Polarized Retroreflective Sensors: A Solution for Detecting Highly Reflective Objects

Guest contributor: Alejandro Romero, Balluff

The complexity of factory automation creates constant challenges which drive innovation in the industry. One of these challenges involves the ability to accurately detect the presence of shiny or highly reflective objects. This is a common challenge faced in a variety of applications, from sensing wheels in an automotive facility to detecting an aluminum can for filling purposes at a beverage plant. However, thanks to advancements in photoelectric sensing technologies, there is a reliable solution for those type of applications.

Why are highly reflective objects a challenge?

Light reflects from these types of objects in different directions, and with minimum energy loss. This can cause the receiver of a photoelectric sensor to be unable to differentiate between a signal received from the emitter or a signal received from a shiny object. In the case of a diffuse sensor, there is also the possibility that when trying to detect a shiny object, the light will reflect away from the receiver causing the sensor to ignore the target.

So how do we control the direction of the light going back to the receiver, and avoid false triggering from other light sources? The answer is in polarized retroreflective sensors.

Retroreflective sensors require a reflector which reflects the light back to the sensor allowing it to be captured by the receiver. This is achieved by incorporating sets of three mirrors oriented at right angles from each other (referred to as corner cubes). A light beam entering this system is reflected by all three surfaces and exits parallel to the incident beam. Additionally, corner cubes are said to be optically active as they rotate the plane of oscillation of the light by 90 degrees. This concept, along with polarization, allow this type of sensor to accurately detect shiny objects.

Polarization

Light emitted by a regular light source oscillates in planes on dispersal axes. If the light meets a polarizing filter (fine line grid), only the light oscillating parallel to the grid is let through (see figure 1 below).

Figure-1_AR
Figure 1
In polarized retroreflective sensors, a horizontal polarized filter is placed in front of the emitter and a vertical one in front of the receiver. By doing this, the transmitted light oscillates horizontally until it hits the reflector. The corner cubes of the reflector would then rotate the polarization direction by 90 degrees and reflect the light back to the sensor. This way, the returning light can pass through the vertical polarized filter on the receiver as shown below.

Figure-2_AR
Figure 2
With the use of polarization and corner cubed reflectors, retroreflective sensors can create a closed light circuit which ensures that light detected by the receiver was sourced exclusively by the emitter. This creates a great solution for applications where highly reflective targets are influencing the accuracy of sensors or causing them to malfunction. By ensuring proper operation of photoelectric sensors, unplanned downtime can be avoided, and overall process efficiency can be improved.

cropped-cmafh-logo-with-tagline-caps.pngCMA/Flodyne/Hydradyne is an authorized  Balluff distributor in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northern Indiana.

In addition to distribution, we design and fabricate complete engineered systems, including hydraulic power units, electrical control panels, pneumatic panels & aluminum framing. Our advanced components and system solutions are found in a wide variety of industrial applications such as wind energy, solar energy, process control and more.

What to Ask Before You Build an RFID System to Meet Your Traceability Needs

Guest contributor, Balluff

overview_rfid

An industrial RFID system is a powerful solution for reliably and comprehensively documenting individual working steps in manufacturing environments. But an industrial RFID system that meets your application needs isn’t available off-the-shelf. To build the system you need, it is important to consider what problems you hope RFID will solve and what return on investments you hope to see.

RFID can deliver many benefits, including process visibility and providing data needed to better manage product quality. It can be used to improve safety, satisfaction and profit margins. It can even be used to help comply with regulatory standards or to manage product recalls. And RFID can be used in a wide range of applications from broad areas like supply management to inventory tracking to more specific applications. These improvements can improve time, cost or performance—though not typically all three.

It is essential to understand and document the goal and how improvements will be measured to in order to plan a RFID system (readers, antennas, tags, cables) to best meet those goals.

Other important questions to consider:

Will the system be centralized or de-centralized? Will the system be license plate only or contain process data on the tag?

How will the data on the tags be used?  Will the information be used to interface with a PLC, database or ERP? Will it be used to provide MES or logical functionality? Or to provide data to an HMI or web browser/cloud interface?

Will the system be required to comply with any international regulations or standards? If so, which ones: EPC Global, Class 1 Gen 2 (UHF only), ISO 15693, or 14443 (HF only)?

What environment does the system need to perform in? Will it be used indoor or outdoor? Will it be exposed to liquids (cleaning fluids, coolants, machine oils, caustics) or high or low temperatures?

Does the RFID system need to work with barcodes or any other human readable information?

