Production facilities are becoming ever more complex and the effort required for planning and start-up is increasing. In the OPAK research project (open engineering platform for autonomous, mechatronic automation components), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Festo and other cooperation partners are working on making this complexity manageable. Engineering processes should be able to be implemented faster, more intuitively and more efficiently in future.
Aims of the project
Simple engineering processes
In order to make the engineering process more intuitive and efficient, a virtual depiction of the production facility is created in OPAK. In this way, all the procedures and functions can be simulated tested at the planning stage with the aid of the engineering software, even before the facility takes a physical form.
In this respect the developer is only concerned with the desired automation processes, but does not have to deal with abstract commands used for programming control systems. The engineering system performs a plausibility check during the planning stage so that from the start, only those components and combinations can be selected that are technically possible and make sense. This means that the focus for the developer is on the actual automation task and its solution. The detailed steps for technical implementation recede into the background.
Components with digital memory
The prerequisite for being able to create such a virtual depiction of a production facility are components that contain all the information necessary to operate them in their integrated controller. Combined with adaptable interfaces, which keep the effort for assembly, configuration and system integration to a minimum, intelligent components are thus capable for “plug and produce”: Similar to USB interfaces on computer systems, which are used by connected systems to log in directly with the main computer and communicate with it, individual components are also expected to log into the production facility themselves in the factory of the future.
An initial result of the work in the OPAK project is the prototype of an integrated stopper module. In one component it comprises both the necessary actuators as well as the sensors and controls to stop workpiece carriers on a conveyor belt at the right place and time. A standardised interface is used to make the function of the stopper module available for other systems.
In order to show what a production facility of the future could look like and how the results from OPAK are channelled into it, the project partners have set up an exemplary industrial cell. Here it is possible to see how a flexible facility in the factory of the future can work – from the engineering to start-up and ongoing production.
What is currently still being researched and implemented on a small scale is expected to be transferred to the whole factory in future. The vision behind the OPAK project is a production facility that exists completely as a virtual depiction. Individual components or parts of the facility can therefore be modified or replaced very easily, as all procedures can be tested virtually before being physically implemented. Downtimes and standstills are thus kept to a minimum and the production can be flexibly adapted to changing conditions.
Other project partners
The project OPAK is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) within the research programme “Research for the production of tomorrow” (funding reference number 01MA13012A). Besides Festo AG and Festo Didactic, the following partners are involved:
From the field of science
• 3S (CODESYS)