The enormous rise in the quantity of data and complexity in the networking of plant and company divisions makes it necessary to develop products that make the flow of data easy to project-manage and handle – at production level, but also for the training and development of skilled workers.
In parts of production that are intended to be digitally networked, there is a need to define components and network technologies that are compatible with the relevant interfaces and result in a stable IT and production system – in other words, ones that can ensure an actual increase in efficiency. Skilled workers from both areas, namely operating and optimising facilities and developing intelligent components, must be taught a deep understanding of the structure and programming of digital facility networks for this purpose.
At this interface between research, production and training, Festo Didactic works on providing components and learning systems with which skilled workers can prepare themselves for digital production and which can be used for research purposes – for example to develop standards in network communication by means of intelligent components. The technologies and learning systems for Industry 4.0 are used within the Festo Didactic CP Factory, the cyber-physical research and learning factory, as well as in schools, universities and at companies.
In conjunction with the learning factory and elements such as the CPS Gate, Festo Didactic demonstrates a fundamentally enhanced, intelligent module with which to communicate process data.
The CPS Gate functions within the factory’s workstations as the basic module for controlling the processes. It combines PLC, sensors, actuators and RFID/NFC technology in one product and communicates within the network with the connected IT systems (ERP) and the production management system (MES) as well as all the data relevant to production of the products being processed.
The CPS Gate is a new development in the digitalisation of mechanical applications and serves to reduce complexity in the system network. It is fitted directly on the conveyor belt of the relevant workstation on a production line and uses an NFC antenna, an RFID antenna and an OPC-UA interface to pick up data from the workpiece, the MES and
other IT systems, communicating it to workstation applications. In this respect, the CPS Gate takes over a large part of the production process controls and is used to structure and modularise the facilities. On a size of approx. 11 × 14 × 3 cm, the CPS Gate integrates a high-performance computer, an IEC 61131 V3-based control unit, a three-port switch, various sensors and interfaces as well as a printed circuit board; the latter replaces the majority of the standard cabling and configuration in a system module with digital technology and programming.
The CPS Gate also provides considerably enhanced structuring elements via handling by students and researchers.
Repeated yet complex data handling routines are developed once and outsourced to the CPS Gate as system firmware. This drastically reduces the complexity of the system software and increases the transparency of the system programs. The PLC programs for the value-creating workstations are easier to understand and service. A clearly defined interface between the CPS Gate and the assigned workstation enables even inexperienced students and programmers to develop station programs on their own, without having to survey and influence the entire function of an installation. By means of the CPS Gate’s Codesys programming interface based on the IEC61131 V3 standard, the behaviour of the CPS Gate can be freely programmed in an object-oriented manner.
Further topics that can be trained with the CP Factory are energy monitoring and management, usage of smart devices and augmented reality applications in production, network communication, camera and sensor systems and data-based job controlling.