On the way to the production of the future
Festo has a holistic view of the changes in the production world, considers different perspectives and – in addition to technology – also takes other key points into account, such as the interaction between man and machinery and the issue of training and qualification.
The real and virtual world are growing increasingly closer together, modern information and communication technologies are merging with industrial processes and are thus increasingly changing the production landscape. Industry 4.0 brings together various activities under one term and thus describes the change that is imposing new requirements on production systems, machines and people in many areas.
The virtual factory
In the production of the future, there will be digital depictions of production plants and whole factories. Computers will thus take CAD data from production lines, production data and energy flows to form an overall picture, which can be used for planning new processes and work flows, but also for the virtual start-up of facilities.
Until now the start-up of production lines has been a time-consuming process that incurs high costs. This can be made considerably easier using the virtual start-up process. In this way, accidental collisions can be prevented in advance; cycle times, change-overs and processes optimised and control sequences programmed automatically in part using the existing data.
Test scenarios can also be generated, for example to simulate errors in the motion sequence or the programming and their effects. This reduces the time spent for start-up and increases the safety standard in the operation
Production systems will in future be based on autonomously functioning mechatronic assemblies. These are also called intelligent components. Data processing is increasingly taking place at local levels, and an increasing number of functions are directly integrated on the modules. They network, organise and configure themselves in order to take on orders from the superordinate control level.
Industry 4.0-compatible components are characterised by the ‘4 i properties’:
- Intuitive to operate.
- Intelligent thanks to functional integration – for example with a programmable logic controller or the ability to communicate. This means that individual components themselves are able to provide information about which order they belong to or about processing instructions.
- Internet-capable and locally networked, e.g. thanks to WLAN or industrial Ethernet.
- Integrating: Modules log on to the master computer, communicate their capabilities and are then scheduled into the production process.
Preconfigured controllers and adaptable interfaces reduce the time spent on assembly, configuration and system integration to a minimum. Intelligent components thereby have ‘plug and produce’ capability. The principle is similar to that of a USB interface on a computer, via which connected devices are able to log on to the computer directly and communicate with it. In the factory of the future, individual components, subsystems and machine modules are expected to log in to the production facility independently just the same way.
As an innovation leader, for many years Festo has been providing impetus for factory and process automation and offers a wide product portfolio for drive and control 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.
Working hand in hand with a robot, controlling complex facilities with a smartphone or tablet PC: in the production of tomorrow, direct interaction between man and machine will be part of the daily routine. Besides simple and intuitive operation, safety is above all a key aspect – under no circumstance may the person be injured by the machine.
Machines and robots with comprehensive safety systems and corresponding sensor technology will make this possible in future – man and machine will be able to move in the same working space and work together without a protective cage.
One example of this is the assembly robot used in Scharnhausen, which was developed by Festo in close consultation with the trade association. It is one of the few robots in Germany that is allowed to work alongside people without a safety enclosure, and relieves its human colleagues in the valve assembly department from performing monotonous, ergonomically repetitive tasks. Sensors monitor its movements: as soon as an employee comes too close, the robot comes to a complete stop.
Data acquisition and analysis
In the production of the future, information technology will play a major role – both when it comes to operating and controlling production facilities, as well as collating and evaluating machine data and information about energy consumption. Data collection and processing are increasingly possible in real time. New analysis options are emerging, for instance for a proactive maintenance service or a holistic view of energy flows and consumption.
An energy transparency system will be implemented at the Scharnhausen Technology Plant by the middle of 2017, which acquires data – where reasonable – down to the machine level and looks systematically at how it interacts. Software applications and apps enable the consumption data to be displayed on mobile devices and thus accessed directly on the shop floor.
Training and qualification
Festo not only has an eye on production itself – the focus is also on qualifications for work in future production environments. That is why Festo is designing and implementing education solutions in companies, vocational colleges and universities, which systematically prepare people for work in dynamic and complex environments.
Networking with external systems
Networking is not limited to the individual factory – there is an increasing call for a data exchange and synchronisation with external systems. Production sites, suppliers and customers will work ever closer together and in real time in future. Standardised interfaces and data formats are just as urgently required for this as highly efficient networks and connections.
A large work field in this respect is IT security. Solutions must be developed that ensure a high level of IT security – both with regard to the reliability of the systems and to safeguarding them against manipulation from outside. The requirements for data protection, for the protection of intellectual property and further legal framework conditions must also be adapted and further developed.
Networks and cooperation
Together with partners from science and industry, Festo is researching new solutions and technologies in various projects for the production of the future.
Plattform Industrie 4.0
Labs Network Industrie 4.0
Automation ML e. V.