What are the performance expectations for the components? What is the read/write range distance from head to tag? What is the station cycle timing? Is the tag metal-mounted? Does the tag need to be reused or be disposable? What communication bus is required?

With a clear set of objectives and goals, the mechanical and physical requirements discovered by answering the questions above, and guidance from an expert, a RFID system can be configured that meets your needs and delivers a strong return on investment.

cropped-cmafh-logo-with-tagline-caps.pngCMA/Flodyne/Hydradyne is an authorized  Balluff distributor in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northern Indiana.

In addition to distribution, we design and fabricate complete engineered systems, including hydraulic power units, electrical control panels, pneumatic panels & aluminum framing. Our advanced components and system solutions are found in a wide variety of industrial applications such as wind energy, solar energy, process control and more.

When to Use Hygienic Design vs. Washdown

Guest Contributor: Christine Rühling, Balluff

Both washdown and hygienic design are common terms used in the food and beverage industry, and are increasingly being used in the packaging industry. These terms are used in different scenarios and easily confused with each other. What exactly are the differences between them, and in what applications are each used?

Why are hygienic design and washdown needed?

The consumer, and more specifically, the health of the consumer is the core concern of the food and beverage industry. Contaminated food can pose a danger to life and limb. A product recall damages the image of a company, costs a lot of money and as a worst case scenario can lead to the complete closing of the company. To prevent such scenarios, a producers primary objective is to make sure that the food is safe and risk-free for the consumer.image 1
In food manufacturing and packaging plants, a differentiation is made between the food area (in direct contact with the product), the spray area (product-related) and the non-food area. The requirements of the machine components are different depending on which area they are in.

The Food Area

In the food area the food is unpacked, or partially unpacked, and particularly susceptible to contamination. All components and parts that may come in contact with the food must not adversely affect this, e.g. in terms of taste and tolerability.
The following needs to be considered to avoid contamination:

  • Hygiene in production
  • Use of food contact materials
  • Food-grade equipment in Hygienic Design

These requirements result in the need for components that follow the hygienic design rules. If the component supplier fulfills these rules, the machine manufacturer can use the components and the producer can use the machines without hesitation.

Hygienic Design

Many component suppliers offer different solutions for hygienic design and each supplier interprets the design differently. So what does hygienic design mean? What must be included and which certifications are the right ones?

  • The material used must be FoodContact Material (FCM). This means that the material is non-corrosive, non-absorbent and non-contaminating, disinfectable, pasteurisable and sterilizable.
  • Seals must be present to prevent the ingress of microorganisms.
  • The risk of part loss must be minimized.
  • Smooth surfaces with a radius of < 0.8 μm are permitted.
  • There must be no defects, folds, breaks, cracks, crevices, injection-molded seams, or joints, even with material transitions.
  • There must be no holes or depressions and no corners of 90°.
  • The minimum radius should be 3 mm.

Supporting institutions and related certifications

There are different institutions which confirm and verify the fulfillment of these rules. They also support the companies during the development process.
image2
EHEDG – The European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group offers machine builders and component suppliers the possibility to evaluate and certify their products according to Hygienic Design requirements.
image33A – 3-A Sanitary Standards, Inc. (3-A SSI) is an independent, non-profit corporation in the U.S. for the purpose of improving hygiene design in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries. The 3-A guidelines are intended for the design, manufacture and cleaning of the daily food           accessories used in handling, manufacturing and packaging of edible products with high hygiene requirements.
image4FDA – The Food and Drug Administration is a federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments. Among other things, the FDA is responsible for food safety.

What does a hygienic design product look like?

Below is an example of a hygienic design product.

 

  • Stainless steel housing VA 1.4404
  • Laser marking
  • Protection class IP69K (IEC 60529)
  • Active surface made of PEEK
  • EHEDG conform
  • FDA conform

Since the product contacting area is associated with high costs for the plant manufacturer and the operator, it’s beneficial to keep it as small as possible.

The Spray Area

In the spray area, there are different requirements than in the food area.
Depending on the type of food that is processed, a further distinction is made between dry and wet areas.

image6
Areas in the food and beverage production

Here we are talking about the washdown area. Washdown capable areas are designed for the special environmental conditions and the corresponding cleaning processes.

