUA communication standard. This will involve two key additions to the OPCUA standard. The first is a publisher-subscriber model; the other is utilization of the IEEE 802.1 standard for time-sensitive networking (TSN).

B&R will be contributing its real-time expertise to the working groups. “The updates to the OPC UA standard will benefit from our years of experience in developing real-time solutions,” says Stefan Schönegger, marketing manager at B&R.

OPC UA uses a publish/subscribe network model. B&R is the main proponent of PowerLink. PowerLink uses publish/subscribe technology, too. So, B&R wants to show compatibility.

“This is a fundamental requirement for the M2M communication you find in integrated systems such as packaging lines,” explains Schönegger.

In order to fulfill real-time requirements, the OPC UA standard will make use of the IEEE 802.1 TSN standard. “At the moment, TSN is still a working title for a group of new IEEE standards designed to provide native real-time capability for the IEEE 802 Ethernet standard,” says Schönegger. This would allow for a seamless transition to substantially faster Ethernet standards such as POWERLINK for field-level communication and demanding motion control tasks.

Beyond the automation industry, TSN is currently also being evaluated by the automotive and telecommunications industries. “The first cars based on TSN are expected to hit the market in the very near future,” reports Schönegger. This would help secure the widespread availability of this technology. In addition to B&R, the new OPC working groups will be also supported by other leaders in the field of automation, as was announced by KUKA on April 13, 2015.

OPC UA already plays a central role in the IT-related areas of modern production systems. “The addition of TSN and the publisher-subscriber model will greatly expand the range of potential OPC UA applications,” says Schönegger.


What all this means is that OPC can now become even faster and more usable than before. The little protocol that everyone uses and everyone complains about is getting cred as it becomes more modern. These technological advances should make it more valuable. And that will be significant in this new connected enterprise era.

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