Festo All About Connectivity at Automation Fair

Festo All About Connectivity at Automation Fair

Rockwell Automation was all about Connected Enterprise at Automation Fair 2016. Festo joined in the fun showcasing seamless connectivity with Rockwell Automation’s factory automation and process automation architectures in such areas as:

  • IO-Link Premier Integration
  • Ethernet/IP
  • Integrated Architecture Builder (IAB)
  • Studio 5000 Software with L5K export
  • World class training

Ethernet/IP is the primary interface node for Festo pneumatic solutions, which now extends to the sensor level with process data, service data, and events information because of IO-Link Premier Integration. The IO-Link section of the Festo Flexible and Modular Automation exhibit features products that facilitate top down/bottom up integration.

Encompass products on display include the Festo CTEU bus node for easily adding Fieldbus connectivity to pneumatic valve terminals. Fieldbus connectivity to valve terminals also significantly reduces installation and engineering costs. The CTEU bus node inexpensively integrates Rockwell PLCs with multiple Festo valve terminal models, including MPA-L and the VTUG. Since a single CTEU node serves two valve terminals, it contributes to lower inventory requirements and simplifies logistics.

The MPA-L is a modular valve terminal suitable for most pneumatic applications for discrete and process automation. The high flow rate to size ratio makes for universal applications from food and beverage packaging to semiconductor fabrication. MPA-L can run pressure and vacuum, with multiple zones. The VTUG is an electrical terminal for solenoid valves. It provides diagnostics via fieldbus and has up to 24 valve positions. Festo valve terminals offer two functions on a single valve positon for greater functionality in a small footprint terminal.

Also on display are the IO-Link integrated SDAT analog sensor for reporting the piston position of a pneumatic cylinder and the VPPM proportional pressure regulator with IO-Link for greater data transfer and diagnostic information availability. IO-Link Premier Integration provides the data foundations to Industry 4.0 concepts and Industrial Internet of Things IIoT functionality.

The highest level of safety

Festo features the Encompass product MS6-SV-E soft start and quick exhaust valve which can be used with GuardLogix Integrated Safety applications.  MS6-SV-E reduces pressure quickly and reliably and builds up pressure gradually in industrial pneumatic systems. The pneumatic system safety device is a self-testing, redundant system conforming to the requirements of EN ISO 13849-1. Thanks to the 2-channel design and its monitoring, the device fulfills category 3 and 4 requirements, which enables a performance level “e” to be attained – the highest safety level.

21st Century mechatronic training

Festo Didactic, one of the world’s leading providers of mechatronic training, showcases in the Festo Flexible and Modular Automation exhibit its curriculum supporting Rockwell PLCs. The Festo Didactic product and service portfolio offers customers holistic education solutions for all areas of manufacturing technology and process automation, such as pneumatics, hydraulics, electrical engineering, production technology, mechanical engineering, mechatronics, CNC, HVAC, and telecommunications.

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.

Festo All About Connectivity at Automation Fair

Digital Manufacturing Technology Leads To Agility

Hannover Messe was all about Digital Manufacturing this year. One place I could not make in person was a demonstration by Accenture and Dassault Systèmes. This just goes to show the great convergence of digital technologies improving manufacturing processes.

The companies built a proof of concept (PoC) to show how digital technologies can improve efficiency and create more agile manufacturing in industries such as heavy industrial equipment and aerospace.

Working with a large industrial equipment company, Accenture and Dassault Systèmes are building and implementing a three-phase solution that harnesses digital technologies to create a link between engineering and the manufacturing shop floor for non-repetitive manufacturing companies. The adaptive solution provides a new level of continuity for product assembly including the sequence in which parts are built, and provides a better level of insight into the process for engineers and the assembly staff.

The first phase of the agile manufacturing solution creates the theoretical assembly sequence required to build a product such as a train, airplane or digger. Phase two helps create, optimize and re-plan quickly an operational plan and schedule for each worker on the shop floor. The third phase creates a digital display of the schedule for each worker so they are able to refer to it. These three phases use Dassault Systèmes’ solutions.

Replacing what has often been a paper-based process, Accenture and Dassault Systèmes are creating a solution that provides a new digital link between the engineering team and the shop floor, allowing for real-time changes in the schedule. The agile manufacturing solution can also provide insight and risk assessment into any proposed changes to a product or the assembly schedule before they are made, greatly reducing downtime and creating more agile manufacturing.

“Many companies struggle to improve manufacturing flexibility and sustain unexpected commercial or technical changes when production issues, missing parts or engineering modifications occur,” said Eric Schaeffer, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s Industrial practice. “A dedicated agile manufacturing solution will provide flexibility for configuration management and the ability for local plants to personalize products, as well as support for maintenance services.”

“The Industrial Internet of Things and other digital concepts are allowing manufacturers to embark on a new era of productive, sustainable and cost-effective processes that result in a better experience for their customers,” said Laurent Blanchard, Executive Vice President, Global Field Operations (EMEAR), Worldwide Alliances and Services, Dassault Systèmes. “We are extending our long-standing collaboration with Accenture to drive agile manufacturing in the age of experience. Companies can benefit from Dassault Systèmes’ expertise in virtual manufacturing operations and data management applications and Accenture’s best practices in integration services, business process re-engineering, change management and deployment.”

Festo All About Connectivity at Automation Fair

Industrial PC Market Still Growing

The PC market, especially for consumers but also for business, is slowing. Manufacturers are turning to industrial PC market.The New York Times  recently ran an article about Intel cutting jobs due to the continued slowdown in the PC market. Recently I wrote about Dell entering the embedded PC for industrial applications market, most likely due to the same market forces.

From The New York Times article:

Intel, the world’s largest maker of semiconductors, said on Tuesday that it was laying off 12,000 people, about 11 percent of its work force, as it continues to reel from a long downturn in global demand for personal computers.