Washdown

Components which fulfill washdown requirements usually have the following features:

  • Cleaning agent/corrosion resistant materials (often even food compliant, but this is not a must)
  • High protection class (usually IP 67 and IP 69K)
  • Resistant to cleaning agents
image7
Photoelectric sensor for washdown requirements

Ecolab and Diversey are two well-known companies whose cleaning agents are used for appropriate tests:
Ecolab Inc. and Diversey Inc. are US based manufacturers of cleaning agents for the food and beverage industry. Both companies offer certification of equipment’s resistance to cleaning agents. These certificates are not prescribed by law and are frequently used in the segments as proof of stability.
The washdown component must also be easy and safe to clean. However, unlike the hygienic design, fixing holes, edges and threads are permitted here.

For basic information on IP69K see also this previous blog post.
To learn more about solutions for washdown and hygienic design click here.

cropped-cmafh-logo-with-tagline-caps.pngCMA/Flodyne/Hydradyne is an authorized  Balluff distributor in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northern Indiana.

In addition to distribution, we design and fabricate complete engineered systems, including hydraulic power units, electrical control panels, pneumatic panels & aluminum framing. Our advanced components and system solutions are found in a wide variety of industrial applications such as wind energy, solar energy, process control and more.

 

Improving sawmill yield through automation

Guest contributor: Christian Holder, Balluff

It is not a surprise that optimizing yield is one of the most important objectives in a sawmill (or lumber mill) as it is in any other industry. The big difference is that there is hardly any control over the quality of the logs that enter the sawill. In the ideal world all logs are not only cylindrical in shape but also straight. But obviously each individual log is unique in shape. Crooked, out-of-round, or tapered logs are common and even worse: usually it is a combination of these shapes.

Still the target is to recover as much yield from each log as possible. Therefore sawmills turn into highly automated factories with three dimensional (3D) measurement of logs, and advanced equipment for primary and secondary breakdown. Basically there are three areas of automation in a sawmill:

  1. 3D measurement for optimum cutting pattern to recover most yield from a log
  2. Automation of drives to position the log itself, or tools (e.g. sawblades, knifes, canter heads…) at high velocity to increase throughput
  3. Automation of log and lumber handling to minimize the gap between the logs

All of the three areas support the sawmill’s target to get the most out of the logs at the highest speed. The worst case is any downtime as it directly impacts the whole log to lumber process. Therefore electrical engineers look for sensors that meet the challenges of the sawmill environment. Mainly sensors must meet high vibration and shock standards. As they are exposed to the environment, protective housings help to protect the sensors from logs crashing into them.

From logs to lumber

Wave feeder with analog distance sensor

To efficiently process logs to lumber, sawmills use dedicated equipment for different sizes of logs. As a result bigger mills have a primary and a secondary breakdown area. Independent from the logs, sawmills aim to minimize the gaps and to avoid changes in the setup. This allows them to run faster and to increase the production rate. Here is the process how a log turns into lumber in a sawmill.

When a log arrives at the mill it is indexed onto the infeed conveyer (could be a step feeder or log loader). Either inductive sensors sequence the steps. Or a magnetostrictive position sensor (linear transducer) provides feedback of the step position of the loader to control motion and speed. Once the log is on the loader analog distance sensors determine the distance to the end of the log from the side of the loader wall.

This is to ensure a constant distance between the logs (log gap) as they enter the sawmill. Knowing the distance enables them to control when the log is loaded on the conveyor. And thereby they can control the gap. As an alternative photoelectric a thru beam sensor determines if a log is present for the final two steps on a loader. These sensors work with a long measuring range. Additionally they have a large functional reserve and are very resistant to dirt and dust.

Primary breakdown – from raw log to slabs and cants

The first step of the log is to run through a debarker that removes the bark. As there are tolerances in shape, linear transducers and photoelectric analog distance sensors are used to determine log sizes. These sizes help to adjust the debarker’s pressure and speed. After debarking the logs are cut to the best pre-determined length by cut-off or bucking saws. Again linear transducers are used to control the motion of the cut-off saw swing.

By stacking some photoelectric through beam sensors they can be used to determine the log diameter roughly. This leads to increasing speed as the saw can cut through smaller logs faster and has to slow down for larger logs. Many mills just sort their debarked logs into “large logs” and “small logs” based on their diameters.  And then go into machines that are set up for those particular log sizes.

Log carriage for 20″ (50cm) logs and more

Carriage saw using BTL for clamping and positioning
Carriage saw with BTL for positioning

Many mills also run a lot of larger logs and therefore have a log carriage. This is a single band saw with a carriage that runs on railway style tracks. The carriage has three or four knees that have positioners and log clamps (dogs) that hold the log. In the knees hydraulic cylinders with magnetostrictive transducers position the log. Even under extreme surrounding conditions, these position sensors guarantee a high machine and system availability. The clamps hold the log while it movesthrough the band saw. The carriage cuts the logs into slabs (two flat, two rounded sides) or into cants (four flat, square sides).

