Festo takes a holistic view from different perspectives of the changes in production world and besides technology also takes other points of view into account, such as the interaction between man and machinery and the issue of training and qualification. Together with partners from science and industry, Festo is researching new solutions and technologies for the production of the future.
Active networking activities and development of standards
In order to help shape important issues surrounding Industry 4.0, such as consistent communication and service-oriented architecture, and to pick up impetus for its own products, Festo is a member of various networks.
Industry 4.0 platform
Festo is represented in both the steering committee and in various working groups of the Industry 4.0 platform across Germany, which takes forward the Industry 4.0 project of the future embedded in the Federal Government’s high-tech strategy. Festo, together with other partners from science and industry, actively works on the development of technologies, standards, business and organisation models relating to Industry 4.0 and their practical implementation.
In order to convert these quickly into industrial practice, a consensus-based standardisation process accompanied by research is indispensable. That is why Festo is committed to setting up and implementing a reference architecture, into which an ‘Industry 4.0 component’ can be embedded. Festo Didactic shapes the important aspect of training and development in the corresponding working group.
Labs Network Industry 4.0
Festo is a founder member of the Labs Network Industry 4.0, an alliance made up of companies, associations, politics and research. The association acts as a dialogue, competence and experimentation platform for German companies on the threshold of Industry 4.0.
The companies can become familiar with new technologies, innovations and business models surrounding Industry 4.0, try them out in existing pilot installations (test beds) and evaluate their technical and economic feasibility before being launched on the market.
Automation ML e. V.
Automation Markup Language (Automation ML) is an open, neutral data format for saving and sharing facility planning data. The aim of Automation ML is to have uniform engineering data for all steps and disciplines of the engineering process in production planning. Festo is a member of Automation ML e. V. and represented on the association’s executive board. We are committed to standardising and spreading the data format on a wider scale – particularly in terms of developing automation components in the engineering file format.
Festo is involved in several working groups in Automation ML e. V. for the further standardisation and dissemination of the Automation ML format. Among other things, Festo heads the working group for describing automation components in Automation ML, deals with the depiction of fluidics diagrams and supports the activities relating to the interfaces for eClass, OPC-UA and electric CAD solutions. Within Festo, the research department supports pilot projects for exchanging data with Automation ML across all tools and applies the format, for example, in the research promotion projects AVANTI and OPAK. The research department has depicted the Festo product catalogue as an Automation ML library in the form of a prototype and is working with other departments on providing customers promptly with the complete Festo product information by means of Automation ML.
OPC-UA is a software interface for transporting machine data such as process values and measurements and describing them semantically in a machine-readable way. It is vendor-neutral and gives components the ‘plug and produce’ capability.
Festo is a member of the OPC Foundation and uses the communication standard for intelligent valve terminals and a growing portfolio of control solutions. One example is the CPX-CEC control system. Festo is involved here in the further development of the communication standard for Industry 4.0.
The OPC-UA communication standard is used in Festo research projects for exchanging data outside of time-critical applications. Real-time systems will also be managed based on OPC-UA in future research projects. Generating OPC server models from engineering data is another development field. The research department is helping the Festo production plants to introduce OPC-UA in its own production.
Applications and test beds
Handling equipment without a control cabinet – virtual start-up
The high-speed handling system with CPX and the integrated EMCA drive with 100 picks a minute enables free movements in space. The CPX automation platform integrates the complete electropneumatic control chain via a CODESYS control system: from the on/off signal, to simple electrical and pneumatic movements, through to the transformation of the tripod models with calibration option.
The CPX takes care of the controls. Originally designed as a valve terminal with remote I/O, it now also enables the local automation in the machine. Together with the electric EMCA drive, the tripod manages completely without a control cabinet for the first time.
The tripod is used to make the connection from the real system to the virtual world and to illustrate the virtual start-up process using CIROS. The CIROS simulation developed by Festo Didactic adopts the tripod as a model from the CAD system. Virtual components are gradually being replaced by real ones in the development process. That improves the quality, shortens the start-up time and shows the way for Industry 4.0. In future, AML (Automation Markup Language) is expected to become the standard for these simulations as a data exchange format for Industry 4.0.
