Intelligent components

Basis for the networked factory of the future 

Intelligent components

The basis of future production systems are intelligent components. This term refers to self-contained, autonomously functioning mechatronic assemblies. They optimise the production process thanks to their increased functionality – from the set-up stage through to ongoing operations.

Future production systems are based on autonomously functioning mechatronic assemblies. Due to the combination of sensors, actuators as well as data processing and communication, these assemblies are also referred to as intelligent components. These network, organise and configure themselves in order to thus take on orders from the superordinate control level. One example of an intelligent component is the CPS Stopgate by Festo. 

The technological challenge when developing intelligent components is the miniaturisation of high performance embedded systems. In order to enable networked overall systems like these, Festo is continuing with intensive development of technologies such as precision engineering and microsystem technology, for example.

As an innovation leader, for many years Festo has been providing impetus for factory automation and offers a wide product portfolio for drive technology. That is why Festo makes use of intelligent components to facilitate and speed up the engineering process when it comes to configuring, commissioning and operating facilities.

Components for Industry 4.0

In the vision of Industry 4.0, all the relevant data for a production process is available in real time. The prerequisite for this is intelligent components. They play the central role for the consistent and uniform exchange of information in all Industry 4.0 processes.

An industry 4.0 component is characterised by the following “4-i properties”:

  • Intuitive: With processes changing at an increasing rate, humans must interact more frequently with the technology. That means that the technology has to understand humans and vice versa – and intuitively too.
  • Intelligent: Functional integration and increasing intelligence can already be found in automation, for example in the valve terminal with integrated programmable logical controller or the vacuum gripper which includes a diagnostics function.
  • Integrating: The plug and produce ability enables the modules to log onto the host computer and communicate their capabilities. As a result they are planned into the production process and new capacities for the production system are issued.
  • Internet-enabled: The WLAN-compatibility of the components enables local, autonomous systems within the production process to actively communicate with each other, by means of standardisation independent of the system and manufacturer.

Plug and produce capability

Thanks to an integrated controller and adaptable interfaces, which keep the effort for assembly, configuration and system integration to a minimum, intelligent components are capable for “plug and produce”. Pre-configured controllers make the start-up process easier, meaning that no detailed knowledge of drives or control systems is necessary.

The “plug and produce” principle is similar to that of a USB interface on a computer, via which connected devices are able to log onto the computer directly and communicate with it. In the factory of the future, individual components are also expected to announce their presence in the production facility independently just the same way.

CPS Stopgate

In the OPAK research project (open engineering platform for autonomous, mechatronic automation components), intelligent “plug and produce” components have been developed that contain all the information necessary to operate them in their controller and feature adaptable interfaces. 

The integrated stopper module, “CPS Stopgate”, is the prototype of an intelligent component. In one component this integrates 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 – for example “block” or “let pass” – available for the whole production facility. The wiring is already integrated in the component so that only one plug-in connection each is necessary on the exterior for compressed air, power and signal, which reduces the amount of cabling required.

The Stopgate is used, for example, in the CP Learning Factory designed by Festo Didactic, which is aimed at research and future-oriented learning about integrated industry.