Secondary Breakdown – from small logs, slabs and cants to lumber

Mills that run smaller logs do not have to break down the logs prior to putting them through the secondary breakdown equipment. After the cut-off saw, the small logs will be sorted by size into bins. Step feeders index them again onto a conveyor and that feeds them through a Scanner into the small log line machine. To recover as much yield as possible log turners turn the logs in the optimum position. Chipper canters center them to enable curve sawing, which leads to increased lumber recovery.

Hydraulic drives dominate small log lines and all motion control happens with linear position transducers. Typical small log lines consist of log turning and centering, chipping with canter heads, saw box slew and skew, saw box positioniers, profiling heads and outfeed pickers. All of the equipments’ design aims for speed and therefore they require fast and accurate position feedback. Sensors and transducers must withstand high shock and vibration. Balluff’s products survive even in toughtest environments and undergo intensive shock and vibration testing.

Shifting edgers and curve sawing

Edgers using BTL for curve sawing
Sawblade Adjustment with BTL

Gang edgers and shifting edgers cut cants and slabs from the primary breakdown into boards. Gang edgers have circular saws stacked at fixed spacing. Shifting edgers look similar to gang edgers except that they change spacing  between saw blades can be changed. Therefore each saw is connected to a hydraulic positioner. A scanner looks at the cant or slab and determines the best solutions of cuts to produce best results. After the scanner the positioners of the shifting edgers set the new saw spacing to match that solution.

Edger optimizers pre-position the board and optimize the infeed to get the best payback from the machine. Photoelectric (laser) retroreflective sensors  track boards through the ducker table. The infeed position cylinder (with integrated linear transducer) skews the board in the best position to be fed in the edger.

Trimming, sorting, stacking, strapping, shipping

Photoelectric sensors detect boards at the trimmer infeed

The boards go into bins when they come out of the edgers. Another scanner determines if the board can be cut down into shorter boards. Or if a damaged end needs to be cut off so that the board is not graded lower. The next step is processing the board through a trimmer. The trimmer is a set of up to about a dozen circular saws positioned across the conveyor. It can cut longer boards down into two or three shorter boards or just trim the ends.

Photoelectric analog distance sensors detect stacked boards from high distance

Background suppression photoelectric sensors at the indeed of the trimmer look down at the board as it goes into the machine. And they determine if the board is actually as long as the scanner information indicates. The same sensors confirm after the trimmer that the board was cut down to the proper size. After the trimmer they go into a sorter and and from there to stacking and strapping to final shipment.

We provide additional information how our sensors help to automate sawmills on our website.

Veneer instead of solid wood

A sawmill produces solid wood. This means that the board is out of one piece of wood. Another type of boards is veneer. This means that thin layers of wood are glued together to reach a board. Usually these layers are less that 3 mm thick. A lathe continuously turns a log against a blade to peel it. With each rotation the log becomes thinner. Therefore the blade position needs to be adjusted. Hydraulic cylinders with integrated linear transducers centerthe log and position the blade to peel the trunk. The thin layers are glued together in a veneer press.

Not only stationary, but also portable sawmills

In the end our sensors and transducers not only help to automate huge mills, but also portable sawmills. Magnetostrictive or magnetically sensors enable operators to exactly position the saw unit. So they achieve accurate and fast cutting of boards. Wood-Mizer is a world leading supplier of efficient and fast portable sawmills that uses magnetostrive position sensors in it’s machines. The reasons for Balluff are its product and service quality as well as the availability.

cropped-cmafh-logo-with-tagline-caps.png

CMA/Flodyne/Hydradyne is an authorized  Balluff distributor in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northern Indiana.

In addition to distribution, we design and fabricate complete engineered systems, including hydraulic power units, electrical control panels, pneumatic panels & aluminum framing. Our advanced components and system solutions are found in a wide variety of industrial applications such as wind energy, solar energy, process control and more.

The Enclosure Testers

Guest contributor: Rittal LTD

Rittal’s innovative VX25 enclosure was recently put through its paces by technicians from the Schaper Group. 

Their observations on the new enclosure are notably around improved operational efficiencies and increased productivity. These offer interesting insights for other operators, and indeed anyone who has the final say on enclosure technology.

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that make all the difference.  For Eugen Franzen, the team leader for mechanical installation at Controller Steuerungstechnik GmbH, part of the Schaper Group, it was an almost nondescript detail that won him over.

fri1820569100 Rittal enclosure testers

“The hole counting on the new frame sections means we can now pinpoint precisely where enclosure mounting parts should go,” he says.

This tiny, time-saving addition means operators can mount support rails or cable clamp rails at identical heights across all their enclosures, easily and with confidence. “Previously, we often had to revisit such details, which always involved extra work that we no longer have to worry about.” says Eugene.

It’s a welcome productivity improvement for Schaper Group teams, who like many in the sector, juggle fit-to-burst order books and high time/cost pressures, with the ever-present lack of specialist workers.

“All in all, we currently have seven vacancies in the manufacturing department alone and could hire trained applicants on the spot,” explains Nils Mentrup, technical manager at Schaper Steuerungstechnik GmbH.   Automated solutions that deliver a higher output with fewer trained staff offer Nils some relief.  But clearly new components and systems that save time during assembly also boost efficiency in manufacturing operations.

At the company’s cutting-edge manufacturing plant in Herford, Germany, everything is state of the art, meticulously planned and perfectly organised.

The facility, which features numbered wiring areas, was built in 2009 more than doubled in size in the last year.  Seventy workers manufacture control and switchgear solutions of various sizes at the site. “Thanks to the facility’s expansion, we now have enough space to produce several large systems 30 to 40 metres in length at once,” explains Nils.

They have just completed their first control systems using Rittal’s new VX25 enclosure.

“Its predecessor, TS 8, was a flawless enclosure,” recalls Nils. “That’s why we were pleasantly surprised that Rittal had evidently put a lot of thought into many different potential improvements when it devised the VX25.”

His attention has been on the reduced number of mounting parts and the positive impact this has had in terms of storage: “You see it straight away because storage is less of an issue now – both in our central warehouse and the parts warehouses for the individual projects that we set up directly at our workstations.”

Greater stability

The stability of the VX25 also meets the team’s approval.

“The enclosure itself is more stable now – that’s one of its major benefits,” say Eugene.

This is particularly apparent in the new gland plates.

When fitters are expanding enclosures they have to repeatedly go inside them. “In the past, the gland plates were often somewhat bent as a result, meaning we had to carry out reworking,” remembers Eugene. This is now a thing of the past, which of course adds to the overall time saving.   Added to which, there is the enclosure flooring’s design: “The frame is now designed so that there is no space between it and the gland plate. Back in the day, we often had problems with a screw falling down the gap,” he explains.

The new hinges allow the team to remove the enclosure doors without levering any hinge pins.  Eugene advises: “Even if we don’t plan to carry out machining on one of our Perforex machining centres, we usually take the enclosure doors off because it makes wiring so much easier.”

This particularly applies to larger switchgear, where wires need to be installed across multiple enclosures. “The time saved in assembly and dismantling can be anything up to one minute or more for each enclosure,” he adds.

“We also no longer have to wonder which rail goes where because with the VX25, the rails fit on both the vertical and horizontal frame parts and can be fitted from the side or the rear.” This means the team can now screw on a rail from the back, even if the mounting plate has already been fitted in the enclosure.

“In the past, if we ever forgot about the rail – which is an absolute must for some switchgear built to UL – we had to take the mounting plate apart or at least tip it forwards.” This is no longer the case, making life a lot easier for the team, and extends to fitting mounting components or side/rear panels.

“During assembly work, we always used to have two cordless screwdrivers that were equipped with the appropriate screw bits – now we only need one,” says Eugene.  The principle of one-person assembly has also won the team leader over.  “I can simply attach the rear panel at the top and it stays securely in position until I’ve tightened the screws.”

For any team, switching to new technology or products can create issues.  “At the start, most people are sceptical whenever things change, but we found the switchover to be quick and seamless,” says a delighted Nils.

This smooth transition is helped by the VX25 conversion assistant – a web-based tool that enables customers to simply convert parts lists from projects planned using the TS 8 into parts lists for the VX25.  Teams simply drag and drop their old parts lists onto the designated site, upload them as Excel files, and download the new parts lists once converted.

Even 3D engineering plans generated by Eplan Pro Panel can be converted without virtually no manual intervention. “Now that the first two large systems with the new enclosure are nearly finished, we have a good handle on how the conversion works,” says Nils.

Fast assembly

There are other time-saving aspects to dealing with Rittal.  For example, the company’s 24-hour delivery service.

“Nowadays, most units that we use in our systems take a relatively long time to deliver – that’s not the case with Rittal enclosures, which are always delivered the day after we place the order.” says Nils.