Fully integrated stopper module
In one component the fully integrated stopper module comprises both the necessary actuators as well as the sensors to stop workpiece carriers on a conveyor belt. In addition, it integrates a control system, which provides the facility with the functionality of the stopper and is an example of an element in a service-oriented system architecture. By this means, the stopper module makes the engineering process easier and shorter for the plant manufacturer.
The latter does not need to spend as much time on wiring and hosing and is easily able to integrate the function of the stopper in its machine software. The plant operator has the benefit that it can communicate directly with the stopper module using its Manufacturing Execution System (MES) – across the control hierarchies. In this way, for example, it can constantly access the operational status and service information.
Research Experimental Factory (REF)
The Research Experimental Factory (REF) is a production facility developed by the research department for researching, developing and testing pilot applications for Industry 4.0. The REF represents a production environment that is close to reality, as could be found at many of Festo’s customers: a complete production line is set up from the component to the MES system. Real products are processed with realistic cycle times. Besides Festo components, third party products are also integrated, which enables the interaction between components from different manufacturers to be tested.
Products, for example new drives, grippers or entire handling systems, can be integrated in the REF and tested in exactly the same way as cross-product automation and software concepts.
The modular composition of the REF enables new production stations to be docked via an electromechanical plug-and-produce interface. This facilitates and speeds up the start-up process and makes the production facility adaptable.
Flexible and adaptable assembly
At the Scharnhausen Technology Plant, a facility is being developed to produce a wide variety of valves in small to medium quantities. The research department is helping to plan this – particularly with regard to the control architecture and the implementation of the adaptability principles. For this purpose, process stations are being developed that are able to fulfil tasks such as screwing, pressing in, greasing or feeding independent of the product.
These developments are being prepared and tested at the Research Experimental Factory (REF). The knowledge acquired there will be transferred to the Scharnhausen Technology Plant.
Together with partners from science and industry, Festo is researching new solutions and technologies for the production of the future. Festo participates in the following research support projects:
The role of humans in the production of tomorrow is often discussed. Which new tasks will emerge? Which ones can robots take on, and how will humans and robots work together? Answers to these questions and other practical solutions are being researched by Festo together with partners from science and industry in the project ‘Work in the industry of the future’ (ARIZ). One of the main focus points here is on safe human–robot cooperation.
Machines and robots with comprehensive safety systems and corresponding sensor technology make it possible for man and machine to move in the same working space and work together without a protective cage. Ever since the Scharnhausen Technology Plant was opened in 2015, Festo has been gathering experiences relating to the interaction between production workers and robots. An assembly robot is allowed to work alongside people without a safety fence. It takes the strain off its human colleagues in the valve assembly department and takes on the exhausting and onerous gripping and joining tasks. A highly sensitive sensor skin on the robot’s arm monitors the robot’s movements: as soon as an employee comes too close, the robot comes to a complete stop. One of the main aims of the ARIZ project is to establish a flexible and adaptive production assistant in safe human–machine cooperation.
In the joint project, MetamoFAB, Festo, together with partners from research and industry, is developing solutions to enable a metamorphosis into intelligent and networked factories. All the participants, in other words people, machines, workpieces and information technology, must be involved here. The knowledge gained will be used at Festo in the energy transparency system planned for the Scharnhausen Technology Plant.
The aim is to use this system in future to combine all the information an decisions that are necessary to be able to operate the Technology Plant in an energy efficient manner. The research project is funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
In the ParsiFAI 4.0 research project, Festo, together with various cooperating partners, is developing multifunctional systems in thin films. Pneumatic drives can use the new labels (smart sensor system) to collect, evaluate and exchange information about the production process. By attaching such a film system, simple pneumatic components are given the functionalities of a cyber-physical system and thus become an intelligent, local Industry 4.0 component.
The microelectronic sensor systems in thin films represent a completely new approach when it comes to networking components for use in intelligent production plants.
In the actual application, the aim is to attach thin electronic systems like an adhesive strip to a Festo pneumatic drive. The recorded and preprocessed sensor and user data is then sent wirelessly and securely to a corresponding control system. In this way, drive data such as position, dynamics and environmental parameters can be monitored. The controls can be optimised downstream by self-learning systems. An energy-harvesting system and a thin-film battery supply the film system with power.
Other research projects: