Where do you see IIoT, additive manufacturing, and new materials changing motion design?
Kowal • B&R: We’re active member of the Industrial Internet Consortium. I co-chair the IIC’s Smart Factory Task Group, and my colleague Sari Germanos chairs the IIC’s Safety Testbed … and our colleagues participate in the TSN testbed. We’re also involved in Industrie 4.0, including the harmonization of the two movements. The promise of IIoT and I4.0 is to continuously monitor and improve manufacturing operations. The way you make those adjustments is motion … and the way you connect motion to the cloud is through interoperable, standards based data handling and communications that flatten the hierarchy between machinery and management systems — OT and IT.
Schneider • Parker Hannifin Electromechanical and Drives Division: Industries are demanding it, though there are still some barriers to entry stemming from security concerns. These concerns are legitimate, as by 2018 it’s estimated that two thirds of the plant infrastructure will be subject to hack attempts. Protection from these malicious external entities requires good end-to-end control over the data flowing from the plant floor out to devices and pushed up from a gateway to secure data bus structures. No wonder it’s taking time for OEMs and plant managers to build confidence in that architecture.
But we see an opportunity for on-device analytics and diagnostics — and moving away from traditional enterprise-level analytics and toward programmable automation controllers (PACs) and fieldbus-enabled valve banks, for example. These new smart devices could take the form of an actuator self-diagnosing its own issues before they become problems — or to compensate on the fly for its inherent flaws to improve performance at a device level.
Wietharn • DINGS’ MOTION USA: The ability to have intelligent motion control components linked to an internal network or the internet is commonplace now. It’s possible to monitor remote motion axes on a machine half way around the world for anticipated maintenance and myriad other reasons.
Kowal • B&R: We were one of several automation suppliers that committed to commercialization of products based on TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) and OPC UA at the SPS/IPC/Drives show last fall. This is going to enable better synchronization, data acquisition, OEE and management of machinery from different OEMs using different control platforms … and will be a key enabling factor for IIoT on the plant floor.
Paul • Omron Automation Americas: Industry 4.0 demands a high degree of flexibility and an integrated machine ecosystem that maintains each system to operate at peak performance — with high variability of product configuration and production rates. Therefore, one area that is affected most is motion, because it can no longer be designed for single-purpose use and still be optimal under variable conditions. For example, it’s no longer acceptable for a robot arm to only handle a single part being loaded into the machine. More likely, it will need to have adjustable sizing to handle destacking of part trays, for example — maybe even with coordinated motion of two robot arms — or do a quality check with a vision system, to give another example. Now, based on operating conditions, the motion control can optimize its operation regardless of process changes by more than one purpose. Often these types of motion (whether linear, articulated, kinematic, precision, or CNC) have different specialized controllers, and therefore cannot support multiple application tasks to optimize to Industry 4.0 goals. In contrast, the integrated control environment of Omron’s Sysmac platform let all these different motion types run on the same system — even with the same mechanical solution.
Schneider • Parker Hannifin Electromechanical and Drives Division: Spurring the trend towards more smart devices is the falling cost of embedded sensing as evidenced by SoCs embedded in smartphones and other relatively inexpensive consumer products. The natural question is, ‘If we can have sensing and smarts on a phone that’s a couple hundred dollars, why can we have them onboard motors and actuators?’ In fact, one example that’s already helping on this front is the enhanced encoding technology of HIPERFACE DSL that allows for local memory and additional diagnostics.
Evans • Kollmorgen: Motion control (where Kollmorgen lives) has always been a strong supporter of IoT. We handle a lot of sensors in and around the motor and load, and control torque, velocity, and position (and other machine-control functions) based on feedback from those sensors. And we’ve gladly passed the terabytes of data we see upstream to whatever can handle it. We see a fair number of Big Data companies trying to drive standardization around units and word construct so these data can be managed and analyzed (rather than just stored). One example is the standards OPC UA is trying to establish.
Schneider of Parker Hannifin Electromechanical and Drives Division: Parker is also leading the way towards easier online specification and ordering with what they call their Parker Tracking System or PTS. This is the manufacturer’s branded system of putting barcodes on components to function as smart tags and digitally list the born-on date, unit-specific characteristics, and relevant data sheets — so a quick scan of the barcode with a smartphone can pull information that says, ‘This is actuator XYZ; it was manufactured on this date; here’s are some tips for implementing this technology and troubleshooting issues; and here are its common failure modes’ among other things.
Say an OEM is domestically building a machine destined for Singapore. Soon the end user will be able to scan barcodes on the machine devices and access all the pertinent details. We’re already doing that with hose assemblies and myriad other products — and there’s tons more opportunity for applications that in many cases, customers are driving. Embedded sensing and systems already work onboard smart devices today in fun and exciting ways, but we’re always looking towards practical applications — especially deep-rooted manufacturing challenges with the potential for data-driven solutions within their manufacturing process. A whole swath of technical challenges could soon be addressed through the analysis of massive amounts of data at the machine level … and I think we’re well poised to solve a lot of those problems.
Where do you see online configuration tools changing how design engineers specify and buy components?
Chip McDaniel | Engineer • AutomationDirect: There is a trend to simplify design engineers’ work when specifying and purchasing motion-control hardware by using a variety of online and downloadable software-based selection tools. At AutomationDirect, these tools help designers find optimum motion hardware for an application from a single source. Designers can select among three standard drives, eight standard motors from 100 W to 3 kW, and over 50 gearboxes, both inline and right angle with multiple ratios.
Evans • Kollmorgen: We’ve offered online design, configuration, selection, and purchasing tools for years. Case in point: Our Motioneering is an online tool that makes sizing frameless motors and drive systems easy by using a mechanism project concept (for collecting and saving multiple axes of load information and automatically calculating application results). We’ve also offered on-computer apps for those who don’t have reliable or fast Internet connections — though we’re seeing more online use even in high-growth regions, presumably as infrastructure improves.
Paul • Omron Automation Americas: Use of on-demand design and programming tools increases each year and is often a principle factor customers use in choosing a supplier. Today Omron provides sizing software for complete power-transmission design, control bill of material, connectivity, and machine simulation to reduce engineering with added assurance that all components are compatible and will perform to specification. On-demand customers can download Sysmac Studio software for a free trial and have all the same tools available to design and validate their machine today. No matter what a customer uses today, we can support their needs right away.
McDaniel • AutomationDirect: Using VisualSizer-SureServo, a motion design engineer can set up mechanical systems that use components such leadscrews, timing belts, gearboxes, and so forth — along with electric motors and drives. Part of the problem is the process of determining the right motor for the application. This is where VisualSizer-SureServo helps users model mechanical systems very specifically. Then the tool recommends motors from multiple manufacturers that best fit the application.
Evans • Kollmorgen: Engineers like most people take the path of least resistance if they’re aware of easy choices. So, if it is easier for an engineer to call his local sales engineer and ask for help, that engineer will do that. But if the engineer prefers to work alone or at 2 am, then he or she will appreciate and use the online tools — again, if they are easy to use.
Wietharn • DINGS’ MOTION USA: Design engineers like to be able to configure products online and build a prototype part number, and then order it expecting a relatively quick delivery.