“We’re going to spread the word among our customers and we’re certain that they’ll soon see the benefits, too.”

cropped-cmafh-logo-with-tagline-caps.png

CMA/Flodyne/Hydradyne is an authorized  Rittal distributor in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northern Indiana.

In addition to distribution, we design and fabricate complete engineered systems, including hydraulic power units, electrical control panels, pneumatic panels & aluminum framing. Our advanced components and system solutions are found in a wide variety of industrial applications such as wind energy, solar energy, process control and more.

How Factory Owners Can Avoid Choosing the Wrong Industry 4.0 Technology

Guest Contributor, Exor

This article provides a guide for factory owners and IT managers about the principles of lean manufacturing and the criteria to apply, in order to constantly work at optimizing factory outputs, and source the most cost-effective technology while reducing waste at the same time.

This article covers:

  • ‘No islands of automation’ is now ‘no island without a cloud’
  • What are the main types of benefits offered by technology suppliers?
  • Using Lean Manufacturing as a technology filter
  • How can Industry 4.0 concepts help with Lean Manufacturing?

Many factory owners and manufacturers are faced with the challenge of transforming their factories from Industry 2.0 to Industry 4.0 smart factories in order to optimize operational efficiency and automation and to stay ahead in the competitive manufacturing space. Certain customers may require additional customization of products and faster output times, which factories also have to take into account. A large part of optimization involves leveraging and implementing new technology such as IoT architecture and Industry 4.0 systems while reducing waste. Implementing new technology in a factory can be quite an undertaking, and it is advisable for factory owners and manufacturers to avoid costly technology investments which yield no net benefit to the factory at hand.

‘No islands of automation’ is now ‘no island without a cloud’

During the previous decade, many factory owners moved to automation due to the benefits and gains such as higher accuracy, higher productivity, job scheduling ability and availability that increased mechanization offered. They often heard the phrase and the principle of “no islands of automation” that meant they were to avoid automated sub-systems that were not integrated into the overall factory processes and automation and thus provided no benefit to the larger systems in the factory. The aim was to have complete, integrated production and assembly lines that manufactured products seamlessly and without lag time. Automation in and of itself had a significant effect on the factory floor and factory owners experienced an increase in productivity and a decrease in downtime and lag time.

Now those same factory owners are hearing, “no island without a cloud”, since there is a push from IoT companies to promote cloud-based connectivity and solutions and store all the data the factory at hand is generating, in the cloud. The industrial sector is approaching standard cloud-based solutions with caution since there are concerns about the security of data, cost, bandwidth and latency. Even though the cloud does confer benefits to the Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Newer, emerging approaches are looking at using open standards such as OPC UA to control any machine in real-time and implementing machine to machine communication to reduce data storage requirements. The data is then collected and sent to a fog computer or processed at the edge closer to where the machines actually are located, to reduce the concerns with the standard cloud options such as cost and security.

What are the main types of benefits offered by technology suppliers?

Some of the key functionality related to Industry 4.0 technology that suppliers can provide and factory owners should take into consideration are:

1) Data-Driven Plant Performance Optimization

Data-driven plant performance optimization refers to collecting and using data generated by the factory machinery, sensors, HMIs, PLCs, staff and SCADA systems in order to enhance plant operations and processes. The data cycle for plant optimization involves recording and monitoring data, uploading data, analysis of the uploaded data and the reporting of this data using IoT gateways and IoT architecture in the Industry 4.0 context. This optimization should strive to maintain Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which is a measure of how effective the plant and its industrial equipment are. A process that receives a 100% OEE score means that it has a high-quality output that is as efficient as possible with no machine downtime.

2) Data-Driven Inventory Optimization

Data-Driven Inventory Optimization refers to the process of using real-time data to manage inventory. For example, consider a construction industry scenario where units of supply are labelled with RFID tags and an IoT system can count them. As soon as the supply units drop below a certain level, the sensors trigger an alarm and more supply units are purchased. Consequently, downtime is avoided and the project is more likely to be completed in the scheduled time frame.

3) Data-Driven Quality Control

Due to the ability of IoT systems to collect and manage big data, the IT provider should provide software that is able to develop quality-control models and profiles based on the data. Therefore, each product can be compared in real-time to these profiles (which were based on thousands or hundreds of thousands of data samples) and either rejected or accepted.

4) A Machine as a Service Business Model

This model allows factory owners to turn their machines into stand-alone income generating streams, in addition to the revenue the machine generates from being part of the internal factory processes and production line. So in this model, a specific machine in the factory can be outsourced to a customer or another company that needs it for a set amount of time, and this customer can, through the IoT platform, receive real-time data about the products or services for which they are using that particular machine. A technology supplier should be able to provide HMIs or other systems that enable this multifunctionality. So the factory should be able to receive data about the internal processes the machine is part of and the company hiring the machine should also be able to receive data about the machine and its outputs relevant to their needs.