The company’s chief executive, Brian Krzanich, announced the layoffs as part of a larger corporate restructuring, which will result in a $1.2 billion charge. Intel also reported lower-than-expected first-quarter earnings and reduced its projected revenue for the year.

“Intel has been known as the PC company,” Mr. Krzanich said in an earnings call with Wall Street analysts. “It’s time to make this transition and push the company all the way over” to supplying chips for things like smartphones, cloud computing, sensors and other devices.

Here is my introduction to the Dell embedded PC announcement:

Faced with a declining market for desktop PCs and a burgeoning market for embedded PC, Dell has announced launch of its first purpose-built industrial PC (IPC) products. This release complements its entry into the Internet of Things market announced last fall at Dell World. [Note: I do some work with Dell on IoT issues, but that has no bearing on reporting this.]

Rising Industrial PC Market to Stabilize

While the global market for industrial PCs has experienced ups and downs in recent years, it is forecast to pick up in 2016 and will start to stabilize in 2018. The key reason for the increase in short-term growth is an expected improvement in the outlook for process industry investment and the continued use of industrial PCs in applications outside the established areas of industrial automation.

Global revenue from industrial PCs is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6 percent from 2014 to 2019, reaching $4.3 billion, according to IHS Inc.

“While the world market for industrial PCs has enjoyed relatively strong growth since 2013, recovery is projected to be slower through 2016,” said Rita Liu, manufacturing technology analyst, IHS Technology. “This slowed recovery is based on poor performance of downstream process-industry sectors in the current economic environment, with very low oil prices, a global downturn in mining, and the like.”

Europe, Middle-East and Africa (EMEA) was still the largest market for industrial PCs in 2014, at $1.2 billion, or 38 percent of the global total, according to the IHS Industrial PCs Intelligence Service. Asia-Pacific was the second-largest market, with estimated revenues of $ 1.1 billion. “It is worth noting that due to the slowing Chinese economy, the Asia-Pacific market for industrial PCs is projected to grow more slowly,” Liu said. “In fact, the Asia-Pacific market is expected to fall behind the American market this year.”

Of course the performance of the industrial PC market depends largely on the underlying growth in the sectors that use them, including discrete and process manufacturing sectors, as well as building automation, medical, transportation and infrastructure and other non-industrial sectors. Industrial sectors accounted for over half of the world market in 2014 and 2015, and they are expected to grow much more slowly than non-industrial sectors. Generally transportation and infrastructure, medical, and gaming sectors will grow more quickly than the general market through 2019.

Robotics is the fastest growing industrial sector for PCs; followed by materials-handling equipment; food, beverage and tobacco machinery; and packaging machinery. “Tobacco and packaging machinery are closely connected with consumer markets and enjoy relatively stable performance, no matter what the overall economic situation might be,” Liu said.

Festo All About Connectivity at Automation Fair

The Demise of Layer 3-The Manufacturing Execution Layer of the Purdue Model

A friend of mine wrote an editorial recently where he predicted the imminent demise of Layer 3– manufacturing execution –of the Purdue Model of manufacturing technology. He hides behind a paywall these days, so I don’t think I can link. Funny thing is, he’s always been focused on the lower layers of technology. For him to try to create controversy here was, to say the least, surprising.

Perhaps a recap is in order at this point. The Purdue Model has withstood the test of time. It described technology and application layers 30 years ago that are still true. Technology is always fluid, but certain things just have to be done in a manufacturing or production enterprise.

Layers 0, 1, and 2 describe the instrumentation, control, and automation layers. Layer 3 describes what has been known as the MES–or execution–layer. Layer 2 describes the enterprise layer–known as the ERP layer.

My writing has focused at the lower layers for the past 18 years. I have some work on the MES and ERP application systems. Prior to 2014 my work was almost exclusively for controls and automation magazines. There remain no magazines devoted to Layer 3. No advertising or promotion dollars exist for that area–or at least not enough to fund that level of journalism. I thought I would focus on that as a one-person digital media site, but there’s just not enough money or news available there. The ERP level magazines have also mostly folded, but there remain huge sites that cover enterprise applications.

So back to the (non)controversy.

Some people have been predicting (hoping?) that connectors could be constructed such that real-time data can flow directly from production/manufacturing to the ERP layer effectively squashing layer 3.

But wait! All those functions performed at that level still need to be done–inventory, work-in-process, scheduling, laboratory integration, routing, and the like. Yes, ERP suppliers such as SAP, IBM, and Oracle wish that their products could absorb the functions of Layer 3 and therefore they could be a one-stop-shop for all manufacturing and enterprise IT functions.

Just as certainly the suppliers of today’s MES solutions–GE, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric (Wonderware, et. Al.), and Siemens (plus many more)–hope that that scenario won’t happen. Unless, I suppose, that they could sell their solutions to one of the big ERP suppliers.

The Real Manufacturing Execution Problem

The real problem at this level has little to do with technology or application. It’s the name. MES evolved from the earlier (think 70s) MRP and MRP II. Thanks to the stellar work of the ISA 95 committee, the term MOM has sprung up. And I read more about “operations management” than I do about “execution”.

Operations management holds a clue to the future. It is not all about the technology or the application any longer. It is all about business benefit–to the customer. New technologies such as the rise of importance of analytics and new visualization such as smart phone interfaces are changing the nature of Layer 3. There is still a Layer 3. It may not look like the Layer 3 I implemented in 1978. It may not look like the Layer 3 of five years ago. But the functions are still required, still being accomplished, and getting better all the time.

My friend sometimes tries more to be controversial than enlightening. Controversial gets page views (OK, so I pulled out an SEO headline myself). But I’d rather spark a conversation.

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