5) Human Data Interface

The Human Data Interface refers to the platform used for humans to engage with the data, this could be via calls to a database, an HMI, or even a smartphone. The technology provider at hand should provide an interface that allows personnel to engage with the data and draw insights from it.

6) Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance refers to the use of data generated by a certain machine, in order to predict the chances of failure of that specific machine before the actual failure takes place. The maintenance of the machine then takes place proactively rather than reactively. This reduces downtime significantly.

7) Remote Service

Remote service refers to the ability to remotely monitor or repair machinery. This allows repair and maintenance to take place from anywhere and saves the factory owner the cost of transporting machinery to a repair site to be fixed.

8) Virtual Training and Validation

Virtual training refers to training that is provided in a virtual capacity through the use of AI glasses. So, personnel can access this training and learn more about the factory processes in an online environment. Validation refers to the ability of the IoT system to check that the training received was actually beneficial to the staff and the factory. This is done by using sensors to compare the finished products of the factory before and after the completion of training, in order to see if there is a positive difference. Validation also involves using AI glasses to see if the staff member is actually implementing the training received on the shop floor.

Using Lean Manufacturing as a technology filter

Lean manufacturing is based on the concept of eliminating waste from factory processes while ensuring that the customer or client receives the maximum value. Lean manufacturing looks at optimizing the delivery of products in horizontal value streams that ultimately connect to customers. It is about evaluating what is adding value to the customer versus what is adding waste or is not beneficial to the factory.

It is systematic and there are five main principles involved in lean manufacturing:

  • The first principle involves identifying what value actually means to the customer, which will help the factory estimate how much the customer will be willing to pay for their products and services. If waste is removed, then the customer’s price can be met at the best profit margins for the company.
  • The second principle involves mapping the value stream, which means looking at the flow of input materials required to produce the product in its entirety. Emphasis is of course placed on reducing waste.
  • The third principle looks at removing operational barriers and interruptions to this flow.
  • The fourth principle looks at using a pull system where nothing is bought until there is a demand for it. The pull system is based on effective communication and flexibility.
  • The fifth principle looks at continuously improving and striving for perfection in the process.

Lean manufacturing principles can be beneficial for factory owners since they can be used as a technology filter or criteria in order to ensure that any technology implemented in the factory contributes to the reduction of waste and horizontal value streams. The technology in other words should contribute to the reduction of waste, the reduction in standing inventory, increased factory outputs, decreased production costs, and increased labour productivity.

How can Industry 4.0 concepts help with Lean Manufacturing?

…with Data-Driven Plant Performance

Data-Driven Plant Performance as discussed above refers to the use of data in real-time to increase production. This happens simultaneously while using the data to identify areas of waste and unproductivity. Data-driven plant performance contributes significantly to all the five main lean manufacturing principles since customers receive value, the mapping of the value chains are guided by actual data received in real-time, and the data helps identify the barriers such as when there is downtime and which machine/process is causing the downtime, so this can be instantly rectified. Additionally, since there is constant delivery of data from multiple sources in the factory to the staff and personnel of the factory – they can develop pull systems due to the ease of communication and the constant analytical processing of the data. Furthermore, the continuous development of useful models based on big data and real-time data allows for continuous improvement.

…with Data-Driven Quality Control

Data-driven quality control as mentioned above looks at comparing a sample or material to a profile developed from big data rather than conducting many expensive quality-control tests on every single sample in the production line. This fits in with the concept of lean manufacturing since the number of tests is reduced but quality control is maintained.

…with Virtual Training and Validation

Virtual training and validation look at providing training in virtual environments using AI glasses and validating through the use of AI glasses that the training was beneficial, effective and actually implemented. One of the main aspects of lean manufacturing focuses on training staff about lean principles in the factory since staff are a critical component in any factory environment. Therefore, through the use of AI glasses, staff can be trained and guided on lean manufacturing principles in the factory environment they are operating in. Additionally, the AI glasses can validate that staff actually are implementing the training they received in the factory. Consequently, the lean manufacturing concepts of waste reduction and optimization of product delivery will be felt throughout the factory as a result of both virtual training and validation.

Conclusion

Industry 4.0 concepts such as connecting multiple machines, machine-to-machine communication, human-machine communication, real-time data delivery, big data processing and analytical operations really tie in with the fourth principle of lean manufacturing.

Most manufacturers not using lean manufacturing principles rely on a push system which is based on standard forecasting techniques. Production is aligned to those pre-determined set forecasts. This can be problematic since some standard forecasting techniques are inaccurate, increase waste and are not effective. The lean manufacturing pull principle of not producing anything until there is a demand relies heavily on effective communication. With the correct choice of Industry 4.0 technology, this effective communication system can be developed and thus reduce waste and optimize overall factory efficiency.

cropped-cmafh-logo-with-tagline-caps.pngCMA/Flodyne/Hydradyne is an authorized Exor distributor in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northern Indiana.

In addition to distribution, we design and fabricate complete engineered systems, including hydraulic power units, electrical control panels, pneumatic panels & aluminum framing. Our advanced components and system solutions are found in a wide variety of industrial applications such as wind energy, solar energy, process control and more.

Classic qualities remain in demand

Guest Contributor: Thomas Fey, Bosch Rexroth

Machine tools are rightly considered to be technology carriers and trailblazers for other industries in mechanical engineering. They frequently are the first to try new technologies and optimize existing ones. For this reason, machinery users expect every new piece of equipment to increase productivity. 

The users of machine tools face global competition. When they invest in new machines, they generally have two main issues in mind: cycle times per processing step and throughput times for the completely processed component. At the same time, they continue to increase their requirements for surface quality and tolerances. Machine tool makers respond with higher dynamics in all movements and the integration of additional processing technologies. Increasing numbers of sensors are now monitoring the processing job to create reproducible quality.

These three trends – more speed, more completeness and more precision – place increasing demands on the control system. Every gain in speed requires shorter control cycles. The CNC control unit must provide additional capacities to integrate additional processing stations and technologies. At the same time, data transmissions in a machine are rising inordinately  because of the sensors.

In this regard, Bosch Rexroth has significantly raised the bar with its new generation of the CNC system MTX. The smallest version is a compact solution for up to 12 axes. The highest performance level extends all the way to 250 axes with a hardware control system. In the controllers, high-performance, multi-core processors intelligently assign the different tasks for CNC, PLC and communications. Fluctuating processor utilization levels that vary based on the configuration for the application remain non-reactive and ensure constant overall performance. This is important because the CNC system solution provides the shortest PLC and CNC cycle times even as the number of axes rises, even for high-speed processing. In the process, machine manufacturers can significantly increase the dynamics of their products.

More computing power for increased processing quality and the parallel exchange of information with superior IT applications: Rexroth’s CNC system MTX. (Source: Bosch Rexroth AG)

At the same time, more and more users, particularly automotive industry suppliers, are investing in production lines for complete processing. To reduce wrapping and handling times, they are looking for multi-technology solutions. For this reason, machine manufacturers are increasingly combining classic processes like drilling, milling and grinding into one system. They are also increasingly adding non-cutting technologies like laser cutting and welding or additive processes. The printed components are given their final shape in subsequent processing. These technologies are sometimes very computationally intensive. They are also done simultaneously with other processing steps. The idea of offsetting these performance peaks by using separate control systems with a machine’s own hardware significantly increases the complexity of automation. The MTX offers sufficient power reserves here to display all currently known uses on hardware. This is also the case for the automation of machine tools. A number of manufacturers have said that between 50 percent and 80 of all machines they deliver have integrated loading and unloading systems. The MTX also takes on this task.

Increased productivity through complete processing: Manufacturers are increasingly combining cutting and non-cutting technologies like laser cutting and welding as well as additive processes in a single machine. (Source: Bosch Rexroth AG)

While these trends move forward, machine manufacturers are also increasingly adding more and more sensors. These data support process optimization and monitor the processing in situ. With fast I/O, the MTX ensures that the sensor data are transferred and analyzed in real time. In the process, it lays the foundation for short control cycles that measurably increase the precision of processing and surface quality.

In short: To achieve the classic qualities of increased productivity, all roads lead to higher-performance CNC system solutions. The MTX currently offers the highest computing capacity and system capability for rising demands by offering increased dynamics, technology combinations and amount of sensors.

Learn more:  CNC system solution MTX 

cropped-cmafh-logo-with-tagline-caps.pngCMA/Flodyne/Hydradyne is an authorized Bosch Rexroth distributor in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northern Indiana.

In addition to distribution, we design and fabricate complete engineered systems, including hydraulic power units, electrical control panels, pneumatic panels & aluminum framing. Our advanced components and system solutions are found in a wide variety of industrial applications such as wind energy, solar energy, process control and more.